Musical Monday: Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967) – Musical #651

Studio:
Woolner Brothers Pictures Inc.

Director:
Jean Yarbrough

Starring:
Ferlin Husky, Joi Lansing, Don Bowman, Basil Rathbone, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr., Linda Ho, Richard Webb, Allen Jung, Virginia Ann Lee
Themselves: Merle Haggard, Molly Bee, Jim Kent, Sonny James and the Southern Gentlemen, Marcella Wright

Plot:
Country singers Woody Wetherby (Huskey), Jeepers (Bowman) and Boots Malone (Lansing) are traveling to Nashville for a music festival. They run into a storm along the way and a gas station recommends that they take refuge in an abandoned mansion … or so they think. It turns out that a group of spies (Rathbone, Chaney, Carradine, Ho) are hiding in the mansion and keeping people away by making it seem haunted. The spies are trying to get a top secret formula from a nearby factory.

Trivia:
• Follows the film Las Vegas Hillbillys (1966). Joi Lansing replaced Mamie Van Doren as the character of Boots Malone.
• Working title was Ghost Party
• Basil Rathbone’s second to last film.
• A third film was planned called “Hillbillys in Outer Space.”
• Last feature film directed by Jean Yarbrough.

Don Bowman, Joi Lansing and Ferlin Husky

Notable Songs:
• “Jamboree Time” performed by Ferlin Husky, Joi Lansing and Don Bowman
• “The Cat Came Back” performed by Sonny James and the Southern Gentlemen
• “Someone Told My Story” performed by Merle Haggard
• “Now We’re Strangers” performed by Marcella Wright
• “Swinging Doors” performed by Merle Haggard
• “Heartbreak U.S.A.” performed by Molly Bee
• “Wrong House” performed by Don Bowman
• “Part-Time Lover” performed by Joi Lansing
• “The Bridge I’ve Never Crossed” performed by Ferlin Husky

My review:
With a 2.6 IMDB rating and a RiffTrax episode dedicated to this film, I went into “Hillbillys in a Haunted House” (1967) cringing at the idea of watching it. On top of everything, the title is even misspelled – it should be “Hillbillies” rather than “Hillbillys.”

And I’ll tell you something – I may be one of the few reviews giving this country music-horror-espionage comedy a break. Figuring this would be terrible, it wasn’t as terrible as I thought it was going to be. (I watched the straight film and not the RiffTrax).

Now that said, “Hillbillys in a Haunted House” isn’t a good movie. But I don’t feel like it’s any worse than it’s contemporaries of it’s time. I say this looking to the television show “Beverly Hillbillies” (which I can’t believe was on for 9 years) or “Hootenanny Hoot” (1963).

The humor and plotline are pretty similar to low budget comedies of the 1960s, like the beach films or those produced by American International Pictures.

“Hillbillys in a Haunted House” is a country music musical with comedic scares and silly 1960s espionage. Ferlin Husky, Joi Lansing and Don Bowman play the “hillbillies,” though they are just really country singers. Linda Ho leads a dopey group of spies – Basil Rathbone, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr. and a gorilla.

Country music is performed throughout, but once Husky, Lansing and Bowman get out of the haunted house, they head to the jamboree in Nashville, Tenn. The last 10 minutes if a country music concert featuring songs from Molly Bee, Merle Haggard, and Marcella Wright.

Rathbone and Carradine usually played refined and intelligent men, and here they are a bit dopey, but are also fairly humorous in the process.

But there are some sad point to this goofy film:

By this point in her career, Joi Lansing was playing lousy roles like this, and she was unhappy about this. Also unfortunately, Lansing died a few years later in 1972 of breast cancer.

I also felt sad for Rathbone, Carradine and Chaney Jr.

But on the plus size, it features some fairly good country music. However, while this isn’t the best film, I feel like if you can watch any beach movie or anything by AIP, you can probably get through “Hillbillys in a Haunted House” – but you will still be irritated by the misspelling of the title.

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