Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Lon Chaney Jr.: One of the more flappable anthology hosts you'll see

As I mentioned in the power rankings,  Pub-D-Hub has the premiere episode of 13 Demon Street, a horror/supernatural anthology series spearheaded by Curt Siodmak, filmed in Sweden, and aired (for 13 episodes) in the U.S. of A. The episode, "Black Hand," is far from a classic. It's probably not even in the top 5 of "doctor stitches a hand onto his arm and hijinks ensue" in pop culture. It's actually pretty bad, and seeing it with Swedish subtitles at the bottom of the screen only adds to the "What the hell am I watching?" factor.

But Lon Chaney Jr., our host, is responsible for a good chunk of that factor. His intros and outros might as well have been shot on a different planet, and they seem disconnected from the story they are supposed to complement. And of course, it's TV Lon, so he looks a little disheveled, anyway, but his bit in "Black Hand" is just bizarre.

Lon has been playing around with a fire poker shaped like a hand--hey, folks, Father's Day is coming up, and I just gave you a great gift idea--and he tries to sum up the macabre tale we just watched.

He tells us, "It was dead...dead as this fire poker."

See this one coming?

In this closeup, the hand...STARTS MOVING!

So Chaney reacts with this clever utterance: "AAAH!" Then he quickly tosses the poker aside.

OK, if this happened to me, I'd be a little perturbed, but this is an unseemly look for the host of an anthology series. Can you imagine Rod Serling looking over his shoulder, saying, "A COOKBOOK!" and yelping in horror? Would Boris Karloff squeal at the thought of a ghost lurking in his vicinity? Would Alfred Hitchcock say something like, "That story gave me the heebie-jeebies"?

OK, maybe HE would, but he'd be very droll about it.

The host of such a series should be unflappable, not someone prone to...doing whatever Lon is doing it in that last shot .Did Curt Siodmak give him this kind of direction?

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