Everyone’s favourite scaredy-pants comedian Don Knotts returned to the big screen in 1965, starring in the comedy fright-fest The Ghost and Mr Chicken.
Fittingly, the film was produced by Universal, the studio that built its horror reputation through classics like Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy.
Knotts stars as Luther Heggs, typesetter for a small-town newspaper. Luther has two goals in life: one, to make it as a real reporter; two, to ‘make it’ with town beauty Alma Parker.
The same man stands in the way of both goals: Ollie Weaver, star reporter and Alma’s boyfriend.
Ollie and newspaper editor George Beckett cook up a plot sure to scare the edgy typesetter back into his place.
Under the pretence of giving Luther his shot at the big time, the two offer him a chance to write a real story, a report on his overnight stay at the supposedly haunted Old Simmons House.
Luther reluctantly agrees, spending a spooky night at the abandoned mansion, complete with a mysterious self-playing organ and a bleeding portrait. Luther’s story makes him a local hero, but a Simmons descendant sues for libel, forcing Luther and others to spend one more night at the creepy abode.
Putting Knotts in a haunted house was a stroke of genius, giving the master of bug-eyed nervousness ample opportunities to show his stuff.
The actor’s decidedly un-Tim-Conway co-star was a former Playboy centrefold, Joan Staley.
The film was the first instalment in a five-picture deal Knotts had signed with Universal, and the gangly funnyman continued to skewer other genres in films like The Reluctant Astronaut (1967) and The Shakiest Gun in the West.
Mrs Halcyon Maxwell
Mrs Natalie Miller
Police Chief Art Fuller
Judge Harley Nast