20 April 2024

Arnold (1973)
Contributed by Robbie Rist

From playing piano and violin at three to his first acting job at six, Robbie Rist has been a multi-hyphenate since childhood. He was part of several successful television series (Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bionic Woman, the live-action Big John, Little John and cartoon Kidd Video on Saturday mornings, the animated Naruto), movies (Iron Eagle, as well as the voice of Michaelangelo in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle films) and radio (over 600 spots and counting). He's enjoyed a successful music career as frontman for 90's pop/punk progenitors Wonderboy, guitarist/singer for power pop sensations The Andersons! as well as producer/recording engineer for 70's teen heartthrobs (and Avril Levigne copyright challengers) The Rubinoos and Spanish pop gods Suzy & Los Quattro. In 2006, Rist produced an award-winning low-budget horror film called Stump the Band, for which he did music supervision, wrote original songs and produced and engineered the score.

By the time I was nine, I was pretty steeped in horror...being a massive fan of the '30s and '40s Universal horror films with George Waggner's classic The Wolf Man (1941) a particular favorite.

I think the '70s post hippie/death of innocence thing hit a bunch of us younguns pretty hard without us even realizing it. There was so much melancholy, which is found in spades in The Wolf Man.

But a film that really messed me up when I was young was a little-known horror/comedy directed by teevee director Georg Fenady (Baywatch, Life Goes On) called Arnold (1973).

Arnold starred Stella Stevens, Roddy McDowall, Elsa Lanchester -- the Bride herself! -- and cowboy actor Farley Granger. (I probably went to see it because McDowall was, and continues to be, one of my acting heroes.)

A family goes to a creepy house on the moors for the reading of the titular character's will. Everyone gets only one item and no money, and each item is relevant to how awful the personality of each family member is. And deadly.

Face cream with acid in it.

McDowall inherits a suit that, once put on, begins to constrict until it actually makes him explode.

Stevens and her lover are squished in a custom made shower that has walls that close in on them.

And poor Elsa as the scheming sister, ends up locked in a crypt with Arnold's ashes to starve to death.


At nine, I had no exposure to dark comedy. So it disturbed me a lot that people dying in such horrible ways would be considered 'funny.' I walked around in something of a daze for some time after...feeling really messed up.

The same thing happened after seeing only the last half-hour of Phantom of the Paradise. The scene in which the rock star Beef (played with amazing flamboyance by character fave Gerritt Graham) gets hit by the electric lightening bolt, catches fire and the audience applauds. WTF? That's some messed up shit at that age if you don't understand what just happened on the screen.

I had snuck into Phantom at the multiplex after I saw Race With the Devil. Man, after The Exorcist, Satan was everywhere! And as I was too young to see The Exorcist...well, at least my Christian sister thought so...I saw pretty much anything else with the word Devil in the title. The Devil's Rain...To the Devil a Daughter...The Devil in Miss Jones...oh...wait...that was later. Dammit, I'm digressing.

I apparently not only got over having seen Arnold, but totally embraced it. (How about that Meet The Feebles, eh?) I mean, at this point, the darker and funnier, the better. I may be one of the few fans on the planet of Very Bad Things. AND my experience has led me to believe that a serious foundation in the more grim side of comedy (or the funnier side of the grim) is almost imperative in today's world, wouldn't you say?

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