Family Value Gentle Halloween Movies
Grandparents - You Baby Boomers can share these with the little ones
These are flicks from “our era.” They were not made-for-television children’s specials. They are films from our lifetimes produced for the general public. Today they all would be rated G and family. Only one of them includes “questionable language,” and that is the most recent film in the list: E.T. I think any and all of them would be fun to share with grandkids. However, children are not necessary to enjoy them one more time.
E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial
E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) Color. 115 minutes. Fantasy sci-fi.
Don’t you get a nice warm, squishy-lovey feeling inside just remembering this movie? It is in the list because Halloween trick-or-treating occurs near the end of the story. I remember seeing it for the first time and being quite surprised that children in California went trick-or-treating immediately after school during daylight. It is the story of a little lost alien and the human boy who helps him. Memorable moments: The silhouette of Elliot and ET on riding across the sky on a bicycle with the full moon behind them. And then the whole gang of friends being lifted up to similarly ride. The dialogue: “E.T. phone home” and, at the very end, when E.T. is about to leave, and touches his heart with his finger, saying “ Ouuch! Then Elliot doing the same action, touching his own heart and saying “ouch.” Precious.
Arsenic and Old Lace
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944 ) B & W. 118 minutes. Comedy mystery romance.
With Cary Grant’s superb comic delivery, you can’t go wrong. Furthermore, it was directed by Frank Capra. Other fantastic cast members include Josephine Hull and Jean Adair as his eccentric with a capital “E” aunts, Edward Everett Horton as a perplexed doctor, and Peter Lorre as the quintessential bad guy. The story is: a sophisticated writer marries the girl who grew up next door to him in Brooklynon Halloween day. After the wedding, and before the honeymoon trip to Niagara Falls, the groom visits his elderly aunts, and discovers their horrible secret. The script is incredible for both the who-done-it side and the comedy side. Who can forget brother “Teddy Roosevelt” and his call to “CHARGE!” up the staircase? Or, Cary Grant at the window seat? There are a few glimpses of Halloween begging during the daytime as was the custom in Brooklyn around the thirties and forties.
The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz (1939) Starts as B & W but switches to color in the land of Oz. 101 minutes. Fantasy musical.
A teenage girl from Kansas and her dog are hurled into a land of make-believe. She makes friends with three characters who have personal goals. They all set off to find a wizard who is said to have the power to help them. However, the Wicked Witch of the West, the fantastic actress Margaret Hamilton, terrorizes them through their entire quest. Back when there were only 3 TV channels in the USA, this was always aired at Halloween. Elementary school teachers told stories of how awful the students were after the Halloween trick-or-treating and the movie between being sugared up and frightened of the witches and flying monkees. Memorable dialogue: the soldiers marching into the wicked witch’s castle singing “All we own, we owe –oh.” “Toto, I think we’re not in Kansas anymore.” “I’ll get you my pretty.” “I’m melting! I’m Melting!” When I saw this movie as a child, I did not realize that the actors and actresses playing the Kansas folk were also playing the Oz characters. Maybe you’ll want to clue in your grandchild, or maybe you’ll wait and see if she figures it out.
I Married a Witch
I Married a Witch (1942) B & W. 77 minutes. Fantasy romance comedy.
This is a very light and silly farce which could be titled “Revenge of the Witches.” Two condemned witches from Puritan times find their way into the forties and try to wreak havoc on the heirs of their Puritan nemesis. However, one witch falls in love with her enemy. Veronica Lake is this sorceress. This film would be useful to discuss with children the progress of film technology. Some of the effects in this movie are simple and awkward – such a lightning bolt strike. Other effects - such as smoke and flying objects – work quite well. I think it is great to see that the story works without 3-D spinning, twirling or computer effects. Also, I like the soundtrack. I hear similarities with John Williams’ works.
Bell, Book, and Candle
Bell, Book, and Candle (1958) Color. 106 minutes. Comedy romance.
Kim Novak is a modern bookstore owner-witch who falls for her enemy's fiancé, played by Jimmy Stewart. They were probably put together in this movie because they had just completed Vertigo. I think the best part is Jack Lemmon as the witch’s beatnik bongo- playing warlock brother. Also saving the film are actresses Elsa Lanchester, Hermione Gingold, and the cat, Pyewacket.
Grab the Popcorn and Enjoy
I think of Halloween as a season rather than a day. It is when the daylight hours shorten, and the outdoors gets cold and spooky. So, grab the treats of your choice and rent one of these classic Halloween movies. They are classic because they are enduringly good.
Photo and text copyright 2011 Maren E. Morgan.