There's much to recommend among the Library of Congress' Packard Campus and State Theater screenings in Culpeper, Virginia, in October 2013, including the until recently super-rare Bob Hope / Paulette Goddard haunted house comedy The Cat and the Canary (1939). And that's one more reason to hope that the Republican Party's foaming-at-the-mouth extremists (and their voters and supporters), ever bent on destroying the economic and sociopolitical fabric of the United States (and of the rest of the world), will not succeed in shutting down the federal government and thus potentially wreak havoc throughout the U.S. and beyond. (Photo: Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard in The Cat and the Canary.)
Screening on Thursday, October 31, at the Packard Theater, Elliott Nugent's The Cat and the Canary is a remake of Paul Leni's better-known 1927 silent movie featuring Creighton Hale and Universal's top star of the '20s, Laura La Plante. Starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard, the 1939 The Cat and the Canary isn't exactly a masterpiece – not even close. But how could I not recommend a movie that features the gorgeous Goddard on the cusp of stardom, and a first-rate supporting cast that includes Gale Sondergaard, John Beal, George Zucco, Douglass Montgomery, and Elizabeth Patterson? In fact, I can't think of a more appropriate way to spend Halloween 2013.
By the way, the 1939 The Cat and the Canary apparently was successful enough to warrant a sort-of sequel the following year: The Ghost Breakers, also starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard.
More Halloween 2013 movies: 'The Invisible Man,' 'The Wolf Man,' 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers,' 'The Uninvited'
Culpeper's State Theater will also be a good place to spend Halloween Eve, October 30. Two Universal classics, The Invisible Man (1933) and The Wolf Man (1941) will be presented that evening.
Directed by James Whale (Frankenstein, The Old Dark House), The Invisible Man made a movie star out of renowned stage actor Claude Rains – in all likelihood the only individual to become a movie star by (mostly) not being seen on screen. In George Waggner's The Wolf Man, Lon Chaney Jr. follows in the footsteps of his father, who had the title roles in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Phantom of the Opera, and Mr. Wu. Unlike Lon Chaney, however, Chaney Jr. was never to become a major Hollywood star. Perhaps because in The Wolf Man he had to share the screen with inveterate scene-stealers Maria Ouspenskaya, Warren William, Bela Lugosi, and a thoroughly visible Claude Rains.
Here are a couple more Halloween recommendations: Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), screening on October 23 at the State Theater, and Lewis Allen's The Uninvited (1944), screening at the Packard on October 24.
Starring Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, Invasion of the Body Snatchers tracks an alien invasion that threatens to transform all of humankind into human-looking pods – incapable of feelings or thoughts. Considering that the overwhelming majority of human beings already act like human-looking pods, it's hard to understand why the aliens would bother; nevertheless, Invasion of the Body Snatchers remains one of the most thrilling and most well-acted horror sci-fiers ever made. As for The Uninvited, it's a ghost story mixed with suspense, humor, and romance, featuring excellent production values, and capable performances by Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, and Gail Russell, one of the most hauntingly beautiful actresses to come out of Hollywood.
Note: The State Theater screenings should be immune from the federal government shutdown. For more information, visit the State Theater's website.
Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard in The Cat and the Canary photo: Paramount Pictures.