Tuesday, October 05, 2010

31 Days of Halloween - Day 5

Walt Disney's extremely popular television series, Zorro (1957-1959), which starred Guy Williams, Gene Sheldon, Henry Calvin, George J. Lewis, and Don Diamond, may seem like an odd choice for inclusion in a Halloween Countdown, but there's one episode from early in the first season that is especially deserving.

Episode 4, "The Ghost of the Mission," written and directed by Norman Foster, aired on October 31, 1957. This episode continues a storyline begun in the first episode in which Don Nacho Torres (Jan Arvan)  was arrested for speaking out against the corrupt Commandante, Capitan Monastario (Britt Lomond), and later rescued by Zorro who took him to sanctuary in the local mission.  Unable to coerce Torres out of the mission using other means, Monastario creates a false concern about attacking Indians to give him license to occupy the mission as a means of protecting it. What he's really trying to do is keep anyone from bringing food or water to Torres. Monastario's cruelty then extends to whipping the local, peaceful Indians, and forcing them to perform backbreaking labor as a means of guilting Torres into surrendering into his hands so he'll stop punishing the Indians.

Zorro (Guy Williams) devises a scheme to rid the mission of Monastario and his men and to free the Indians using a manufactured legend about the ghost of a mad monk who haunts the mission. In his civilian guise of Don Diego de la Vega he sows of his plan by relating the made up legend of the ghost to gullible Seargent Garcia (Henry Calvin), who grows more and more apprehensive with each detail. The power of suggestion set in motion, Garcia later passes on the story to the other lancers stationed at the mission.

That night, just like in Diego's tale, the tell tale signs of the ghost monk's presence makes themselves known. The mission bells ring on their own, actually managed by Diego's servant Bernardo's (Gene Sheldon) use of a slingshot, rattling chains and eerie moaning sounds are heard, and then the hooded, faceless ghost of the monk is spotted and chaos ensues as panicked lancers run for cover and Monastario suspecting this is a trick tries to uncover the culprit. During the confusion, Zorro manages to set the Indians free and upset Monastario's plans.

What makes this episode particularly noteworthy for the season, is that it recycled a number of spooky sound effects that Disney's legendary sound designer, and voice of Mickey Mouse after Walt Disney's voice became too hoarse from smoking, Jimmy Macdonald (1906-1991) had created for early animated films such as the short film Lonesome Ghosts (1937), and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow half of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949).

The headless horseman's distinct laughter as well as several moaning ghost sounds from Lonesome Ghosts are used throughout the second half of the episode as the eerie moaning and ghoulish laughter of the faceless monk. Many of the ghostly sounds from Lonesome Ghosts, particularly the distinct yawning moan of the stretching ghost at the beginning will also be recognizable from the classic Walt Disney record Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House.

You can watch the complete episode of "The Ghost of the Mission" by following the links below. Part 3 has the sequence with the ghost of the monk.

Zorro: The Ghost of the Mission - part 1

Zorro: The Ghost of the Mission - part 2

Zorro: The Ghost of the Misssion - part 3

Below are links to the animated short, Lonesome Ghosts, as well as the headless horseman sequence from the Legend of Sleepy Hollow portion of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.

Lonesome Ghosts

Legend of Sleepy Hollow - part 5


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