A joke-playing family arrives in the town of Lucifer Falls to set up a franchise of Gag City, a store specializing in joke items. They get a taste of their own medicine when they find that their new home comes complete with an oddball collection of ghosts and goblins, including one Mr. Boogedy and his associates.
Katherine Kelly Lang
Joseph Paul Moore
Sally J Roddy
Robert M Stevens
William Ware Theiss
Robert L Zilliox
Though Disney's parks regularly go all out for Halloween (in particular with one of its most popular attractions, the Haunted Mansion), the studio is less known for its spooky filmed fare despite a long, beloved history. You can find elements of horror as far back as the first Disney feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), but the real lineage of Halloween-style fare originates with the animated anthology film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), whose "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" has become a seasonal favorite. Since then Disney has regularly offered uncanny treats ranging from the much-loved 1952 Donald Duck short film "Trick or Treat" to the haunting ghost story Child of Glass (1978) and the gothic chills of The Watcher in the Woods (1980).
With Mr. Boogedy, Disney ended up accidentally anticipating the resurgence in comical horror family fare that would reach movie screens soon after thanks to Beetlejuice (1988), ironically directed by former Disney employee Tim Burton, as well as the big screen revival of The Addams Family (1991) and Disney's Hocus Pocus (1993). However, the story of this film about a gag-happy family plagued by the title character and a host of spooks is also an affectionate descendant of the tongue-in-cheek haunted house films for all ages exemplified by The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966) and William Castle titles like House on Haunted Hill (1959), 13 Ghosts (1960), and The Spirit Is Willing (1967).
The cast of Mr. Boogedy features a host of familiar faces, among them a young Kristy Swanson who was seen the same year winning Jon Cryer in Pretty in Pink and headlining another offbeat horror offering, Wes Craven's Deadly Friend. Of course, her main claims to pop culture fame now are her status as the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) and her starring role in Hot Shots! (1991). Among the other screen family members are a young David Faustino, who would enjoy a decade-long role as Bud Bundy on TV's Married with Children starting the following year, and another TV kid, Benji Gregory, who was playing Brian on Alf. Among the adult cast you'll find two of the busiest character actors in the business then and now: Richard Masur, who bookended this with roles in Heartburn (1986) and The Believers (1987), and Mimi Kennedy, who went on to TV's Homefront and Dharma & Greg among many other roles. Playing the title character is Howard Witt, who seemed to guest star on virtually every hour-long TV show from the late '70s through the early '90s ranging from Law & Order to Remington Steele.
However, the actor with the most experience in comical horror is the one playing Neil Witherspoon, John Astin, who was TV's original Gomez Addams on the '60s incarnation of The Addams Family and made multiple appearances on Rod Serling's TV horror anthology, Night Gallery. Also a Disney veteran at the time thanks to Freaky Friday (1976), he would finally get to switch over to the other side of the corporeal realm as a specter in Peter Jackson's The Frighteners (1996). His clever casting here reflects the affectionate attitude to supernatural tales from the filmmakers that have made both this and its sequel an annual part of many TV watching diets for Halloween.
By Nathaniel Thompson