Saturday, April 08, 2017

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: The Ghost Busters: "Which Witch is Witch?" (October 25, 1975)

A witch (Ann Morgan Guilbert) and her minion, Gronk (Huntz Hall) materialize in the graveyard on the outskirts of town.

There, they plot their sinister revenge against “you know how,” the witch-hunter who sent them to the Great Beyond centuries centuries earlier, at the Salem Witch trials.

Unfortunately, the spirits have to settle for the witch hunter’s descendant: Spenser (Larry Storch).  

The witch disguises herself as the lovely Salem (Leigh Christian) to lead Spenser to his doom…

At one point in “Which Witch is Which?,” an episode of Filmation’s The Ghost Busters (1975), a character notes significantly that “history repeats itself.”

Well, so do episodes of this series!

Once more, we get a formulaic story that trots through all the oft-told jokes. 

Let’s do a catalog.

We open in the grave-yard and the threat of the week appears. This threat (a ghost and sidekick) spies the castle and decides to settle down there. 

Then, we go to the Ghost Busters office, and Spenser and Tracy do something crazy (like magic tricks, jogging, or whatever the gimmick of the week is).

This mischief requires Kong (Forrest Tucker) to shoo the duo away to get the message of the week from the Mysterious Zero.  He says something along the lines of “go get our next ghost busting assignment.” Then we get the driving gag, and the self-destructing tape gag.  The tape always self-destructs in five seconds, and always explodes on Tracy, leaving him a mess. This week, the tape is in a kitchen sink.

Then it’s back to the office for more research, and we get the next gag: the file-cabinet gag.  (I have to confess, I often find this one the funniest, for some reason). Basically, Spenser can’t open the file cabinet properly. It’s a battle of wills between Spenser and…the cabinet.

Then we’re off to the castle, and the final battle with the ghosts. The antagonists are finally zapped back to the Great Beyond with the ghost de-materializer, and we get one more comedic scene at the office, before the end credits roll.

This is what happens in, literally, every episode of the series.  It’s incredibly repetitive.

I suppose there’s comfort in routine. But the question here is: are there also laughs in routine?

I might have to argue yes, because this series has broken my will, and I’ve found the last half of the series generally more amusing than I did at first half.  I guess once you know what to expect, you free yourself, in some sense, from wanting anything different. You can just give in to the silliness, and start observing the curve-balls in the oft-seen formula.

Beyond reiteration of the routine, “Which Witch is Which?” also features Storch performing more classic Hollywood imitations; this time of Clark Gable. And Tracy, once more, seems to be the character with the most intelligence.

Not bad for a gorilla. He’s my favorite character.

Okay, accuracy requires me to point out one more thing before I close.  There is a new joke here, though it is a variation on an old one. Here, Spenser starts reading books in the office, and the tomes each start attacking him. He reads Moby Dick, for example, and the book squirts water in his face. The book Call of the Wild howls at him.  A few episodes back, the same joke was pulled with a TV set.

But heck, at least the joke changed a little bit.  That’s progress, I suppose, 1970's Saturday morning TV style.

Next week: “They Went Thataway!”

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