Country Rewind: Country Music Meets B-Movie Terror in 'Hillbillys in a Haunted House'

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey and Woolner Brothers Pictures Inc.

The Nashville Sound interacts with horror and b-movie royalty in one of the quirkiest cult films of the '60s, Hillbillys in a Haunted House (Woolner Brothers, 1967). It's no Halloween classic, nor does it reach the comedic level of director Jean Yarbrough's prior work with Abbott & Costello. However, it does feature one of the better soundtracks from a time when hapless hillbillies ran rampant on the small screen and in matinee features.

"Wings of a Dove" singer Ferlin Husky stars as Woody Wetherby, a country singer en route to the Nashville Jamboree with fellow singer Boots Malone (Joi Lansing) and manager Jeepers (country comedian Don Bowman). All three characters appeared in the 1966 film Las Vegas Hillbillys, featuring Mamie Van Doren as the original Boots Malone.

We first meet our heroes as they take the scenic route to Music City in what appears to be a Nudie-mobile--one of the Pontiacs decorated by legendary tailor Nudie Cohn with steer horns, guns, horseshoes and silver dollars. After getting caught in the middle of a police shootout, the trio decides to spend the night in rural Tennessee.

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Despite the warnings of a friendly passer-by played by country star Sonny James, our heroes stay at an alleged haunted mansion that, as it turns out, hides a ring of international spies led by Madame Wong (Linda Ho). Bad guys played by John Carradine (as Dr. Himmil), Lon Chaney, Jr. (as Maximillian), Sherlock Holmes actor Basil Rathbone (as Gregor) and classic horror's most prolific guy in a gorilla suit, George Barrows, try to scare off Wetherby and friends in a film that's too bogged down in a side story about a top secret formula for rocket fuel to live up to its horror-comedy potential.

As expected, the bad guys get their comeuppance for betraying America and running a really lame haunted house once they're exposed by Agent Jim Meadows, played by veteran actor Richard Webb.

Jeepers' late night television viewing and the gang's eventual arrival in Nashville allow for on-screen musical numbers by none other than Merle Haggard, plus appearances by the lesser-known Molly Bee, Jim Kent and Marcella Wright.

Be warned that the RiffTrax version on Amazon Prime cuts quite a few scenes from the movie, including both Haggard appearances and several other songs. Music plays a minimal role in the story, but it's worth tracking down the original film to hear the Hag sing "Someone Told My Story" on Jeepers' favorite variety show.

This story originally ran on Oct. 25, 2019.

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Country Rewind: Country Music Meets B-Movie Terror in 'Hillbillys in a Haunted House'