The Old Castle's Secret" while preparing this episode. The similarity between Strangeduck's "invisigable paint" and the "chemical spray" used by Diamond Dick in "Secret" is more than enough to suggest such a connection. Actually, it might have been better had Merwin bitten the bullet and gone for a full adaptation of "Secret" here, since I'd argue that the bits of animated business that were most likely influenced by "Secret" were carried off more effectively than were the equivalent scenes in the Barks tale. For example, many of the shots of the skeletal "ghost of Sir Quackly McDuck" in "Secret" were quite atmospheric...
HD&L's exploration of the graveyard near the castle is also prominently featured in "Secret":
Grand Hotel. The plot develops in sections, lurching from incident to incident, and doesn't really begin to gel until HD&L begin their "investigation" into the possible fate of Strangeduck. Even then, Merwin makes a terrible misstep when HD&L note the "fact" that "Benzino [Gasolini] is never around when the ghost is." In so doing, the boys conveniently forget that Benzino was present when the ghost "axed" Scrooge and company to leave at the end of Act 1 and the start of Act 2. Even a simple Scooby-Doo mystery isn't going to work if the "red herring" is neither red nor a herring to begin with.
If the handling of the Duchess and Benzino is less than adept, then that of Ludwing von Strangeduck himself is simply risible. Incredibly, we never do find out why Ludwing spent the episode sneaking around in a ghost costume, not even when the characters have the obligatory "exchanging of notes" in Strangeduck's lab at the end. Among other things, the masquerade calls into question the identity of the "ghost" that had originally caused Scrooge's employees to refuse to work at the castle. Was it Strangeduck's assistant Bernardo, whom Strangeduck admits had a tendency to "snoop around" in search of Strangeduck's book of formulas? Or was it Ludwing himself, burnishing his credentials as a "weirdo"? Or both? I can't even think of a Scooby-Doo episode in which a "false clue" was planted in so ham-handed a fashion. What could Merwin possibly have been thinking here? (To be completely fair, Scottie's "fake death" in "The Old Castle's Secret" was also pretty contrived, though nowhere close to being AS contrived as is Strangeduck's play-acting here.)
"Hallo... I chust couldn't remember vhen Halloween fell
this year, so I figured, vhy take chances?"
What makes all of Merwin's badly-reasoned false trails and content-free "clues" so infuriating is that the episode features a more-than-respectable number of genuinely arresting scenes, leaving us to wonder what might have been had Merwin arranged his thoughts more coherently. The "batter-dipped bandit" scene involving Mrs. Beakley, Webby, and the "ghost" in the kitchen makes excellent use of the "invisibility" idea to provide a truly scary image:
Twister the "ghost" would have to be playing in order to pull this off.
Ducks of the West." Things got better, though; Merwin's third Scooby riff, "Back Out in the Outback," was easily the most successful of the trio, and he also gave us a legitimate classic with the Launchpad-focused "Top Duck." So patience ultimately paid off, I suppose. In the case of "Strangeduck," however, I think it's fair to say that Merwin, Scooby-Doo fan though he might have been, never got close to unraveling the Old Castle's real secret -- namely, good storytelling.
Sorry, Richard -- even the "traditional fade-out laugh" gambit isn't going to salvage this one.
(GeoX) This episode was okay, but I can't help thinking that it was a bit of a missed opportunity--it could easily have been a lot more atmospheric/suspenseful. Instead, there's a lot of really un-spooky ghosting around that, in light of the ending, is rather more implausible than that in the story it's riffing off of. Also, there's a guest at the hotel, Italian Stereotype Man, who serves no apparent purpose (unless a funny accent counts as a "purpose"). Perhaps without that narrative dead-end, there would have been more time and opportunity to really explore the ins and outs of the castle.
Sorry to say, I don't think that Merwin had a clear idea as to how best to exploit the episode's potential for spooky atmospherics. As for Benzino, well, for some unknown reason, Merwin must have thought that he had a potential "keeper" character on his hands here, since the "Italian playhog" and "champion race-car driver"/"air ace" (depending on source) would play an even larger role in "Top Duck." Still, it would be something of a stretch to claim that Benzino contributed anything truly meaningful to this episode.
(GeoX) The other guest is "The Duchess of Swansylvania;" funniest part of the episode is when she signs in with a huge, hyper-ornate signature. Okay, maybe you have to see it.
Just as funny, IMHO, is the notion that "hotel tip policy" includes the proviso that you have to tip the desk clerk when you sign in. Have any of you who've stayed in a hotel -- even a really fancy one -- ever done that?
(Greg) Benzino signs the guestbook with great difficulty and then spins the turn table as Scrooge reads his name. So his last name is based on crude oil. Why is it that Gasolini can use an Italian accent; but not Magica who uses the slightly more offensive Russian accent?
The combination of exaggerated Italian accent and exaggerated Italian persona would probably create whatever offense is to be generated by this character. Magica, by contrast, could probably have pulled off an Italian accent quite nicely if it had not been too over-the-top. DT chose not to go that route, but, instead, to stick with the tried-and-true "Natasha" voice.
(Greg) So we head inside a room as Mrs. Beakly and Webby (in the same outfit Beakly is wearing minus the size and plus the pink visor, natch) prepare the room and Beakly is complaining about her back... Webby then gleefully answers the immortal question of why Scrooge talks her into these things: It's all about the raise see. Russi does a better job in acting Mrs. Beakly then Joan Gerber does with the real character!
I wouldn't go as far as that. Russi, however, does seem to sound a bit more like Minnie Mouse in this scene than she normally does with Webby.
(Greg) So we head inside at the dinner table as Scrooge, the nephews, Swans, and Benzino are seated. Duckworth is standing in the background in the left of course as the nephews proclaim that there is a lot of strange stuff happening around here... Scrooge waves it off because there are no such things as ghosts. This is the same guy who faces Magica Despell on a regular basis for goodness sakes!
Good point! Scrooge's level of toleration for extraordinary phenomena does seem to fluctuate from episode to episode -- sometimes (as here) even within the same episode. Not for him the stubborn consistency of Kimba or Dr. Temperance Brennan on this topic.
Actually, it's rather difficult to make out whether the "ghost" can see the boys or not.
(Greg) So we head inside Swans' bedroom (Wasn't she supposed to stay NEAR the door?) as Swans is sleeping in her bed under the pink covers with the Rebecca sleeping patch glasses from Balooest of Bluebloods. Now all we need is bronze cupids firing arrows and this episode will be complete.
Either the Duchess has a very short attention span (somehow, I don't find that to be all that far-fetched), or Scrooge and HD&L were in the bowels of the castle for a MUCH longer time than Merwin suggested on screen.
Next: Episode 23, "Launchpad's Civil War."