The only negative to this episode is the fact that all the women are stereotyped as being overly lovesick, ditzy, and too easily frightened. Again this is mostly done for the sake of comedy, but in the end it gets to be a bit much. However the line that Lorre gives to the hotel desk clerk who seems to recognize him is a real gem.
It was a real joy to see Chaney and Karloff in their most famous roles on more time. The question of whether old school monster can still scare the audience is treated with humor, but ironically the subject would recur more dramatically in Karloff's last major film-- Targets.
All told an exceptionally enjoyable outing, especially for Lorre, Karloff and Chaney.
'Lizard's Leg and Owlet's Wing' was a reunion of sorts for a couple of movie horror icons, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, reprising the monster characters that made them famous in film. Chaney in fact portrayed both The Mummy and Wolf Man in the show, while Karloff did a reasonably looking but decidedly less frightening Frankenstein. Had Bela Lugosi still been alive I think he might have been asked to participate here, but Peter Lorre did a good job of rounding out the cast for this episode. The story had to do with the trio agreeing to meet and hammer out a new concept for horror pictures; with the changing times they weren't sure if their brand of fright could still make viewers scared.
So they agree to meet at the O'Hare Inn outside of Chicago, and as luck would have it, Tod Stiles (Milner) and Buz Murdock (Maharis) have just arrived to take jobs as liaisons for an executive secretaries convention occurring at the hotel. One of the great things about watching these old shows is how they put things in context for viewers watching today. Convention chairwoman Lila Bain (Betsy-Jones Moreland) laments the disparity in pay between men and women, get this - $1.58 vs. $1.17 per hour for a hotel laundry clerk! Or how about a male bank teller making ninety one dollars per week against a female's rate of sixty three dollars! All relative of course, but it does make you think.
Anyway, the horror gimmick gets played out to the max, particularly with Chaney who goes over the top with his Wolf Man get up. Every woman he encounters faints dead away quicker than an onlooker at an Obama campaign rally. With Frankenstein, Wolf Man, and Lorre as Dracula, the series stars really don't have much to do in this one other than sit back and enjoy the show. The episode aired during Halloween week back in 1962, and if you're a fan of these horror icons or of the show Route 66 itself, this one is a blast.
This one is most definitely a worthwhile episode - a bit different than the others as you might have guessed already.
Actually, Peter is playing himself- sort of. He's depicted as an aging star of horror movies who is to meet there with two other old horror stars in the same predicament- Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff. Times are changing and people just aren't scared by the old monsters any more. They need to come up with new ones to keep their careers going. Or so Karloff thinks. Lorre and Chaney like the old ways.
The ever helpful Tod comes up with a plan: they could dress as their old characters and see if they can scare Buz's executive secretaries in them. They succeed and it convinces the "society" that the bold monsters still work. We see scenes of Chaney and Karloff in their classic disguises- Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Mummy- running through the halls of the hotel, causing the poor women to faint in their tracks. The old monsters still work!
One of the problems is that the sexist attitudes of the period really come to the fore here. The women, presumably efficient businesswomen- they are, after all, executive secretaries- not just typists- are leered at and shown as mentally weak when faced by the "monsters", (and their make-up is not nearly so good as in the original movies- they look like they are their way to a Halloween party).
The other one is Peter Lorre. He'd played some pretty weird characters but didn't play monsters, although he did a couple of films for Roger Corman based on Edgar Allan Poe stories after this episode. For that reason, he has no costume in the final sequence. He's obviously standing in for Bela Lugosi, who had died in 1955, (which didn't prevent him from appearing in Ed Woods' camp classic, "Plan Nine From Outer Space in 1959). Lorre orders a coffin to be the center piece of the society's meeting. But's not dressed like a vampire. Apparently, his normal appearance is supposed to be scary. Early in his career he was thin and those big eyes and sing-song voice somehow made him intimidating is a sort of oily way. But by 1962, (two years away from his death from a stroke), he was fat, baggy-eyed and jowly. He looks pathetic, not scary. What an episode this could have been with Lugosi, Chaney and Karloff! Lorre, Chaney and Karloff just aren't the same.
By the way, they assume the names Mr. Retep, Mr. Nol and Mr. Sirob when pretending to be concerned with Gerenuks. And, no Gerenuk doesn't mean anything when spelled backwards (kunereg).
One apparently mundane scene I liked because it underscores the difference between this series and others is a scene where Tod is making a call from the hotel kitchen. In the background we see the kitchen works making the meals that would be consumed by the residents of the hotel, (probably including the company of "Route 66") that evening. With Route 66, you are there, exactly where the episodes are supposed to be taking place. Talk about reality television!
I'll admit it is wrapped in a slight story line whereby our three horror icons meet in a clandestine meeting to plan a new assault revolving around a proposed TV show/series. They choose a Chicago Inn near the airport that happens to be guesting an executive secretary's convention simultaneously. Hi jinx ensue, and though it can only be described as silly and contrived it entertains. Just the presence, and differences, in the great actors persona's is well worth a watch.
I've read this is a favorite episode, though I don't exactly agree I can see how many would rate it higher than my personal view. The title is pure Route 66, the scattered sarcasm by Lorre, and the interaction of three Hollywood icons largely overcome my reservations. I love the series and admit the diversity is nice. I see it as a valentine to these giants of horror.
At any rate, Lon just sits there & tries to be scary by just rising up as the Mummy & Boris was like, yeah, I already get the joke. Meanwhile, the part that really gets me is once he's back to his old Wolf-Man makeup, Peter just says I like that & I had a "son of Frankenstein" moment, because all Lon has to do is wear makeup & fall out because he's not the really Lon Chaney. Just scaring the women who don't believe in horror movies.
The only thing left to say is, we did it & Vincent Price is still making more money than Boris "Scare "em to Death" Karloff....
Okay, the story's just an excuse to get three movie icons on screen together. But what's with the Molly (Riley) bit. It looks like she's practicing for Queen of Coy, especially in that one lengthy close- up scene that almost comes across as padding. Nonetheless, she is endearing even if excessive. And, oh yes, there's a ton of fashionable girls (executive secretaries) for Buz and Tod to ogle, (and me too). Also shouldn't overlook two supporting old timers, Hunt and Nagel, who lend waspish class. All in all, the hour's as much a treat now as it was then. My only complaint is that the icons should have been favored with a curtain-call bow; somehow that seems appropriate even now.