What if I were to tell you that there’s an episode of TV that features Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr. trek out to a Chicagoland hotel to brainstorm horror ideas for a cooperative project?
You might not believe me. It sounds like something a horror fanboy would either pitch, or get their friends together to make a homemade version of said idea.
It absolutely exists. It was an episode of the hit TV show ROUTE 66 entitled Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing and was the fourth episode of the show’s third season.
PETER LORRE: “What frightened them in then in the dark ages, it still frightens now. Fear is born into people […] And don’t you sell it short, Boris!”
I wrote about ROUTE 66 a few years back so if you’d like to read a deeper dive on the series, I’ll point you in that direction.
If you are pressed for time, here’s a brief summary: NAKED CITY and THE NAKED CITY TV show creators Herbert B. Leonard and Stirling Silliphant pitched the idea of two younger men — the over-educated Tod and the suave lady’s man Buz — band together and tour the U.S. and picking up odd jobs along the way to fund their efforts. Unlike just about every TV show at the time, each episode was shot on location, turning ROUTE 66 into a weekly U.S. travelogue.
Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing does take place in Chicagoland.* As previously mentioned, Lorre, Karloff and Chaney Jr. want to brainstorm a project together. Lorre suggests meeting at an innocuous conference Chicagoland hotel ‘The O’Hare Inn’ and they agree. Karloff suggests that they replace their surname with reversed versions of their first name because, sure, that’ll fool everyone.
It just so happens that Tod and Buzz have wrangled a job at the inn as Junior Executives in Charge of Convention Liasons. The job thrills them — especially Tod — as the inn is hosting a large ‘Executive Secretaries of the Midwest’ conference and features a number of attractive women.
TOD, remarking on the number of young women exiting a bus: “What makes you think it’s a convention group?”
BUZZ: “When two or more girls get together and there’s no guy in the group, it’s just got to be a convention.”
TOD: “Buzz, there are things carved in marble with not the one-tenth of content of that last authoritative remark.”
While Tod and Buzz work on wooing secretaries, the three horror maestros finally meet up. Lorre requests a very specific coffin from Tod before Karloff arrives, so he can give Karloff a special reveal.
Tod quickly sees through Lorre’s scheming and suggests that Lorre and Chaney Jr. try their own brand of old-school terror on the secretaries. Chaney Jr. makes himself into one of his classic monsters and matters escalate. Meanwhile, Karloff consoles a secretary who pines for a love who left her.
It’s roughly fifty minutes of self-satisfying indulgence for writer/creator Silliphant but, happily, is also a raucous and memorable crowd-pleasing episode. This might not be the venue we wanted to see all three of these masters together for, but it is a lot of fun.
I rarely link to full episodes, however, if you’re in New York City, you can also watch it for free at the mind-blowing New York Paley Center which is exactly the first work I watched upon my initial visit.
- To Chicago residents like myself, there is a difference between Chicago and Chicagoland. A lot of folks who live in Chicago suburbs often say they live in Chicago. Chicago residents often classify those who live outside the radius of Chicago’s L train support as living in Chicagoland.