Francis in the Haunted House is a 1956 American black-and-white comedy film from Universal-International, produced by Robert Arthur, directed by Charles Lamont, that stars Mickey Rooney and Virginia Welles.
This is the seventh and final film in Universal-International Francis the Talking Mule series, notably without series director Arthur Lubin, star Donald O'Connor, or Francis' voice actor Chill Wills.
Francis witnesses a murder and then befriends bumbling reporter David Prescott (Mickey Rooney), who may be next in line. With Francis' help and guidance, Prescott uncovers a mystery involving murder, an inheritance, and a spooky old mansion on the edge of town.
This seventh and final entry in the Francis the Talking Mule series was made without any of the key creative personnel from the earlier films. Leonard Maltin, in his Movie Guide, quotes Donald O'Connor on quitting the series: "When you've made six pictures and the mule still gets more fan mail than you do...." Director Lubin and Chill Wills were also absent, replaced respectively by Charles Lamont and voice actor Paul Frees, who did a close approximation of Wills' voice as Francis.
Mickey Rooney replaced Donald O'Connor as a new but similar character, David Prescott. According to his autobiography, Rooney was originally considered for a United Artists Francis feature film with his company Rooney Inc optioning and then turning down the property before Universal acquired the rights.
Rooney's casting was announced in January 1956.
Charles Lamont was announced as the film's director some weeks later.
Chill Wills wanted more money than Universal were willing to play, so the studio auditioned various voice actor replacements, including Mel Blanc, before settling on Paul Frees.
The film made no attempt at explaining why Francis left original sidekick Peter Stirling. In the script Francis says he decided to befriend reporter Prescott because "I once lived on a farm owned by Prescott's uncle and wanted to protect his nephew out of respect for the deceased." With the original elements missing, the film, a standard tale of fake ghosts and gangsters, was poorly received; it was widely reviewed as the weakest entry in the series.
The original film, Francis (1950), was released in 1978 as one of the first-ever titles in the new LaserDisc format, DiscoVision Catalog #22-003. It was then re-issued on LaserDisc in May 1994 by MCA/Universal Home Video (Catalog #: 42024) as part of an Encore Edition Double Feature with Francis Goes to the Races (1951).
The first two Francis films were released again in 2004 by Universal Pictures on Region 1 and Region 4 DVD, along with the next two in the series, as The Adventures of Francis the Talking Mule Vol. 1. Several years later, Universal released all 7 Francis films as a set on three Region 1 and Region 4 DVDs, Francis The Talking Mule: The Complete Collection.