|OpenFlix > One Body Too Many|
It begins with some cleverness in setting up the scenario. The will's gimmick is farfetched but assured an offbeat night of criminal mayhem: The deceased, an astrologer, wishes to be buried above ground so that the stars shine down on him. If anything happens so that he is not, then the heir who was supposed to get the most will instead get the least, and vice versa. The body disappears, then reappears, then someone else is murdered... it's all expectedly, even appropriately, convoluted.
Our hero is a life insurance salesman who is mistaken for the detective assigned to guard the body from shenanigans. And there is real inventiveness in placing a life insurance salesman in this situation, where people are sure to be bumped off. Unfortunately, this knowing wink to the audience is barely explored at all. The hero himself is an average-looking guy, more likable and less wimpy than many 40's B heroes. And he is surrounded by a capable, if unspectacular, cast.
Lugosi is wasted, although his stock Ominous Butler character is interestingly played for laughs this go-round, ready and willing to bump off anybody who anyone else thinks needs bumping off. Watch out for the coffee.
This is of course, a comedy/mystery, as every picture in this genre has been since The Cat and the Canary in the 20's. And the comedy is generally the determining factor in how watchable these kind of films are. Here it is not too bad, consisting less of the typical scared mugging and awkward pratfalls than many similar efforts. Only in its dull, protracted middle section does the film lose its way, as the hero gets lost in the ubiquitous secret passageways, caught in a wicker basket with a litter of kittens and wearing only a towel. Don't ask.
There are a number of good scenes, including one where the hero, hiding in a coffin, is carried off and dumped in a pool. The movie ends with a suspenseful chase and confrontation atop the observatory. But there is not enough made of the good ideas in the script, and too much damage is done to the whole by the weak or old ideas in the script. You've seen much of it before, so it's not quite worth a purchase. Close but no cigar.
See also: The Cat and the Canary; Black Cat (1941); Night Monster; Old Dark House; The Monster Walks; The Gorilla; Seven Keys To Baldpate; The Bat Whispers; and many, many more, if you are so inclined.
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