Wednesday, July 16, 2008


An old-dark-house, reading-of-the-will B-comedy, notable for featuring Jack Haley, Oz's Tin Man, in a rare starring role. He's a mild-mannered insurance salesman who has an appointment to sell insurance to an old eccentric millionaire named Rutherford who's a strong believer in the occult, but by the time he gets to the house, the old man is dead and the relatives have already gathered for the reading of the will, which has some bizarre requirements. Rutherford wants to be buried in a glass domed vault and the will stipulates that his guests must stay until he is interred, after which everyone learns who gets how much. In addition, if his burial wishes are not met, the will bequests will be reversed, so the person who would have gotten the least will get the most, and vice versa. This gimmick holds absolutely no water if you think about it for more than 10 seconds, so don't. When Haley arrives, he is mistaken for a private detective who has been hired to keep watch over the body until the burial, and when the bodyguard never shows up, Haley agrees to fill in, mostly because he finds himself with a crush on cute heiress Jean Parker, one of the few relatives that the old man actually liked, and one who seems to be in danger when a large stone falls from the top of an observatory and just misses her. There is a very funny scene in which Haley reads a spooky story out loud while spooky things are going on right behind him. Another highlight is when Haley hides in a coffin which is then carried out and tossed in a lake. The climax is well staged, hurt only the low budget. Bela Lugosi, who gets top billing, is a red herring mysterious butler who is always offering people coffee (which may or may not be poisoned); other recognizable names in the case include Lyle Talbot, Blanche Yurka, and Douglas Fowley. Good fun, if not quite in the same league as Bob Hope's similarly plotted CAT AND THE CANARY. [DVD]

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