Winnie Slade, a young divorcee, buys an old historic house from nutty Professor Billings, who lives there with his daffy housekeeper and bizarre neighbors, in order to convert it into a hotel. She allows them to continue to live on the property - unaware that the Professor continues to experiment unsuccessfully on traveling salesmen, the bodies of whom have filled the cellar. They are joined by a variety of eccentric characters including a quack doctor who doubles as the town's sheriff, Winnie's frenetic ex-husband, an oddball choreographer, a punchdrunk traveling salesman, and a lunatic escapee from the Italian army. Written by
Gabe Taverney (email@example.com)
Shooting lasted July 7-21 1942, released October 22. This completed Boris Karloff's six-picture contract with Columbia. See more »
Jeff Donnell's Winnie slips and calls Peter Lorre "Professor Lorre", not Lorenz, and it remains in the film. See more »
Everybody in this town knows you made your fortune on snake oil hair restorer.
Well, what's wrong with that? Where's the hair follicle that can resist 2000 international units of Vitamin A? Where is it?
Prof. Nathaniel Billings:
[Bending over and pointing to a spot on top of his head]
Hmmm! Oh, hardening of the skull!
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The title, "The Boogie Man Will Get You" should give you an idea of the sort of film you're going to see. Its basically a minor horror/comedy played out more or less like a Three Stooges comedy with a budget. For stars Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre, it was probably a welcome change of pace from the roles both had been playing. The story is similar in many ways to "Arsenic and Old Lace" a hit Broadway play of the day in which Karloff had been starring.
Two eccentrics, Professor Nathaniel Billings (Karloff) and Amelia Jones (Maude Eburne) live in a run down old Colonial Inn which they have put up for sale. A young lady Winnie Layden (Jeff Donnell) comes to look over the place and decides to buy it. As a condition of the sale Billings asks that he, Amelia and handyman Ebenezer (George McKay) be allowed to stay so that Billings can complete his experiments in the building's basement.
The mortgage holder Dr. Lorentz (Lorre), who is also the sheriff, the coroner and the Justice of the Peace, among other titles, arrives. Billings gleefully pays off his mortgage and Winnie takes title to the property just as her former husband Bill (Larry Parks) arrives to try for some unknown reason to prevent her from buying the Inn.
Meanwhile Billings continues his experiments to try to perfect a super human, but his test subject apparently dies. Bill discovers the body in the basement and he and Winnie report the crime to Lorenz in his role of the town sheriff. On investigating, Lorenz learns of Billings plans and wants in on the action. He also discovers that there are also four other "test subjects" laid out in the next room.
A "ballet master", J. Gilbert Brampton arrives at the Inn and begins to snoop around. A traveling powder puff salesman (Maxie Rosenbloom) arrives and Billings and Lorentz plan to make him their next "test subject". An escaped fascist prisoner (Frank Paglia) also drops in and threatens to blow everybody up. Two cops (Frank Sully, James Morton) arrive to investigate a reported murder.
Everything manages to get sorted out in the end.
The film leaves a few unanswered questions such as "Where did Winnie get all of the cash?, Why were Bill and Winnie divorced?, Who was really making the Indian whooping noise? and What was the "arrangement", if any between Billings and Amelia? And beware of the typical Hollywood Production Code ending. This was Karloff's final film on his Columbia contract and he would be off the screen until 1944's "The Climax" while he continued to appear in "Arsenic and Old Lace", which by the way prevented him from getting a part in the 1944 film version.
The two leads seem to enjoy all of this nonsense and both would appear in comedic parts over the years for the rest of their careers.
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