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Insurance salesman Albert Tuttle arrives at the Cyrus J. Rutherford estate to sell the millionaire some life insurance. Rutherford is already dead and his heirs have gathered at the mansion to hear the reading of the will. Rutherford's will won't be read until he is properly entombed and the heirs are forced to stay on the premises or be denied their inheritance. Tuttle soon finds himself mixed up in shenanigans involving Rutherford's niece, secret passages, a missing body and murder. Written by
The failure of the original copyright holder to renew the film's copyright resulted in it falling into public domain, meaning that virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are either severely (and usually badly) edited and/or of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film. See more »
[on the phone]
Yeah, yeah, I know. But call me tomorrow. I gotta get outta here.
Hey, Tuttle. I got a date for you tonight. Dot's cousin just got into town and you and I...
I already have an engagement. I've had it for over a month: with Cyrus J. Rutherford.
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...and for very good reason. Everybody has a crummy movie they are fond of for reasons that are hard to explain, and this is one of mine. Suspensers about spooky old houses, midnight readings of the will, sinister phantoms, secret panels and unexplained murders went out a long time ago. The multiply remade Cat and the Canary is the prototype, and this 1944 product of Paramount's Pine-Thomas B-unit is a good alternative. Supposedly the writers were stationed in Alaska during the service and threw this potboiler together while looking out for suspicious Eskimos. Lugosi, top-billed, is the butler with a 'rat problem". Jack Haley, the Wizard of Oz's tin woodsman is the hero, comic fraidy cat insurance agent Albert Tuttle. Jean Parker, a solid leading lady who started at MGM and slid into poverty row stuff in the 40's, is the love interest and one of the heirs. An accomplished group of supporting players keep you guessing. (There's agoldfish with a great swim-on part.) The writing is fairly snappy: the circumstances do stretch belief: the bodies pile up like laundry, but there's an inner logic of sorts to the whole thing if you can stick with it. The suspects often show up as a new murder is committed and follow Haley around like he was leading a tour, but things move right along under Frank MacDonald's efficient direction.
Silly, old-fashioned (even for 1944), but somehow quaintly entertaining. It is nice to see Lugosi playing it fairly straight for a change.
The Hal Roach VHS version was the best I've seen. Alpha Video's DVD print could be sharper. Anyway, check it out, even if just a reminder of what folks used to look at before television showed up.
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