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Scared to Death (1947)

Approved | | Thriller | 1 February 1947 (USA)
From a slab in the morgue, a dead young woman tells the bizarre tale of how she got there, through a maze of murder involving a hypnotist, a midget and a mysterious figure in a green mask.



(original story) (as W.J. Abbott), (screenplay) (as W.J. Abbott)

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Complete credited cast:
Dr. Joseph Van Ee
Laura Van Ee / Laurette La Valle
Jane Cornell
Gladys Blake ...
Ward Van Ee
Terry Lee
Rene the Killer
Autopsy Surgeon


From a slab in the morgue, a dead young woman tells the bizarre tale of how she got there, through a maze of murder involving a hypnotist, a midget and a mysterious figure in a green mask.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A thrilling mystery of a supernatural killer!




Approved | See all certifications »





Release Date:

1 February 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Accent on Horror  »

Box Office


$135,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (DVD)

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The only color film to star Bela Lugosi (he appeared in a 1930 Technicolor film, Viennese Nights (1930), but did not star in it). The only other color footage of the actor is in a wartime short in which he can be seen giving blood for the war effort. See more »


Near the beginning of the film when Dr. Van Ee goes to the window to investigate the tapping noise, he takes the stethoscope out of his ears twice in succeeding shots. See more »


Leonide: It is a pleasure to meet one of my youthful admirers.
Terry Lee: Terry Lee of the Central City Times.
Leonide: The press? Well, it's nice to have known you.
[Leonide turns and walks away]
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

An acting lesson in meaningful listening
20 December 2004 | by (Highlands of Scotland) – See all my reviews

This film falls into the "so stinkingly badly bad it's good" category and, if it isn't already, should be included in every Film School's curriculum as a shining example of how NOT to direct a movie - or even an episode of Scooby-do.

The sets and setups are very stagy and nobody moves around a lot but still there are horrendously clumsy cuts as the editor tries to make something coherent out what he was given. Characters jump from side to side on the screen and to disguise the lack of coverage there are frequent cutaways to Zucco and / or Lugosi acting their socks off "listening" meaningfully. The whole thing looks like it was done in single takes with little or no time for rehearsal. I love the way, in the opening scene, that George Zucco has to squeeze past the chair in his office when going to the window - a quick walk through before the take would have shown how stupid it looked and the chair would have been pushed a bit further in under the desk.

The script is risible - so much of it is of the "As I told you before when I was..." and "are you trying to tell me...?", and "I was just outside listening to your conversation..." lines that looks like a lot of it was made up on the spot (the whole thing smacks of actors trying to help each other out by feeding each other's lines) and is full of so many holes: who DID bean Zucco and why? Why did "Mrs. Williams" visit him in the first place? How did the dummy head get out of the locked anatomy cupboard in the cellar? Why did the 'tec have cobwebs on his shoes? What were the mysterious reasons Doctor Zucco have for saying the maid was dead when she wasn't? Why did the mysterious, PseudoScooby-Doo villain wave the mask at EVERYONE when he was only trying to scare one person? Why did the detective run out into the garden to arrest the murderer, when he had just been told the guy was in one of the secret passages in the the house's walls? How did the dwarf manage to lip read Nat Pendleton's "monkey" remark from that angle? Etc. Etc. The film just gets stupider and stupider the more you think about it.

The much discussed dead lady flashback technique looks like a desperate idea made up in the cutting room to get themselves out of holes. "Hell, what do we do now? - I know, I'll cut to the dead lady again!" Hillariously Bizarre. Definitely a film to watch with the thumb over the rewind button to get the full flavour of those "What did he just say!!!?" moments. It's the funniest thing I have seen for weeks.

Best line: "Ah, there you are Professor - I thought I just saw you out in the garden baying at the moon".

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