Down-on-his luck entrepreneur Bill Martin and sidekick Stuff Oliver try to stay one step in front of creditors in their seedy waterfront office when they meet "The Captain," an idiosyncratic peg-legged old sailor. The Captain is convinced that the treasure of pirate Sir Henry Morgan is hidden somewhere in a castle on an offshore island recently inherited by Martin. His proof is a treasure map, half of which has been stolen by a mysterious Phantom who lurks in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to steal the other half. Sensing a moneymaking opportunity, Bill tries to recruit customers willing to pay $50 apiece for a "treasure hunt" outing to the "haunted" island. Among those signing up are heiress Wendy Creighton and her bored, ineffectual boy friend, a dimwitted police sergeant, a professor whose expertise is old maps, a wanted murderer and his moll, and Bill's cousin George, who has recently offered $20,000 to buy the supposedly worthless island. They all get more than the few ...Written by
I had first known about this through a still in the Halliwell Film Guide, though the noted late critic usually dismissed similar programmers: it turned out to be a fun horror comedy (from a story by Curt Siodmak) whose 60-minute length zips by providing plenty of characters (even if the gangster-on-the-lam and his moll don't really work here), action, old-fashioned thrills (a caped maniac after hidden loot is loose in a remote castle), chuckles and a surprise villain; the film is a shade overbalanced by the comedy, but the typical Universal atmosphere (and a few of its more notable sets!) are certainly present throughout. It also features a good second-tier cast: likable Dick Foran and cute Peggy Moran re-united after the superior THE MUMMY'S HAND (1940) are the leads and they're ably supported by the likes of Leo Carrillo, Fuzzy Knight, Hobart Cavanaugh and Walter Catlett; however, it's Lewis Howard who steals the film as Moran's chronically tired companion even though he's absent through most of the second half!
Michael Elliott had rated this a *** and I almost did myself but, in the long run, I don't think the film has quite the same draw as even some of the lesser titles in the Universal monster cycle; still, for an 'old dark house' type of film of which the studio did their fair share it's well up to par. Incidentally, I had acquired another copy of this on DVD-R last year, but the disc froze several times during playback and I had to give up after a while; I'm glad I caught up with it eventually, as the film deserves to have a legitimate DVD release along with some of the other rare/lesser-known Universal horrors, like MAN-MADE MONSTER (1941) which I've never watched! and NIGHT MONSTER (1942).
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