Article #1167 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-25-2004
Posting Date: 10-22-2004
Directed by Benjamin Stoloff
Featuring Jack Oakie, Ann Sothern, Eduardo Ciannelli
A movie star finds himself targeted by a murderer known as the Poison Pen.
This Jack Oakie vehicle seemed awfully familiar, and that’s because it is; I just saw the remake GENIUS AT WORK a couple of months ago. Between the two, I suspect horror fans would opt for GAW; after all, the cast of that one features Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill. However, I suspect comedy fans would opt for this earlier version, and I’m afraid I’d have to side with them. For one thing, it spares me from having to watch Lugosi wasted in a nothing role (there is no equivalent role in this version). Furthermore, I don’t think Atwill did appreciably better in the role of the villain than Eduardo Ciannelli does here (in fact, I give the nod to Ciannelli). However, the main reason has to do with the comedy; why should I settle for Brown and Carney when I can have Jack Oakie, Ann Sothern, Willie Best and (especially) the great Edgar Kennedy? Granted, without Lugosi or Atwill, the fantastic elements are that much slighter; the sole horror element here is that the villain keeps a house of horrors, though I will give it an extra point on the gadget meter for the umbrella gun. Nonetheless, I simply think this earlier version is funnier. My favorite line explains why Sherlock Holmes didn’t need a bodyguard.