One Body Too Many (1944)

Article 1994 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-30-2006
Posting Date: 1-27-2007
Directed by Frank McDonald
Featuring Jack Haley, Carol Dunlap, Bela Lugosi

An insurance salesman arrives at a mansion in the hope of selling a policy to the eccentric old man who lives there, only to discover that the man is dead and his relatives are gathered together for a reading of the will. He finds himself volunteering to guard the body against abduction.

I always thought it a bit odd that, despite their having played some of the most memorable roles of all time, the three actors who played Dorothy’s companions in THE WIZARD OF OZ (Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr and Jack Haley) rarely pop up in my movie-watching travels. Other than THE WIZARD OF OZ iself, I think this is only the second time I’ve encountered one of them for this series (Ray Bolger popped up in BABES IN TOYLAND). This is basically an “old dark house” movie, and Jack Haley has what amounts to the Wallace Ford role. He’s only mildly amusing, but then, the comic dialogue is fairly weak to begin with, and I’m not sure anyone could have really done much with it to begin with. His best line involves the word “drip”. Bela Lugosi plays, once again, the butler, and though I still think it’s a bit of a shame that he was consistently given the same type of role in movies like this, at least this time he gets to be in charge of the best running gag in the movie (it involves rat poison and coffee), and, as in THE GORILLA, he gives the funniest performance in the movie. The dialogue is pretty weak, and the direction is none too impressive in this one (Frank McDonald mostly churned out B westerns), but I do like the concept that the will is set up so that the money awards will be reversed if the dead man is not buried as requested; with this situation, it makes sense that people might make off with the dead body. I also like the sequences involving the observatory atop the mansion; it makes for an interesting setting for some of the action. One note: Leo is a constellation, not a star. This is the type of mistake I’d expect in a dubbed movie from Japan, not one in which English is the native language.



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