A Jolly Bad Fellow (1964)

aka They All Died Laughing
Article 3447 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-13-2010
Posting Date: 1-21-2011
Directed by Don Chaffey
Featuring Leo McKern, Janet Munro, Maxine Audley
Country: UK
What it is: British black comedy

A science professor at a university discovers a drug that places its victim in a euphoric state before killing them in a way that looks like natural causes. He begins using the drug to remove troublesome people in his life.

The basic concept has been used before many times. Think of how many mad scientist movies follow the same basic pattern; for me, THE DEVIL BAT came to mind. However, it’s never been quite handled in this style before. The mood is one of quiet British black comedy, with the humor mostly very subtle and with a certain amount of wit to the proceedings. I also found that there was a touch of melancholy to the mix; though he may be amoral, Leo McKern’s title character is likable enough that it’s a little sad seeing him give in so readily to temptation. Janet Munro fans will really like this one; as the professor’s assistant and lover, she is at her sexiest, and though there’s no nudity, the movie is pretty daring with how much skin she shows. I do feel a little ill at ease about one thing though; the scene of the rat going euphoric really leaves me wondering if the animal was being mistreated, though it is hard to tell. The movie is uneven, but interesting.

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