Thursday, 12 February 2015

One Body Too Many (1944)

An insurance salesman (Jack Haley, best known for playing the Tin Man in Wizard of Oz) is excited to have finally secured a meeting with a prospective client for a big life insurance policy.

Unfortunately - or possibly fortunately, from an insurance company perspective - said client has already shuffled off this mortal coil, as we discover when the movie switches to his estate.  There, the estate lawyer is reading a preamble to the man's Will.  You probably won't be surprised to hear that the deceased has one of those wacky stipulation-filled Wills found only in movies.  Specifically:

  • some of the heirs will get lots of money and some will get almost none
  • who gets what won't be revealed until the dead man has been buried
  • if he isn't buried exactly per his stipulations, who gets what gets flipped
  • no-one can leave the estate until he is buried

It's almost like he designed things to ensure shenanigans.

Fearing skulduggery, the lawyer hires a private investigator to guard the body, but the PI gets nobbled before he can reach the front door.  Thus, when our insurance agent turns up, he initially is mistaken for the PI.

So this is another film that really doesn't merit being in a 'Horror' collection.  It's true there are a couple of murders, and Bela Lugosi is in it (as the dead man's butler), but this never intends to be scary and in fact is very much a farce.  We follow the insurance salesman - who has been cajoled into taking the missing PI's place - as he pratfalls and nincompoops his way through the mystery.

Honestly, I think the film's only significant flaw is its failure to really give Jack Haley's character a 'moment of glory'.  He doesn't really ever rise above his ineptitude: the eventual unmasking of the villain, and the villain's defeat, are the (accidental) accomplishments of other characters.  It would have been nice if our "hero" finally got to succeed at something.

That complaint aside, this is a very slight but mildly amusing bit of fluff - probably exactly the kind of thing war-weary audiences were looking for in 1944.  If you fancy a bit of old-fashioned farce, you could certainly do worse.

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