Wednesday, August 12, 2020

One Body Too Many (1944)

4:05, 11, b17, 19:18, 25:40, 27:55, 31:20? coffin? 49:30?

Insurance agent Albert Tuttle comes to the Rutherford estate to sell old patriarch Cyrus a plan, but when he arrives the man is already dead, and his provisions being read. His will has been hidden, and he's left a very specific stipulation. His body must be interred in his observatory, to be always with the stars, and if he's buried underground his will will be reversed. Naturally half the family are all too eager to hide the body, knowing they've been left

One Body Too Many is a highly enjoyable mystery-adventure. Old dark house movies truly never get old, and this is no exception. It's got a decent story and mystery. The hiding of the body to change the will's outcome gives the movie a neat angle, rather than just being window dressing.

The suspects drop like flies, which gives a sense of urgency to the proceedings, as well as =. Thankfully there are plenty of suspects, so the = isn't hurt by a couple being knocked off here and there.

Something less good is that there's never really much furthering of the mystery. We mostly just see things happening, until we reach the climax, rather than finding any actual clues. And the motive is naturally simple, so there are no surprises there. A couple of things confused me too, like why the will was hidden, or why it reverses if his body is interred wrong. But your enemies are the only ones who'd want to do that, and if they do this they'll be rewarded by the will? I was expecting a reveal like Cyrus was lying, and the original will gave all the money to the assholes, knowing they'd flip it by greedily moving the body, and end up with nothing. That never really happens though.

The film makes up for that with its thrilling climax. It's a ton of fun! We've got secret passages, tunnels, trap doors galore, and a precarious journey that almost results in the most scenic death one could hope for. Not only is this well imagined, but well realised too! The film may have had a small budget, but it had = where it counts!

Getting further onto that subject, the look of One Body Too Many is great. We've got the ooky house, a swimming pool that almost becomes a watery grave, and the towering observatory, which plays a [great] role in events.

The characters here are good. Albert is a good lead, enough of an everyman, and not a total dweeb. I like how much respect he gets from Carol, and how she defends him from the jeers and accusations of the others. Carol, meanwhile, is a good sidekick, often there to help.

The cast of relatives isn't a super distinctive one, and some of the characters blend together, but noe feel superfluous or annoying. They're unlikeable enough without being really obvious about it.
Just because they don't like it, they always say it'll never hold up in a court of law. Assholes like these simply can't comprehend a will being legal and not benefiting them
The movie has amusingly [sexy] ending. How many other 1940s detective movies end with the clumsy but valiant lead getting laid!

There's plenty of fun dialogue here to enjoy. "Calm yourself, it's just a scratch."-"You should have such a scratch!"-"What happened?"-"Oh I don't know. The lights went out and then someone hit me. And then the lights went out."
On hiding in a coffin: "Doesn't look comfortable."-"Why not, at least it's padded."-"Yeah, and so is a cell."
On [corpses and] phones. "He's dead!"-"This is dead too."
"I didn't have anything to do with it, I came here to sell insurance, why should I go around killing people??"

At 75 minutes, One Body Too Many is paced very well. The only qualm I had was an extended comedy sequence. It's not that I begrudged the sequence period, but it does seem to come a little late! Not too late, but we are in the last 20 minutes. It's also a mix between very funny and sooo awkward! But there's a happy end, so it's ok.

The acting is good all round. Jack Haley is a nice lead, scared and clumsy, but not snivelling or annoying. Jean Parker is a neat female lead, who's cute and does plenty. The remainder of the cast are a good mix of normal, devious, and eccentric.

Bela Lugosi has a definitely minor role here, but it's a legit minor role, not just a walk-on cameo that's billed on the poster as the star part (Though he is given top billing on the poster here). He also appears consistently throughout, and he even gets the ending to himself.

One Body Too Many is a typical old dark house film in all the best ways, and well worth checking out if you enjoy the genre! Fans of Bela Lugosi will enjoy too, even if he doesn't get a juicy leading role. He always has a way of livening a movie up, even with a minor part...

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