Scared Stiff (Treasure of Fear) - June 25, 1945
Released on June 25, 1945: A milquetoast, sissy reporter is given one chance to report on a wine festival or lose his job, and he gets into the middle of a murder mystery that only he can solve, despite his best efforts not to.
Directed by Frank McDonald
Written by Daniel Mainwaring and Maxwell Shane
The Actors: Jack Haley (Larry Elliot), Ann Savage (Sally Warren), Barton MacLane (George 'Deacon' Markham), Veda Ann Borg (Flo Rosson), Roger Pryor (Richardson), George E. Stone (Mink), Robert Emmett Keane (Professor Wisner), Lucien Littlefield (Charles Waldeck and Preston Waldeck), Paul Hurst (the Sheriff), Arthur Aylesworth (Emerson Cooke), Eily Malyon (Mrs. Cooke), Buddy Swan (Oliver Waldeck), Walter Baldwin (the deputy with a rifle), Dick Curtis (the bus driver), Edward Earle (Joshua Elliot), Charles Williams (reporter).
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Do you play chess? No matter if you do or don't, you can still enjoy this murder mystery that is full of laughs and dead bodies, all revolving around a rare and valuable set of chess men that are owned by a pair of whacky twin brothers. Secret panels, hidden rooms, gangsters, a mysterious blonde girl, and more, against our girly-man reporter that can't do anything right except play a good game of chess. This motion picture was originally released in 1945 with the name "Scared Stiff" and later released again under the name "Treasure of Fear," and it is a copy of this film that has survived.
It is time for a movie that you don't need to think a lot about, but rather just sit down with a big bowl of hot buttered white-kernel popcorn and enjoy the only film that Jack Haley (the tin man in The Wizard of Oz) got top billing for. In this comedy murder mystery he is the chess editor at the local newspaper, and he only has that job because he is a relative. His uncle the editor brings him into the office and tells him that he must cover a wine festival in a nearby town or else he will bet fired. It seems that a convicted murderer escapes prison and all of the real reporters are on the story as the cops try to find the killer. Our sissy scaredy-cat reporter is the only one left to cover the wine festival. So he goes to the Greyhound bus station to catch the next bus to Grape Center, where the winery and festival will be. Unfortunately he gets off of the bus one stop early, at Hog Crossing. When the bus leaves Hog Crossing for Grape Center, someone discovers that the passenger that was sitting next to him is dead. The bus immediately turns around and goes back to Hog Crossing. Of course our sissy-man is a suspect because he sat next to the dead man, and then got off the bus one stop early.
The laughs and mystery continue as our intrepid reporter tries his best to get to Grape Center and cover the wine festival, but the fates put him in the center of the murder mystery, and despite his best efforts to avoid the murder and merely get to the wine festival, he becomes an integral part of the mystery, and of course, he eventually is key in solving the murder and re-capturing the escaped killer that everyone else is looking for. There are plenty of characters that are just one sandwich short of a picnic, and a couple of pretty girls to keep us interested also. One of the ladies is sweet on our reporter, and the other is mixed up in the murder some way and is after him for some reason we can't figure out yet.