One Body Too Many (October, 1944)
Released in October, 1944: (running time 1 hour and 16min) When a wealthy old man dies suddenly, all of the heirs gathered at his mansion waiting for their inheritance must survive the night to receive their money, with Bela Lugosi as the butler.
Produced by William H. Pine and William C. Thomas
Directed by Frank McDonald
Written by Winston Miller and Maxwell Shane
The Actors: Jack Haley (Albert L. Tuttle), Jean Parker (Carol Dunlap), Bela Lugosi (Merkil the butler), Blanche Yurka (Matthews the housekeeper), Lyle Talbot (Jim Davis, nephew), Douglas Fowley (Henry Rutherford), Fay Helm (Estelle Hopkins), Bernard Nedell (Attorney Morton Gellman), Lucien Littlefield (Kenneth Hopkins), Dorothy Granger (Mona Rutherford), Maxine Fife (Margaret Hopkins), William Edmunds (Professor Hilton), Lyle Latell (manager of Atlas Detective Agency), Ralph Peters (insurance agent), Bob Reeves (unknown)
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Would you like this to be a Bela Lugosi Horror Thriller? Or would you rather watch a family comedy adventure? How about both! Grab a cold soda pop, make a big bowl of white kernel popcorn drizzled with plenty of warm melted butter and enjoy a night in a haunted mansion full of secret passageways and the master of fear, Bela Lugosi.
Here's the setup: We have a mild-mannered wimp insurance salesman who has an appointment with wealthy Mr. Rutherford and hopes to sell him a huge policy and make lots of money. Next we go to the Rutherford mansion where we find a coffin in the center of the room and a lawyer reading old man Rutherford's will to the assembled group of relatives. They are told that the wealth will be devided between them, with one of them getting cab fare, and others getting more. But there is one hitch . . . before they will know who gets how much, they must remain in the house until his body is placed in a glass topped room that will take a while to build. And it is a dark and stormy night . . . of course. The lawyer calls a detective agency and arranges for a big burly detective to come out and watch the coffin over night. But on the way to the house, the detective is knocked out by someone we cannot see. When the wimp insurance agent arrives, everyone believes that he is the detective, and even after he is found out, in the absence of the real detective, he hangs around.
Merkil (Bela Lugosi) is in the kitchen with the maid, and grabs a bottle of rat poison from the shelf and adds a healthy . . . er . . . I should say 'unhealthy' dose to each cup of coffee. He exclaims to the maid that there are too many rats in the house, and he must take care of them. Unfortunately, since this is a comedy, for one reason or another, no one ever drinks his coffee. At one point he offers some to the wimp insurance agent, and the agent asks if it is percolated or drip. When Lugosi says it is percolated, the agent hands it back and says, "Sorry, I'm a drip."
The plot thickens as some of the family members decide to get rid of some of the others, and there are also spooky hands coming out from hidden panels trying to kill, and other spooky things by unknown persons that keep us confused, if not frightened, as the thunder and lightning continue throughout this spooky night. Will the wimpy salesman sleep with the fishes tonight? Will Bela Lugosi finally get anyone to drink his coffee? Is the old man really dead, or just playing possum? Will more bodies turn up before daybreak? Will the wimpy insurance man survive to get the good girl that likes him? Will your popcorn last the whole way through this creepy comedy?