Jack Haley and Jean Parker in One Body Too Many (1944)


(director: Frank McDonald; screenwriters: Winston Miller/Maxwell Shane; cinematographer: Fred Jackman Jr.; editor: Henry Adams; music: Alexander Laszlo; cast: Jack Haley (Albert Tuttle), Jean Parker (Carol Dunlap), Bela Lugosi (Murkil, butler), Blanche Yurka (Matthews, housekeeper), Lyle Talbot (Jim Davis), Douglas Fowley (Henry Rutherford), Bernard Nedell .(Attorney Morton Gellman), Maxine Fife (Margaret Davis), Dorothy Granger (Mona Rutherford), Lucien Littlefield (Kenneth Hopkins), Fay Helm (Estelle Hopkins), William Edmunds (Professor Hilton); Runtime: 76; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Bill Pine/Bill Thomas; Alpha; 1944)
“Forgettable Old Dark House mystery tale.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Paramount produces this forgettable Old Dark House mystery tale; it’s filmed mostly as a spoof filled with too much unfunny and tasteless buffoonery that also has an unspectacular climax of nailing the murderer in a chase through the observatory tower. Bela Lugosi is the creepy butler, who didn’t do it. It’s helmed without distinction by Frank McDonald (“Take It Big”/”No Hands on the Clock”/’Scared Stiff”) and lamely written by Winston Miller and Maxwell Shane.

Ambitious city insurance salesman Albert Tuttle (Jack Haley) calls on eccentric millionaire Cyrus Rutherford, in his spooky secluded country mansion, to sell him a life insurance policy only to find he’s dead and his greedy heirs are there for the reading of the will. The reading won’t be until he is properly entombed in a glass-top vault and not underneath the ground, as Cyrus was a follower of astrology. The heirs are forced to stay on the premises or be denied their inheritance, and if he should be buried underground then those promised the most in the will instead will receive the least. Tuttle, though a coward, is roped into staying the night as a watchman for the body by the request of the only nice relative and the only one not a suspect, the fearful Carol Dunlap (Jean Parker).

There are all the usual things fitting the genre: a stormy night so no one can leave the premises, the telephone is down, churlish screams from the ladies, double-crosses, bodies are mysteriously moved and the mansion is crawling with suspects as the murders begin to mount up. Lugosi, as the butler named Murkil, serves the antsy guests coffee that may or may not be poisoned (we don’t know because they all refuse) and blends in against the shadowy figures who all act suspicious. Things pick up in tenseness as one of the guests is found murdered and Tuttle has been conked on the noggin.

Haley, the “Tin Man” from The Wizard of Oz, plays the comedy role as Bob Hope would, only he’s got a tin ear for comedy.