Saturday, February 11, 2006

One Body Too Many (1944)

"One Body Too Many" (1944) may be a standard murder mystery but it's still fun!
Jack Haley plays Albert Tuttle, an agent trying to sell life insurance to reclusive Cyrus J. Rutherford, who just happens to have $8,000,000 and an astronomy observatory on his roof.
Haley gets an appointment by pretending to be into astrology, another interest of the millionaire.
This is where "One Body Too Many" gets interesting - and different from most Old Dark Mysteries.
Rutherford has not only died before the beginning of the movie, the preamble to his will dictates that his family and staff have to stay in the house until his tomb (complete with glass covering) is built.
Bernard Nedell is Rutherford's attorney, Morton Gellman, who calls the Atlas detective agency for someone to sit with the coffin--with contents!--overnight.
The rest of the cast are as good as Jack Haley and superb as red herring.
The butler and housekeeper are Bela Lugosi and Blanche Yurka as Murkil and Matthews. They have a running theme of offering a tray of coffee to everyone in the house . . . not to mention having the rat poison on hand for unwanted guest . . . I mean vermin.
Douglas Fowley is the uptight husband who's wife, Maxine Fife, takes an interest in Lyle Talbot, who plays ne'er-do-well Jim Davis.
Lucien Littlefield is a great stand-by from the days of the silents as Kenneth Hopkins.
He is effective as the henpecked husband to Estelle Hopkins, who is played by Fay Helm.
Helm had quite a career in Hollywood of some 64 movies form 1936 to 1946 before becoming a "lost actress" for decades.
Her current entry at www.imdb.com lists her as born April 9, 1909, to September 27, 2003.
(Jean Parker)
Jean Parker had a much longer career from the early 20s to the mid-60s and lived for 90 years until November 30, 2005.
She's manages to play heroine to Jack Haley's not-quite-he-man type of leading man who is confused with the detective from the Atlas Agency.
That doesn't stop him from trying to sell everybody life insurance.
"One Body Too Many" isn't on the level of "The Cat and the Canary" (with Bob Hope, 1939) or "The Night Monster" (a 1942 movie that also has Bela Lugosi as a suspicious butler.
It does deliver as good clean fun if you can get your hands on a copy--especially if you like thunderstorms in your movies!
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