In the local tavern of an out of the way American small town near the Canadian border, the housekeeper Amelia (Maude Eburne) is delighted to hear on the Poultry Hour radio show that her request as to how to look after her chickens has been answered - now all she needs is some chickens. The owner of the tavern, now lying largely empty, is Professor Nathaniel Billings (Boris Karloff), who emerges from the basement looking for an apple to give the travelling salesman he is keeping down there, and a banana won't do. Then he notices they have a visitor, yes, someone wishes to buy the property at last. I wonder if she'll mind about the bodies piling up downstairs?
A better title for this would be The Boogie Men Will Get You, as this was a team up between two icons of sinister cinema, Karloff and Peter Lorre, only here they were simply misguided and misunderstood rather than truly evil - this was a light hearted comedy after all. The thrills are mild at best, and that pretty much sums up the film as well; as for the comedy side, it was obviously an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the stage play Arsenic and Old Lace in which Karloff had starred, though this effort failed to scale those heights, preferring a lot of middling running around and contained hysteria. And yes, it does irk that Karloff was in this and not in the film version of Arsenic.
The script was created by Hal Fimberg and Robert B. Hunt for the story and Paul Gangelin and Edwin Blum for the screenplay, and runs along unoriginal lines, although the willing cast do elicit the odd chuckle here and there. The young woman wishing to buy the property is Winnie (Jeff Donnell), and after being given the guided tour and being untroubled by having her foot plunge through one of the stairs, she decides she loves it. That's when her ex-husband, Bill (Larry Parks) appears out of the blue and implores her to have second thoughts (about the divorce as well, one suspects).
As all this goes on upstairs, the Professor is accidentally killing off salesmen in the basement with his electrical machinery and storing their perfectly preserved corpses in a walk in cupboard (lit with candles, for some reason). Where does Lorre fit into all this? He's the local jack of all trades, being the coroner, doctor, sheriff, and so on, who has owned the mortgage on the tavern and after a lot of fuss becomes the Professor's right hand man. The real pleasure of The Boogie Man Will Get You is seeing these two greats verbally sparring, even if the material is second rate. Maxie Rosenbloom shows up as another salesman (selling powder puffs!) who of course is coralled into the experiments, a body with a knife in its back appears and disappears, and the police have a hard time getting there to sort out the mess - and that's without mentioning the Italian suicide bomber. But if you find yourself watching this, it'll be for Karloff and Lorre.