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  Murder, He Says So It GlowsBuy this film here.
Year: 1945
Director: George Marshall
Stars: Fred MacMurray, Helen Walker, Marjorie Main, Jean Heather, Porter Hall, Peter Whitney, Mabel Paige, Barbara Pepper
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Thriller
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Pete Marshall (Fred MacMurray) is a representative of a national polling company who are currently interviewing American citizens to find out how many electrical goods they have in their homes. One problem, though: the last man who was out in this isolated region a couple of weeks ago has apparently vanished, therefore Marshall has a dual role in that he wants to complete the poll and also find out what happened to his predecessor. On entering the local store, he asks the shopkeeper if he has any idea what might have happened: he is cagey, as are his customers, but the fingers seem to be pointing at nearby terrors the Fleagle family who have been causing trouble for some time now...

So off goes Marshall to see if his latest lead is fruitful or otherwise, though this is not the sort of movie to send its lead character on a wild goose chase, no matter how it might otherwise appear. Murder, He Says was an early cult movie of sorts, and with its plot seeing the family of possibly murderous hicks it harkened back to the old dark house horrors of before while looking forward to the grimier shockers that were to come, most obviously The Texas Chain Saw Massacre which bore more than a passing resemblence to the antics here, only this was more about the comedy than it was the scares. Nevertheless, the feeling of Marshall being trapped in a nightmare world was definitely present.

It wasn't quite screwball humour, though it did get pretty wacky, but then again it wasn't blatantly going for outright chills, yet it was just weird enough to flirt with a number of styles before settling for its own particular journey. Before our hero even reaches the Fleagle home out in the middle of nowhere, he is assaulted by a pack of dogs which corner him as he hangs onto his bicycle, the sole object preventing him from falling down a well they have chased him into. His cries for help do not go unheard, and he is approached by a hulking chap (Peter Whitney) holding a beam of wood - who proceeds to try and force the hapless Marshall down the well with it until his whip-cracking mother Ma Johnson (Marjorie Main) intervenes. Soon he is up at the house, without any way of getting out.

It should be noted that on the way up to the home, the pollster noticed a glowing dog not unlike The Hound of the Baskervilles running through the trees, and that's an important point, for a glow in in this film indicates something is seriously wrong. It's a macabre and accomplished effect that director George Marshall implemented as often as he could get away with, first alarming the protagonist when he is taken up to see the Fleagles' ailing grandmother (Mabel Paige) who they pretend to her is a long lost relative: now she can tell them where the fortune the old woman has stashed away is. But after ushering the mother, her husband (Porter Hall) and the two bulky twins (Whitney doubled by more excellent effects work) out of the room, all she does is give him a needlework sampler with musical notes on it.

But not before making it clear to Marshall she glows in the dark too, thus has been poisoned - to death, as she expires shortly after. With a plot growing ever more convoluted, there's time to introduce Elany (Jean Heather), the simpleton daughter who trills a "Mares eat oats"-esque nonsense song which has a tune matching the needlework notes, and a woman claiming to be the old lady's granddaughter, Bonnie (Helen Walker, who in an uncomfortable coincidence also saw her career ruined by a car accident as her co-star Heather did not long after making this). What's curious is that it looks like any number of forties comedy thrillers on the surface - Marshall even asks Bonnie if she's ever seen the Bob Hope movie The Ghost Breakers when he thinks he has found a clue - but it's just off the wall enough to exist as its own singular entity. You couldn't say for certain that it had been as influential as it appears since it's difficult to judge how many people have actually seen it (its cult status is not in doubt, however), yet it has a pleasing determination to be deliriously off the wall.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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