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  One Body Too Many What It Says On The Tin
Year: 1944
Director: Frank McDonald
Stars: Jack Haley, Jean Parker, Bela Lugosi, Blanche Yurka, Lyle Talbot, Douglas Fowley, Fay Helm, Bernard Nedell, Lucien Littlefield, Dorothy Granger, Maxine Fife
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: At an insurance office, salesman Albert Tuttle (Jack Haley) is being informed by his co-worker that he has set him up with a date, but he tells him that he has already made other arrangements with a new client, Cyrus J. Rutherford. He is an eccentric millionaire so obsessed with astrology that he has even set up their meeting according to Tuttle's star sign, but little does the salesman know that his potential moneyspinner has now died. As he is making his way to his clifftop mansion, which doubles as an observatory, there is a reading of the will taking place - well, sort of...

One Body Too Many could have been named one old dark house comedy thriller too many, as it was one of about a billion of such productions, most of them medium to low budget, which were made throughout the thirties and forties. This time our star was Jack Haley, who would be familiar to millions as the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, although you might not recognise him without his metallic makeup here. He handles the light humour and easygoing thrills with customary skill, even if everything about this is strictly B movie level.

The reading of the will is actually going to happen once the deceased is placed in a tomb with a glass ceiling so he can "see the stars" apparently, and those family members attending must hang around there until the tomb has been constructed, for what reason is none too clear. Anyway, once that has happened, and the body has not been buried (important, that), the family can find out what, if anything, they have inherited, and not only the family as Rutherford's shifty servants are looking to see if they have recieved something as well. In the meantime they offer everyone coffee which we suspect has been laced with rat poison.

Whether it has or not, you'll have to wait till the end of the film to find out. Notable is that the male half of these servants is played by Bela Lugosi, well into his run of impoverished roles as yet another sinister butler who is such an obvious suspect that you can practically forget about his possible involvement in the overall conspiracy. He mostly wanders about with his tray of coffee, and would be negligable if it were not for the actor playing the part. In the meantime there are a few interesting touches to lift this out of the run of the mill, if not really enough to distinguish it from its multitude of peers.

Those touches include Tuttle having the old cartoon cliché of the angel and devil on each shoulder when he's debating with himself whether to scarper or not, and a lengthy sequence where he investigates a secret passage in the wall just after taking a shower, which means he spends most of it dressed in nothing but a towel - I say most because he ends up losing said garment and wandering around naked, not that what we see is explicit, but it is surprising. More interesting for vintage horror fans is the bit where Tuttle poses as the body in the coffin, which has a glass window in the lid, which comes across as a spoof of Carl Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr. Otherwise, One Body Too Many is fairly routine stuff, perfectly diverting for an hour and a quarter, but unlikely to stick in the mind. Music by Alexander Laszlo.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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