The Boogie Man Will Get You
the boogie man will get you | lew landers | edwin blum | boris karloff | peter lorre | max rosenbloom | comedy | united states | mad scientist | old dark house | larry parks | jeff donnell | don beddoe | maude eburne | robert emmett keane | eddie laughton | george mckay
Film: The Boogie Man Will Get You
Director: Lew Landers
Writer: Edwin Blum
Starring: Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Max ‘Slapsie Maxie’ Rosenbloom
This film is one that I got turned on to due to it being on DVD where it was double featured with Before I Hang. This was two films that had the great Boris Karloff in them so I knew I would give it a chance. It had been over five years since the last time I saw this and I didn’t remember much. Firing it up and seeing that Peter Lorre co-starred did make me intrigued. The synopsis here is a young divorcee tries to convert a historic house into a hotel despite its oddball inhabitants and dead bodies in the cellar.
Much as the synopsis states, this takes place in an old colonial tavern that is for sale. The owner is Prof. Nathaniel Billings (Karloff). Living with him is his house cleaner, Amelia Jones (Maude Eburne) as well as Ebenezer (George McKay). Nathaniel is a scientist and he is doing experiments in the basement.
Out of the blue, Winnie Slade (Jeff Donnell) shows up, wanting to buy the house. It is in bad shape, but she thinks that is what makes it charming. The cleaning has been neglected and disrepair. Nathaniel is quite excited as that means he can pay off his mortgage, which has a high interest rate. He has Amelia call on the man he owes it to. This brings Dr. Arthur Lorencz (Lorre). He is a doctor, property owner, sheriff, minister, pretty much the jack of all trades in this small town. While the transaction is being completed, Winnie’s ex-husband shows up. His name is Bill Layden (Larry Parks) and he’s trying to stop her. He is also informing her that he’s been drafted into World War II.
Through the movie we learn that Nathaniel is trying to create a superman with his experiments. He is using a Mr. Johnson (Eddie Laughton) as a subject, but it fails. Mr. Johnson is put in a state that looks like death. Nathaniel thinks this happened because of the wrench he had on him during it. As Bill and Winnie are cleaning up the place and he finds the body. He tries to tell her what he found, but there is no proof. They go back to get Arthur. He finds the body and after talking to Nathaniel, he wants to help with the chance to make some money off the experiment. They hide the body.
Karloff and Lorre are out to find another subject when Donnell’s first customer arrives; this man is played by Don Beddoe. He seems suspicious as he is looking around the place and when everyone asks him what he’s doing, he always has an excuse.
Other guests arrive at this new hotel. One of them is J. Gilbert Brampton (Don Beddoe). He claims that he’s a choreographer and he’s there for inspiration. We see that he might be up to something else as he keeps popping up. This is a bit of an old dark house as well with secret tunnels and passageways. Some of the other guests disappear and there is the room of failed test subjects as well. Things go off the rails and it involves an escaped prisoner as well as a munitions plant that is nearby.
I have to say that this film is quite weird, but it was funny. It is a horror comedy in the vein of Arsenic and Old Lace. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen that movie, or at least the true version of it. I get the gist that we are in an old house where people are being killed. This is a vehicle for Karloff and Lorre along with Maxie Rosenbloom and the rest of the cast to show their comedic side while also trying to get the horror crowd to see this. This is around the time where Abbott and Costello as well as Bob Hope were doing similar things as well.
The other aspects of the story I want to delve into are that I love the ‘old dark house’ element. This was also popular during this time. We have Nathaniel and Arthur using it to sneak up on Bill. We also see that the room of the test subjects is behind a wall in the wine cellar. During the climax it is also used where Winnie, Bill and J. Gilbert are using it. That is the positive story element for me. I do have to go into a negative one though.
That is the story is doing too much. The comedy is outrageous and I’ll be honest, it made me laugh again on rewatch. My problem is that we have a lot going on and it just flies through it all. The movie runs just over an hour. With everything they introduce, I think it is too much. Every character has their own story and I think that is good. The problem is that none of them get the full attention that they need. It even tries to incorporate WWII and having a fascist saboteur brought in as well. It felt like they had a wall of ideas and tried to use them all. It didn’t fully come together.
I’ll get back to a positive and that would be the cast. Overall, they are good. Lorre is funny from the kitten in his pocket to all his jobs. He also made his money as a ‘shark oil’ salesperson. He plays well off Karloff, who has interesting role. What makes him great here as this scientist is that he doesn’t think he is committing crimes. His experiments fail and that’s how he sees it. Parks is someone that I wasn’t a fan of, but I think we need him to be the one that is grounded. On the other hand, I did enjoy Donnell as Winnie. She is naïve and so badly wants to make this place work. Other than that, I think Rosenbloom, Beddoe, Eburne, McKay and the rest of the cast are fine in rounding this out for what was needed. They are a bit over the top, but as a comedy that need to be caricatures for this to work.
Then for the last things to go into would be the cinematography, effects and soundtrack. The movie is shot fine. They didn’t do anything too out of the ordinary. This is still early into cinema. I did like that it gave the house it all takes place character. We don’t get much in the way of effects, but it also isn’t that type of movie that needed them. The soundtrack also didn’t stand out, but it also didn’t hurt the movie for me.
Now with that said, this is an interesting. It is more a comedy than a horror film. It is an oblivious mad scientist that is possible committing murders that make it that. We do realize though that someone might be killing people. The acting is solid. The story has too much going on without truly fleshing things out. Aside from that, the other elements don’t do enough to make this stand out. If this film sounds good, I recommend giving it a viewing. It is fun to see Lorre, Karloff and the rest of the cast playing off each other. Be warned, this is from the 1940s and in black and white. If that’s an issue, I’d avoid it. I still this this is fun and quick movie that is over average for me.
My Rating: 6 out of 10