Oct 041944
two reels

Insurance salesman, Albert Tuttle (Jack Haley), shows up at an old mansion only to find his client-to-be is already dead. The eccentric man’s beneficiaries have gathered in the house for a reading of the will, and mistake Tuttle for a detective who has been hired to watch the body. It seems that the will has some odd provisions, which makes it in the best interests of some for the body to stay where it is, while others will want to steal it.

In Old-Dark-House mysteries, a group of people are secluded in a haunted house with all the trimmings: candles, secret passageways, constant thunderstorms.  There is a murder or three, but the killer turns out to be mortal and all supernatural activity has a rational explanation.  Normally, the chills are balanced with comedy.  This sub-genre, mainly popular in the ’30s and ’40s, tends to produce pleasant, if uninspired films.

One Body Too Many is a standard Old-Dark-House mystery.  The dialog is snappy, the acting is competent, but nothing is memorable.  The house guests have gathered to fulfill the requirements of a will.  The particulars don’t matter.  Each character is made unpleasant enough to be a murderer, except for the one good-girl who is there to be the object of affection for the hero.  Jack Haley (the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz) plays the cowardly lead, doing his best imitation of Bob Hope.  None of the jokes are laugh-out-loud funny, though they all tend to be mildly amusing.  Similarly, none of the falling bodies, screams, or thunderclaps are frightening, but they set an enjoyable mood.

One Body Too Many benefits from the appearance of Bela Lugosi in the small role of the butler.  He has the best running gag, attempting to serve possibly poisoned coffee to people who just don’t want coffee.  Lugosi’s comic abilities were rarely used and it’s nice to see him playing for laughs.