Scared to Death
Reviewed by Scott Murdock
Rating: 8.5 Beans
ne day back in 1947 a director by the name of Christy Cabanne and a slew of actors must have gotten really drunk or high... including Bela Lugosi (who may have provided some of the booze and drugs)... because we have the movie "Scared to Death" as evidence of that bizarre night.
"Scared to Death" is a mystery, what caused a "beautiful" young woman to die? Of course, that mystery is no mystery to those who happen to know the film's title.
Laura Van Ee (Molly Lamont, a young woman whose extensive film career ended soon after this movie)is being driven insane, literally, by her husband Ward Van Ee (Roland Varno). Formerly a dancer in Europe, Ward married her on a dare. Now she won't let him divorce her, so he is doing all he can to drive her out of his life.
The entire story takes place during the course of one very unusual day at the home of Dr. Josef Van Ee (George Zucco), Ward's father. While Ward and his father conspider to eliminate Laura, all three of whom are totally unlikeable people, the following additional unlikeable and bizarre people drop by to visit:
- A mysterious wealthy woman who has some vague past connection to Dr. Van Ee.
- Professor Leonide (Bela Lugosi), a magician who holds an unexplained twenty-year-old grudge against Dr. Van Ee.
- Indigo (Angelo Rossitto), Bela Lugosi's deaf-mute dwarf sidekick and comic-relief device.
- Bill "Bull" Raymond (Nat Pendleton), a bumbling and moronic ex-cop, who apprently once shot a dressmaker's dummy "to death" and is now anxiously awaiting a murder so that he can prove he's a good cop. Comic relief.
- Lilly Beth (Gladys Blake), the Van Ee's maid (and the film's most likeable character) and Bill's "love" interest.
- Terry Lee (Douglas Fowley), a chauvenistic, nosey, and incredibly annoying newspaper reporter.
- Jane Cornell (Joyce Compton), a dimwitted telephone operator and girlfriend of Terry Lee. Comic agony.
Throw in the mysterious figure behind the green mask, a pathologist who is lost in the beauty of young female corpses, and his intern and you've got the whole cast.
Told entirely in flashback by the thoughts of the dead Laura Van Ee (you'll get really sick of the "flashback music"), this story waffles back and forth between an almost interesting psychological drama (are they really trying to drive her crazy or is she already crazy?) and a failed attempt at zany madcap comedy. You've got a house full of secret passageways that never really seem to serve a purpose, a midget running around lip-reading everybody, a magician who is constantly eavesdropping, some crazy person lurking in the bushes, a police department that is closed at night and won't be open until morning (I'm serious!), a severed head sent by mail, and ten people running around who are all suspect yet all have alibis.
If you want to give this movie a try, don't worry, it's under 70 minutes so you won't be wasting too much time.
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