For my sixth R.eader's I.mbibing P.eril film screeing, I veered off of my Vincent Price mini-thon. Somewhere along the way in looking up VP films to watch, I stumbled across the great Bela Lugosi as a creepy butler in One Body Too Many (1944) and decided I just had to watch it. The film stars Jack Haley as an insurance salesman who thinks he has finally found a way to get the eccentric millionaire Cyrus J. Rutherford to take out an insurance policy. Albert Tuttle (Haley) goes to the isolated mansion by appointment only to find that Rutherford is dead and his (Rutherford's) lawyer believes Tuttle to be a private detective engaged to guard the body.
Rutherford's will required all of his relatives and staff to stay in the mansion until his body could be laid to rest in a glass-domed vault--so the stars which he loved so much as an amateur star-gazer can beam down upon him for all eternity. If his body is buried in any other fashion, then all of the legacies in his will (as yet unopened) will be reversed--whoever was to receive the least will get the most and vice-versa. Tuttle doesn't want to sit up all night with a dead body, but is convinced by Rutherford's lovely niece Carol Dunlap (Jean Parker) to stay and help. Much spookiness and hilarity follow as various relatives try to remove the body, wind up bashing Tuttle on the head and then dumping Tuttle (who the lawyer talks into climbing in the casket--the better to catch the intended body snatchers) and the casket into the fish pond, the lawyer is killed,and finally Tuttle himself is suspected of being behind it all and must catch the real killer and clear his name.
There is a lot of haunted house atmosphere and fun misdirection and through it all the Butler (Lugosi) and his wife seem to be up to no good. They repeatedly try to get everyone to drink coffee...in the most leering and suspicious manner. But they are frustrated at every turn by those who "can't drink it this late, it will keep me up" or who "prefer drip to percolated." As disappointed as they are when no one will drink the stuff, we are forced to wonder...is it poisoned? Full of sleeping pills?
This is a fun movie...not really scary at all. But a nice romp through an early comedy/thriller.