Scared to Death
Now some people hire magician's and their pet dwarfs to perform at functions or costume party's. Where as other people hire them so they can be educated in their chosen craft. But do you know what your wife Laura (Molly Lamont) has just told me, Ward (Roland Varno)? In no uncertain terms she said that you and your papa, the prestigious Doctor Van Ee (George Zucco), believe she's been playing around behind your back. And that is why you've hired a magician called Leonide (Bela Lugosi) plus his pet dwarf to snuff out her lights.
So come on, man. Own up. And please, don't give me that cockamamie story about finding an old photograph of her in a French lounge act! I mean, that's as stupid as your father hiring that bubbling-oaf Bill (Nat Pendleton) to solve a crime which hasn't been committed yet!
Oh! So some of this tale is partly true, is it, Ward? Including that part where Laura suddenly discovered a severed head sent to her bedroom? My God! Wouldn't that make for a great newspaper headline!
Then again, that's most probably why what next transpires tugs on my shoulder when my gal-pal Lilybeth (Gladys Blake) says to me, 'Hey, Terry (Douglas Fowley)! You never guess who just kicked the bucket?'. As a journalist won't stop yapping - a bumbling oaf keeps on napping - a magician has bad breath - and at the end of the day, hey, look who's just been scared to death!
Now when I first clapped my eyes on 'Scared To Death', I was hoping I would see one of those great timely tales about a mad scientist killing someone who did him wrong in the past. But no. This isn't what I got at all. What I got instead folks, was a rather mumbled story-line that was very nice visually, yet lacked that depth of plot to actually make me sit down and enjoy it.
For instance, the style of this piece is very light and cartoon-like upon the screen, mired greatly by a hero -- as played by Douglas Fowley -- who turns up unannounced half way through it, and speaks in that very irritating fast paced-manner as if someone is holding a gun to his head!
What's more, there was also the superfluous inclusion of a dwarf character -- who never seemed to do anything except scowl or crawl -- plus a bumbling ex-cop character that was hired to do something that wasn't even needed.
Well, not until the very end of this film, anyway.
In fact, the only aspect about this adventure I can applaud was its novelistic approach of unravelling itself. Now at the very start of this film we are presented with a dead person lying on a mortician's slab. And then throughout select points of the narrative this person comments on the nuptials in that very back and forth way you normally expect with this type of approach. So to me, personally speaking, this nuance actually gave this film a suspenseful tone that aided it's telling, even though it was still hindered by those cartoon-ish factors I mentioned previously.
Plus, to a certain degree, I have to say that both Bela Lugosi and George Zucco added some much needed suspenseful weight to these proceedings as well. As a matter a fact, these two fine actors worked so well together on screen, I'm sure I would have enjoyed it a lot more if they had some more screen time together.
Well, let's face it. Who would you rather see in a timely tale of murder and intrigue? Two classic mastermind's of yesteryear? Or a bunch of irritating clowns that speak too much, fall over too quickly, and basically managed to transform this movie into what it is today.
Overall I'd say 'Scared To Death' was a pretty nice looking film with an intriguing premise behind it, yet was sorely let down with a cartoon-ish vibe and a cast of characters which were a mixed bag to say the least.
What a shame. What a bloody shame. Nuff said.
THE RATING: C+