One Body Too Many (1944)

Rating: **
Review Date: 1/1/14
Cast: Jack Haley, Bela Lugosi

An interesting murder mystery with an out-of-place comedic element. The film opens with the reading of a rather peculiar will. The deceased Mr. Rutherford wishes to be interred in a glass coffin facing the stars, and only then will the actual terms of his will be disclosed. But if his request isn't met, the terms will be reversed, and those with the larger share of the inheritance will get the smaller share. This leads to his nefarious relatives coming up with various ways to make sure that they get the biggest portion of the old man's fortune. Into this mess stumbles a goofy life insurance salesman named Albert Tuttle (Jack Haley), who is mistaken for a detective and put in charge of guarding the corpse. He bumbles into all sorts of trouble and several people are murdered over the course of the night. Everyone is a suspect except for Rutherford's good-hearted niece, Carol, and romance blossoms between her and Tuttle.

As a murder mystery, it's quite entertaining and engaging, and doesn't show its hand until the very end. Unfortunately, the goofy humor provided by Tuttle is annoying and deflates any tension that the film builds up. The various characters are all interesting, and Bela Lugosi gives an amusing performance as a creepy butler. His repeated attempts to serve a questionable blend of coffee are the highlight and the punchline of the show. As part of a horror movie collection, this film wasn't at all what I was expecting, which made the comedy elements even more difficult to deal with. But if you go into it without any expectations, it can be a fun distraction.