Scared to Death

Director: Christy Cabanne

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Told from the point of view of the corpse of Laura (Molly Lamont), Scared to Death (1947) is presented in long flashback from the morgue where her body lies. The film is in what it calls "natural color." In that decade it was unusual to film B thrillers in color.

Scared to DeathLaura had been the unpleasant wife of Ward (Roland Varno), providing him a loveless marriage while yet refusing him a divorce. His father Joseph (George Zucco) is a physician with a seedy past who has promised to help Ward be rid of her.

An unexpected pair arrives on the scene. Leonide (the only opportunity you will ever have to see Bela Lugosi in color) is Joseph's cousin & apparently an enemy of old.

With him is his constant companion, a deaf mute dwarf Igo. Angelo Rossitto is also Lugosi's companion in The Corpse Vanishes, 1942, & Spooks Run Wild (1941). It looks like the two actors really were close friends.

They dress alike so Igo would seem to be the original "Mini Me." Together they are referred to as "the sinister pair." I like to think they're gay lovers.

The instant Lugosi appears with this wee chum I got all tickled & delighted & thought, "This is gonna be good," because I can think good thoughts about anything with little people (or Lugosi) in the cast. Unfortunately Angelo isn't written much of a part &, having no dialog, could've been left out entirely without changing the story, so that was disappointing.

Scared to DeathJoseph & Leonide, i.e., Zucco & Lugosi, seem to have a game going between them as to which one can be the most sinister guy in the story. Their contest makes the film, at the very least, campy good fun. And Zucco makes a pretty good stand-in for Boris Karloff when playing off Bela.

It's a rather joky script undermining any hope of suspense with pure silliness. And being in color it equally lacks the cinematic atmosphere of such old films in black & white.

I can easily imagine this having been filmed in a more standard b/w manner & being kind of spooky, but the director clearly wanted to be more playful than that.

Lugosi's character is supposed to be a magician or hypnotist by trade but doesn't do a great deal to prove it in the story. From Leonide's career on the stage he seems already to know Laura, & around this fact the mystery depends, as in her secret past she once betrayed someone to the nazis.

There is additionally a man in a blue death-mask (Lee Bennett) who peers in at the window from time to time, the film's only genuinely atmospheric trick.

Comedy relief was not required of a film already tongue in cheek, but Nat Pendleton as Bull Raymond the bumbling private dick provides clownish interludes. He keeps hoping he'll encounter a corpse so he can solve a murder, in between flirting with the maid Lilly Beth (Gladys Blake).

It's an awfully talkative script (like Old Dark House except neither serious nor spooky), without much in the way of action. When in the climax Laura is murdered in a manner alluded to by the film's very title, it remains pretty laughable. A very bad movie overall, saved somewhat by its own refusal to take itself seriously.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

[ Film Home ] - [ Film Reviews Index ]
[ Where to Send DVDs for Review ] - [ Paghat's Giftshop ]