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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Scared to Death (1947)

Over the course of the past year, I reviewed three movies starring Bela Lugosi, which caught the attention of one of the many Lugosi fans floating around the internet.  This fellow's name is @BelaLugosi, and on his recommendation, I decided to sit down last night, and watch "Scared to Death" from 1947.  This movie is especially notable since it's the ONLY movie Lugosi did that was in colour.

Laura Van Ee is convinced that her husband- who has asked for a divorce, and his father are trying to drive her insane.  The appearance of Professor Leonide, a hypnotist with a mysterious connection to Doctor Van Ee only compounds the sinister atmosphere surrounding Laura as death creeps closer and closer to her...

I always enjoy watching older films.  They tend to be rather imaginative and innovative in how they tell their stories due to lower budgets, tighter censorship, and more "primitive" technology.  Even in the bad ones, I try to find something positive about them because of these restraints.  Besides, it's nice to be able to examine the way the horror genre has grown and changed over the years.

"Scared to Death" is a pretty simply done film- nothing fancy with camera angles, etc.  The complexity comes from the story... even if the script doesn't fully reach the potential within it.  The first hint of the potential is the novel method of being entirely set in a flashback.  I liked the idea, and would've liked to have seen the "present" moments developed a bit more.  Another big part of the potential I saw in this movie was the characters, and how they fit into the story... and once again, I would've liked to have seen the secondary plot lines developed a bit more.  They could've added so much more tension and suspense to an already interesting idea.

The acting was a bit more campy in regards to a couple of the characters than I liked, but I did manage to enjoy some of the humour provided by Nat Pendleton, who plays Bill Raymond- the dim witted body guard waiting for a murder to occur so he could solve it and get his old job on the police force back.  I did like Gladys Black as Lilybeth the maid.  She was able to provide both humour and a more serious mood in her role.  I also enjoyed Bela Lugosi's turn as Professor Leonide.  He brought a nice mysterious and sinister air to his character that made me interesting in how he was connected to Doctor Van Ee.  He doesn't have a vital role, but it's still an enjoyable one.  Molly Lamont as Laura Van Ee was good too, though her hair kept distracting me for some reason.  The only character I didn't like was Terry Lee, played by Douglas Fowley.  He plays a reporter who arrives at the house looking for a story to print in the newspaper.  I found his character to be bullish, rude, arrogant, and filled with all kinds of douchiness.  I really wanted him to get killed.

Technically, this film is simply shot and edited.  There isn't much action, and rather dialogue heavy- which isn't a bad thing so long as things are kept visually interesting.  I have to admit, I found my eyes wandering around my room during the more talkative sequences due to the rather static nature of the scenes.

I greatly appreciated having this film suggested to me by @BelaLugosi_ since it is a story filled with so much potential that unfortunately, I don't think could've been fully realized back in the 1940's.  Because it fell short of that potential, I have to give "Scared to Death," a place in "The Bad"... though since I love the story, and it is in the Public Domain, I think I'll begin writing a more fleshed out version myself...

Do you have a horror game, book, or movie you want to see me review?  Drop me a line at cornerofterror@hotmail.ca

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