Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Boogie Man Will Get You

The background story of “The Boogie Man Will Get You” (1942) is far more interesting than the film itself. Reigning boogie man Boris Karloff was at the end of a five-picture contact with Columbia Studios, where he had essayed a “mad scientist” portrayal in four “B” movie shockers: “The Man They Could Not Hang” (1939), “The Man with Nine Lives” and “Before I Hang” (both 1940) and “The Devil’s Command” (1941).

Before finishing out his Columbia contract, Karloff enjoyed a huge hit playing Jonathan Brewster in the stage production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.” So successful was his portrayal, that Columbia re-tooled his final film from a straight horror thriller into a comedy-thriller to cash in on the stage play.

Instead of sweet old ladies poisoning men with a touch of arsenic in their elderberry wine, Karloff seemingly bumps off traveling salesmen for his experiments to create an army of supermen to aid the Allied war effort. (This sounds like a plotline from a Monogram or PRC horror outing). Helping him is sheriff/justice of the peace/notary public Peter Lorre.

Future Al Jolson portrayer Larry Parks is in here, as is “Miss” Jeff Donnell (as she’s billed in the movie) who’s really cute in a 1940s bobby soxish manner.

Of course, Karloff is always worth watching, as is Peter Lorre, who always enjoyed playing in comedies and wish he had had more opportunities.

It’s not scary at all, and the laughs are few and far between. I laughed once or twice and chuckled a few times. Come to think of it, though, that’s more laughs I enjoyed than with “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”, “Knocked Up” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” combined.

Rating for “The Boogie Man Will Get You”: Two stars.

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