If there’s one thing people hate, it’s a pushy sales guy. No one wants to hear “what will it take to get you in this car today?” followed by strong arming to get the undercoating and extended warranty. Pushy sales guys give the sales profession a lousy image, just like Barry Bonds gives baseball players a bad rap.
Albert Tuttle (Jack Haley) is a pushy insurance agent, too stubborn to realize that selling insurance at creepy old mansions is not a good idea. Creepy old mansions are reserved for Scooby Doo, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and, of course, Abbott & Costello. Tuttle heads inside, hoping to sell a policy to the owner. Cyrus J. Rutherford doesn’t sign a policy. Instead, he dies, and the film cuts to the reading of his will to his next of kin.
The Rutherford family has a strange set of circumstances laid out by the deceased. Rutherford wants to be buried in a specially made vault, and none of his relatives can leave until the vault is built and he’s in it. Then, and only then, can they find out who gets what. Cousins, nephews, nieces, a lawyer, a doctor and the staff are all captive in the mansion and observatory.
Enter Murkil the butler (Lugosi) who instantly adds the heebie-jeebies to the film. It isn’t long before the red herrings and misdirection come into play. Tuttle is mistaken for a detective and Haley’s comedy chops bump headlong into the creepy, coffee pushing butler. Rutherford’s niece Carol Dunlap (Parker) is afraid she’s the target for murder, and Tuttle elects to stick it out for her safety.
Tuttle turns into amateur crime fighter, with instructions from the lawyer. As expected, the family members start dropping like flies, with Tuttle and Carol surviving a number of close calls.
One Body Too Many is a dark comedy, with Haley playing a screwball written into a series of ridiculous events. Parker gets the role of straight man and love interest. The creepy mansion with an ensemble of suspects has been spoofed a hundred times, in films like “The Private Eyes” and “Clue.”
Fans will recognize Lugosi from his long list of horror films, including his signature performance as Dracula. Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price were each varied actors whose success in the genre is still creating fans. Haley is best remembered for his performance as The Tin Man in 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz.” Parker starred in a number of films including “The Ghost Goes West” and “Sequoia.” When interviewed about his role as “The Saint, “Price once said he had to continually think up new ways of getting clocked on the head. Haley could offer some advice after his role in this movie.
One Body Too Many is available as part of the Treeline Films 2003 “50 Movie Pack: Horror Classics.” The distributor also has a “50 Movie Pack: Sci-Fi Classics” featuring films like “Santa Claus vs. The Martians.” The film has a 75 minute running time.