Sunday, July 4, 2010

A couple of Boris Karloff/ Peter Lorre comedies or You'll Find Out when The Boogie Man will Get You

I know your busy this forth of July, so just give me a minute to do my piece for today before you run off.

We continue with the weekend of wartime comedies with two films from Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. Both films are technically during the time of World War Two, but only one is from the time of America's involvement. Its a minor point, but it simply explains why there is no mention of the war in
You'll Find Out. Both films are out on DVD in the US as part of multi film packs. Boogie Man can be had in Icons of Horror: Boris Karloff collection. While You'll Find Out is in Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics. Both sets can be had relatively cheaply and are worth the money of you like Karloff as an actor.

My feeling is that Karloff was an under appreciated actor. If you look at what he did before Frankenstein typecast him it was as wide and varied as you could imagine. After Frankenstein he got higher billing but ultimately it worked against him since he was typecast. While I know he wanted to do more than he did it he was also very thankful that it allowed him a more or less steady pay check.

The two films today are comedies. Karloff is of course cast in type but the type is subverted by the humor of the films. I would have loved to have seen him really be allowed to cut loose in his prime. Yes, he got to do more wacky comedy in later years thanks to Roger Corman but at the same time he never was allowed to really camp it up. Personally I regret that he never got to play the Boris Karloff role in Arsenic and Old Lace on screen because he was stuck in New York doing the play.(Okay yes he did do it for TV but that was only an hour)

Sue me I'm a fan.

Peter Lorre was luckily less type cast and he got to move a bit more freely between comedy, horror and crime films. Ultimately he too was under appreciated in some ways since he often got stuck in the same sort of roles as Karloff. For me the saddest thing about Lorre was that he only got to direct one movie, Der Verlorene (1951). After the Second World War Lorre went back to Germany and directed an imperfect but very visceral film about life in the after math of the war. It was the wrong film from the wrong country at the wrong time and it sank almost with out a trace. What is sad is that not only does Lorre give one of his best performances ever, he also shows signs that had he been allowed to make movies he might have been one of the best directors ever to sit behind a camera (though admittedly its tough to tell from one film. You'll be able to decide for yourself when the review appears).

And yea I'm a huge Peter Lorre fan too.

I think you'll like the two films today. I'm pretty sure that should you take the time to see them (possibly as a double feature). You'll get a few laughs and have a good time. They are not the best things that either Karloff or Lorre ever did but they are certainly some of the most fun.

The Boogie Man Will get You (1942)
Karloff sells his house to a young woman who wants to turn it into a hotel. He is allowed to stay so that he can continue his experiments. He's attempting to make superhuman zombies for the war effort. The trouble is his experiments keep going wrong creating the problem of dead men who are piling up in the basement. Add in Peter Lorre as a quack doctor and nominal sheriff (who's always looking for fast cash) and Maxie Rosenblum as one of Karloff's guinea pigs and you have the makings of a crazy comedy.

Actually what you have is an attempt to ape and out do Arsenic and Old Lace which Karloff had been doing on Broadway. It doesn't always work, but as a program picture with a great deal of silliness its a lot of fun.

What can I say I found it charming and sweet even as seemingly ghoulish things were going on. Some people I know find it dumb, and to be honest, it is dumb, but the chance to see Lorre and Karloff being silly together years before Roger Corman brought them together again is a joy.

Should you run across this film, by all means see it, you may not laugh but you will smile from start to finish is a goofy sort of way.

You'll Find out (1940)
Kay Kyser meets Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Bela Lugosi. This is probably the only time the three starred together in a movie and it's the interaction of the three horror vets that makes this film worth seeing.

The plot has Kyser and his band booked to play a party for an heiress. Unfortunately for Kaye and his band the place is your typical "old dark houses" and someone, or something, is trying to kill the heiress. Could it be the three horror vets?

Its standard fare but everyone milks it for all they can so for the most part it's a good, if too long by 20 minute, horror comedy musical. Thankfully most of the flaws are off set by nice size budget which allows the film to look good and the trio of horror veterans who knew how to squeeze their screen time to get every last drop of fun.

I should point out that Karloff, Lugosi and Lorre are the supporting players here. The real star is Kaiser and his side men, especially Ish Kabibble, who was the one man in the band that everyone knew. While the three monster men are the reason the film still has an audience they are not in as much as they would have been had they been the real stars.

I can hear some people wondering "Who was Kay Kyser? Without going into too much detail, he was a band leader with a very popular radio show (Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge). It was off beat and full of double talk and really good music. Kyser's big career last for only a short time before he decided to give up Hollywood and move back home to North Carolina. He and his band were very good both on the radio and in movies though I don't think it was a mistake to put him center stage in a 100 minute "dramatic" movie, truth be told Kyser was really good in support.

Reservations about Kyser's leading man quality aside, this is a good film. Its one of those rarest of things these days, a film that's actually worth your time. Then again any chance to see the three supporting players go for laughs is always a treat since its clear they relished the chance to do more than just be boogie men.

Okay my bit's done, so feel free to run off to the BBQ's and fireworks; however when you get home why not try these films and unwind.


  1. The nice thing is that Der Verlorene is now listed among the 100 Most Significant German Films by the German Films Service. It's good that Lorre's directorial debut is finally being appreciated.

    Thanks for the review of "Boogie Man," I'm waiting for it on Netflix!

    Btw, here is my Lorre-related Blog entry, hehe:

  2. Hello to a fellow Peter Lorre fan! As a long-time Lorre fan myself, I enjoyed your entry on You'll Find Out and The Boogie Man Will Get You. They're not the best films among Peter's credits, but Peter is very good in both of them.

    Just one thing -- you misspelled Kay's surname throughout. It's not "Kaiser", but "Kyser" -- as shown on the poster you included.


  3. Have you read The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre, by Stephen D. Youngkin, University Press of Kentucky, 2005? You might be interested in visiting the book's official website --


  4. Spelling problem fixed- Thank you for keeping me honest....

  5. in 2021 YOU LL FIND OUT is 81 years old and still offers plenty of fun..if u wanna have loads of fun---watch peter lorre as MR MOTO