“That will is practically an invitation to commit murder.”
The heir (Paulette Goddard) to an eccentric millionaire’s fortune must remain sane and survive the night in his house or risk losing her inheritance to another relative named in a secret will.
This adaptation of John Willard’s 1922 play is notable for providing Bob Hope his starring debut, and for offering Paulette Goddard a chance to show off her sadly under-utilized comedic chops. The film’s “let’s scare the heroine to death” storyline — while imitated ad nauseum by countless later “old dark house” horror flicks — remains solidly suspenseful; you’re guaranteed to be kept in the dark (literally) about the identity of the killer. Director Elliott Nugent and cinematographer Charles Lang do a fine job keeping the proceedings appropriately spooky and atmospheric, though with Hope on board, there’s naturally plenty of corny levity (“Let’s all drink scotch and make wry faces.”). Hope and Goddard’s cinematic chemistry together was so successful that they co-starred in a similar outing the following year — The Ghost Breakers (1940), also listed in Peary’s book.
NB: Paul Leni’s 1927 silent film is another notable screen adaptation of this classic play, and well worth a look.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Paulette Goddard as Joyce
- Many genuinely creepy and/or scary moments
- Charles Lang’s atmospheric cinematography
- Ernst Toch’s score
No, but it’s recommended.