Scared Stiff (1953)

Scared Stiff (1953)

“You may joke, my dear, but unfortunately, the legends about the castle are not to be taken lightly.”

A dimwitted busboy (Jerry Lewis) and his buddy — a nightclub singer (Dean Martin) who wrongly believes he’s murdered a gangster — stow away on a cruise ship to Havana, and befriend a woman (Lizabeth Scott) who has inherited a supposedly haunted castle on an island.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Carmen Miranda Films
  • Comedy
  • Dean Martin Films
  • Dorothy Malone Films
  • Fugitives
  • Jerry Lewis Films
  • Lizabeth Scott Films
  • Musicals
  • Old Dark House

George Marshall remade his own 1940 comedic-horror hit Ghost Breakers (1940) (starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard) into this tepid Martin & Lewis vehicle, which will likely only really appeal to their fans. Both the original film and this later iteration essentially function as vehicles for their stars, and suffer from rather lame, unnecessarily complex screenplays — but Scared Stiff, unfortunately, is even more awkwardly paced than its predecessor, taking 80 long minutes to finally bring the protagonists to their spooky destination (and even at that point, there are precious few ghosts or zombies peppering the screen). On the plus side: Lizabeth Scott is a perky, likeable romantic heroine, and she and Martin come across as genuinely attracted to one another:

On the negative side, Lewis is even more neurotically annoying and clingy than usual.

Of primary interest is an early nightclub scene in which we get a glimpse of Lewis and Martin’s live “charisma” together (with assistance from Dorothy Malone as Martin’s girlfriend); it feels like an honest approximation of their esteemed on-stage career together.

Note: This was Carmen Miranda’s final film (she died two years later); however, while her energetic performances are always welcome:

Lewis’s imitation of her (the ostensible reason for her presence here) is… depressingly unfunny.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • The early nightclub comedy routine
  • Lizabeth Scott as Mary

Must See?
No — this one is definitely only must-see for Martin & Lewis fans.


One thought on “Scared Stiff (1953)

  1. Not must-see. Nope.

    Director Marshall does, indeed, smoothly direct this remake of his own earlier film (tho that’s not saying much) – how depressing to, 13 years later, repeat yourself with material that wasn’t that good in the first place.

    But, yes, Lewis is his usual annoying self and, yes, his imitation of Miranda is particularly uninspired. (The only two short bits in which Lewis succeeds are when he briefly impersonates Bogart, and also serves as the voice of his own conscience made flesh; why didn’t Lewis learn that it was only to his benefit to find more ways to balance his usual irritating persona?)

    Overall, there’s just about no entertainment value here.

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