“They don’t dare kill you the way they killed that other feller!”
A pollster (Fred MacMurray) in search of a missing colleague stumbles upon a family of creepy hillbillies who will stop at nothing to learn the location of treasure hidden in their house.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Black Comedy
- Fred MacMurray Films
- George Marshall Films
- Hidden Treasure
- Murder Mystery
- Old Dark House
Several years after directing Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard in the disappointing haunted house flick The Ghost Breakers (1940), George Marshall helmed this creatively zany riff on the genre, which features impressive special effects (see stills below), an enjoyably wacky storyline, quick pacing, and fine performances by the ensemble cast — including Fred MacMurray as the hapless protagonist; Marjorie Main as the murderous matriarch of the Fleagle clan; Helen Walker as “Bonnie Fleagle”; Peter Whitney (in a dual role) as a pair of pugilistic Fleagle twins; Jean Heather as the twins’ loopy, chant-singing sister; Porter Hall as Ma Fleagle’s most recent husband; and Mabel Paige as the clan’s senile “Grandma”. In his fun review of the movie, Dave Sindelar provides the following synopsis of its bizarre plot:
The movie features a hidden treasure, a whip-wielding Marjorie Main, poisoned and possibly radioactive water (it makes everything glow in the dark), two stupid twins (one with a crick in his back so you can tell them apart), a nonsense song that holds the key to the treasure, an escaped criminal, a woman disguising herself as an escaped criminal, an imaginary ghost named Smedley, a truck-powered hay machine, a “Lazy Susan” rotating table, poisoned gravy and Fred MacMurray.
To say much more about the plot would spoil the fun of watching it unfold; suffice it to say that — as Sindelar recommends — you should be in a “silly mood” before sitting down to enjoy this one.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Fred MacMurray as Pete Marshall
- Fine supporting performances by the entire ensemble cast
- Nifty special effects
- A clever screenplay with many fun sequences
Yes, as a cult film and an enjoyably zany riff on the “old dark house” genre. Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book.