The Boogie Man Will Get You is a horror comedy made at Columbia in 1942, with Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre in the starring roles. Horror comedies are far from being my favourite sub-genre but this one does have a certain charm. And more importantly, it has some genuine laughs.
Professor Nathaniel Billings (Boris Karloff) owns a colonial-period tavern which he is very anxious to sell, due to a crippling mortgage inflicted on him by Dr Arthur Lorencz (Peter Lorre). Dr Lorencz is the mayor, coroner, justice of the piece, public notary and sheriff of the town. In fact he holds every public office it is possible to hold. Professor Billings believes his prayers have been answered when a slightly eccentric young woman arrives and (much to the Professor’s surprise) actually wants to buy this dump, which she fondly imagines can be turned into a charming hotel. She has no experience in running hotels, but she has cash and that’s good enough for Professor Billings, and for Dr Lorencz.
Unfortunately her ex-husband shows up. He wants to save his ex-wife from her folly, but it is too late. The contract has been signed, with due formality and with the sort of wildly inappropriate Latin quotation of which Dr Lorencz has a ready supply.
Professor Billings makes one stipulation when he sells the tavern. He asks to be allowed to continue his scientific experiments in his laboratory in the basement, a request to which the new owner readily agrees. Professor Billings is trying to create a superman who will win the war. Sadly so far all he has created is a series of corpses of unlucky travelling salesmen whom he persuaded to serve as subjects for his mad experiments.
When Dr Lorencz gets wind of Professor Billings’ project he is anxious to become a partner and collaborator, science being a hobby of his. Once Lorencz joins in the craziness accelerates.
While this was not a big-budget production it does boast a pretty impressive mad scientist’s laboratory with some pretty cool gadgets such as the capsule thing in which the unlucky experimental subjects are placed.
Boris Karloff displays a ready talent for comedy in this movie. He is both genial and totally bonkers. Peter Lorre of course was extremely gifted at comedic roles and both of these fine actors over-act outrageously. They prove to be a superior comedy team. Both Professor Billings and Dr Lorencz are equally mad. Dr Lorencz goes nowhere without his Siamese kitten which he keeps in an inside pocket of his jacket, a kitten with an unerring nose for crime and corruption.
The supporting actors, including Jeff Donnell in drag as Billings’ housekeeper, do their best and are generally fine although the movie is of course totally dominated by the antics of Karloff and Lorre.
Lew Landers was a prolific director of B-movies in various genres and does a capable enough job, although all he really needs to do is let Karloff and Lorre do their thing.
This is one of the four movies included in Columbia’s extremely good Boris Karloff: Icons of Horror Collection. There are no extras but the transfer is exceptionally good.
The Boogie Man Will Get You is good-natured fun that is hard to resist and the presence of two great actors in full flight is enough to carry the movie through its modest 66-minute running time. Highly recommended if horror comedies are your thing, and even if they aren’t it’s worth giving this one a chance.