Director: Georg Fenady
Writer: Jameson Brewer and John Fenton Murray
Starring: Stella Stevens, Roddy McDowall and Elsa Lanchester
This film begins in a cemetery. There is a raven that is bothering a cat, but just avoiding being killed. We then meet the caretaker of this cemetery, played by Ben Wright. He is joined by the constable, who is kind of bumbling and played by Bernard Fox. They watch as a casket is carried to a church. We then see a wedding party of women go past into it as well. Fox is confused and goes to tell them that they have mixed up something.
Inside we see that this is not the case. There is a wedding going on between the dead man in his casket, played by Norman Stuart. He is being married to the younger Stella Stevens. We see that everyone attending is shocked by the ceremony.
We then shift to the will reading. We learn that Stuart was married to Shani Wallis, but it was quite loveless. She did not do much to help him when Stuart became terminally ill. Stevens was his mistress and he has married her now that he has died and left Wallis as his widow. Also in attendance is his younger brother, who is a mooch and played by Roddy McDowall. His sister is also there, played by Elsa Lanchester. She is a little bit eccentric. Wallis has brought her new lover, played by Farly Granger who is also a solicitor. Stuart’s solicitor is also there, played by Patric Knowles, as well as his trusty Indian helper, played by Jamie Farr.
At the will reading, we learn that Stuart is a vindictive man. He is nice to those that showed him respect, allowing Lanchester to live in his house for as long as she would like. He leaves McDowall nothing, since he does nothing. He leaves his widow one share in his corporation. He leaves the rest to Stevens, as long as she stays loyal to their marriage. His will reading has all been done by tape, including responses he knows that some people will have, so it is like they are speaking to each other.
We learn that there is more going on though. Stevens has been seeing McDowall behind Stuart’s back. We also see that they are not alone; someone is watching them through an eye of the painting of Stuart.
Wallis is driving away from the house with Lyons, where they are plotting to take action against this will to get her everything. She is staying at the local inn and pub. Fox is also inside. The woman who runs the bar, played by Wanda Bailey, is his fiancée. His father is also there and he plays Bailey in checkers, he is played by John McGiver.
Before going up to her room, Wallis states that she does not want to be bothered. She goes to put on face cream and it begins to eat away at her like it has acid in it. She dies from this attack. Lyons comes up to her room, finds her dead and then escapes through the window, not wanting to be found in the room.
More tapes are delivered and Stevens is freaked out. She begins to believe that Stuart is not dead, because he knows everything that is going on. He even knows that McDowall is seeing Stevens. He warns them, but they still do not heed it. A suit is delivered for Stuart and McDowall decides to wear it. It then constricts until it kills him. Stevens is even more freaked out.
She then enlists the aid of Knowles, who strikes a deal to help her get out of her agreement with all of the estate. This deal is made while the person is watching through the painting. A tape then arrives, addressing Knowles and calling him out about the deal that was made. Knowles helps himself to some cognac and learns that it is poisoned. His body ends up in a garbage truck and he’s crushed to death.
Lyons then shows up, wanting to make the same deal. Will he meet the same fate as the others? Will Stevens do as she is asked before it is too late? Is Stuart alive or is there someone carrying out his last wishes?
I have to say that I came in not knowing anything about this film and was pleasantly surprised. I saw a comment stating that this is kind of like Abominable Dr. Phibes and I can see that. It seems also like a Saw type plot, made thirty years before they came about. I liked the acting across the board. They all play their roles well. Stevens was good, but she does come off trashy. Not that this ruins the film, I just wanted to point it out. I liked the deaths and it was creative that keeping a PG rating, they do most everything off camera. This doesn’t ruin it at all for me, I was actually impressed. The plot is a little farfetched, but I still like the time and thought that went into them. Stuart’s character really thought everything through. Also being from so close to Toledo, Ohio, it is kind of cool to actually see Farr in a film. He was a local celebrity there and most everyone knows his name from the general area.
My biggest issue is that this film was a PG rating. Now it came out in the early 70’s, where they were starting to get gory and this film definitely could have went that way. I do think that it might have taken something away from the story by doing this, but at least a PG-13 rating would have made the film a little scarier. I do not think that British films at this time really went this route yet, so that could have explained it. I have also stated that the plot is a little unrealistic, but I still enjoyed it.
With that said, I would recommend giving this one a viewing. It is kind of hard to find, but worth at least checking it out if you can. I would say that this is a more family friendly version of Saw. There is a deep plot that progresses nicely as the film moves along. I did not find myself bored and it is paced well. There is some good humor and some unlikely death scenes, but they are put together very nicely and interesting. As stated, some of things that happened are a bit unrealistic, but I personally thought it was not enough to ruin it. A pretty good horror film that is somewhat obscure.
My Rating: 6 out of 10