The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942) poster

The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942)


USA. 1942.


Director – Lew Landers, Screenplay – Edwin Blum, Adaptation – Paul Gangelin, Story – Hal Fimberg & Robert B. Hunt, Producer – Colbert Clark, Photography (b&w) – Henry Freulich, Art Direction – Lionel Banks. Production Company – Columbia.


Boris Karloff (Professor Nathaniel Billings), Peter Lorre (Dr Arthur Lorencz), [Miss] Jeff Donnell (Winnie Slade), Larry Parks (Bill Layden), Maxie Rosenbloom (Maxie)


Professor Nathaniel Billings lives in the historic two hundred year-old Billings Tavern but is struggling with mounting debts. He then receives a visit from Winnie Slade who is eager to buy the house and convert it into a hotel. Billings agrees to the sale as long as he can continue to conduct his experiments in the basement. Winnie’s ex-husband Bill Layden arrives, trying to stop her impulsively buying the place. When he finds he is too late, he decides to pitch in and help out. Billings has been conducting experiments to try and create a superhuman. He has been luring door-to-door salesmen down to the basement to use as subjects but has so far killed all of them. The local sheriff/doctor Arthur Lorencz arrives to investigate and decides to help out after Billings explains what he is trying to do. As guests and more door-to-door salesmen arrive, things end up in a chaotic mess.

The Boogie Man Wil Get You is one of the films among the great Golden Age of Horror between 1931 and the late 1940s. It was not a Universal production but does star two of the horror stars that emerged from this period, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. It is often misidentified as an Old Dark House film but it doesn’t quite fall into that genre. It belongs more into the genre of Horror Comedy that came out after the Bob Hope The Cat and the Canary (1939). If there is anything to compare it to, it is the screwball comedy of the later-released Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), which had originally appeared on Broadway starring Boris Karloff four months before The Boogie Man Will Get You came out.

The film runs to only 66 minutes long but manages to be an exhaustingly madcap comedy within its runtime. There are wacky scenes with the housekeeper running around squawking like a hen; another character who lives in a pen in the barn; a great deal of nonsense with Maxie Rosenbloom as a door-to-door salesman who sells powder puffs as Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre persuade him to take part in their experiments and a demented routine that involves everyone inhaling from an anaesthetic mask; oh and a burglar that enters the basement window carrying a backpack of explosives. The film runs around these and assorted other subplots with far more dexterity and energy than you think it would be possible to pack into its running time.

Peter Lorre as Dr Arthur Lorencz and Boris Karloff as Professor Nathaniel Billings in The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942)
Unexpectedly great comic pairing – (l to r) Peter Lorre as Dr Arthur Lorencz and Boris Karloff as Professor Nathaniel Billings

Boris Karloff is not exactly remembered for his comedy work. Here however he reveals an unexpected talent for it. He delivers a series of perfectly dry and deadpan lines. One of the best parts of the film is just how well Karloff and Lorre work as a perfectly well-oiled team once they start conspiring together where they do so with some fantastic comic timing.

Director Lew Landers (1901-62) had a career that lasted from the 1930s until the 1960s, making various comedies, Westerns and serials, plus assorted tv episodes. Born as Louis Friedlander, he made several films under that name with the serial The Vanishing Shadow (1934) and the Boris Karloff-Bela Lugosi starring The Raven (1935). As Lew Landers, he made The Return of the Vampire (1944) with Bela Lugosi as a vampire; Inner Sanctum (1948) based on the popular radio series; the adventure films Jungle Manhunt (1951) and Jungle Jim in the Forbidden Land (1952); the Arabian Nights adventures The Magic Carpet (1951) and Aladdin and His Lamp (1952); and the horror film Terrified (1963).

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