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ARNOLD (1973)

Article 2891 by Dave Sindelar 
Viewing Date: 4-7-2009
Posting Date: 7-13-2009
Directed by Georg Fenady
Featuring Stella Stevens, Roddy McDowall, Elsa Lanchester
Country: USA

A woman marries a rich man upon his death (his wife wouldn't grant him a divorce) in order to get his fortune. She gets the inheritance, but only if she keeps his dead body with her for the rest of her life. Then, the dead man's family begins dying in horrible ways, and the woman gets cassette tapes with the dead man's voice indicating that he knows of the deaths.

This is another movie that I'd really like to like; it's a comic revival of the "old dark house" motif, and even if the heirs aren't required to stay in the house, there's still the reading of the will, the painting with the eyehole, and the horrible deaths that may be from beyond the grave. It has some great gimmicks (the post-death marriage is novel, and I like a few touches, such as the man's coffin having a tape deck installed) and a game cast all ready to give it their best shot, but it has problems; the direction is flat and dull, and it just isn't very funny. Victor Buono comes off best as the minister who performs the marriage, but it's a cameo, and most of the funnier bits are consigned to characters who aren't associated with the main action of the movie. In particular, it's a shame to see Stella Stevens wasted; she adds a certain pixieish charm to the proceedings, but, after the initial wedding gag, she's really given nothing funny to do. The deaths are creative enough that this movie could have had a Dr. Phibes vibe in the right hands, but Georg Fenady is no Robert Fuest and there's no character compelling enough to give the movie a strong center as Vincent Price's was. I'm afraid I have to write this one off as a well-intentioned disappointment. Incidentally, this was Patric Knowles's last movie.

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