Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #26: "You'll Find Out"

Just when you thought you'd seen every old dark house movie -- well, here's another one. But in lieu of Bob Hope or Creighton Hale prowling about a spooky abode, You'll Find Out features Kay Kyser, star of stage, radio, and apparently haunted mansion flicks. On loan from their College of Musical Knowledge, Kay and his ragtag band are hired to play at the 21st birthday gala of pretty young Janis Bellacrest (Helen Parrish). The shindig is being held at her ancestral home, where the spirit of her eccentric father is said to still roam the halls. But the house has attracted some flesh-and-blood terrors, as an old judge (Boris Karloff), a phony psychic (Bela Lugosi), and a gap-toothed mythbuster (Peter Lorre) have teamed up to swindle Janis out of her healthy inheritance. With all the strength a wimpy wisecracker like him can muster, Kay sets out to brave the Bellacrest house of horrors and keep Janis out of harm's way.

You'll Find Out is a scary movie that normal people can feel good about watching -- which is to say it isn't scary at all. It's more in tune with The Cat and the Canary, only with even more emphasis on humorous shenanigans. The spooky side of the story is pushed aside a lot, as You'll Find Out was essentially made as a vehicle for the Kay Kyser players. As such, we get a ton of musical interludes that pop up without much rhyme or reason, and this film having been made in 1940, they can be mighty lame (the "Bad Humor Man" number alone sent me into a corniness coma). The only things to fear here are Kay's one-liners and the slapstick set pieces, which make Abbott and Costello's schtick look like Bill Hicks material. Even the main mystery doesn't seem to have been given much thought, considering it's not even really a mystery. The bad guys are revealed not even halfway into the movie, and while it's part of the joke that an oblivious Kay puts his trust in the nogoodniks, it's a reach just to make him look like an even bigger doofus.

But in spite of it all, I'd be lying if I didn't say that You'll Find Out didn't warm up to me at least a little bit. The humor is campy and dated, sure, but neither your intelligence nor the cast's dignity suffers for it. It has an innocent spirit that's hard to hate, and it doesn't treat its thrill-centric side as a total joke. Karloff, Lugosi, and Lorre are all in on the act, and all three give surprisingly wonderful performances. Lugosi was a treat in particular, playing the role of a self-important psychic straight and getting more laughs for it (there's even a silly seance scene with a few freaky tweaks). Plus, for as many cheesy songs there are, some can be extremely charming, especially the Oscar-nominated "I'd Know You Anywhere" -- it hasn't a thing to do with the story, but it's a good tune anyway, dammit. Kay Kyser himself also carries on a fine tradition of film cowards, playing the part of unlikely hero, who's more liable to throw out snarky quips than battle the forces of darkness head-on.

You'll Find Out isn't terrible funny, and it's even less suspenseful, but I can't rag on it too much. The sentimentality seeps from every pore, and despite the best efforts of that cranky old fart in all of us, we can't help but be charmed by the earnestness of the production. You'll Find Out comes in a set with three other Karloff/Lugosi cheese wheels, so if you've got the stomach for some serious saccharine, this well-meaning ditty will be a breeze to watch.

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