Thursday, December 15, 2011

Film #87: You'll Find Out (1940)

Kay Kyser has a face for radio.
He also has a body for science (post-mortem) and a personality for a 16-year-old slumber party (spastic and sassy).
But boy can his band blow!
It is one of the few redeeming qualities for radio host and band leader Kyser, which explains why music is a focal point of this week’s Kyser-lead Kookfest, “You’ll Find Out.”

Kyser is just minding his own business producing, directing and starring in his hit radio show “Kollege of Musical Knowledge” when he is approached by trust-fund heiress Janis Bellacrest to perform at her 21st birthday party. 

Seems like an easy gig at first, a private party for a beautiful girl and her equally stunning friends, free booze and a nights stay in a mansion. What could go wrong!?

Seems Janis forgets to tell Kyser that she is a marked woman. Over the past few days there have been no less than three attempts on Janis’ life, and it’s likely another attempt will come during her party. Oh, and she also forgot to mention the party will take place on a spooky private island with only one entrance and exit… a mansion that also happens to be haunted by the spirits of her safari-loving uncle and the cannibal natives who killed him!
Cue thunder, lightning, bladder leaking!

Unfortunately for Kay and his goofy band mates, they find out this information too late – arriving for their gig with glee. While on the island, a "huge storm" knocks out the escape bridge. Spooks, murders, and soggy drawers or not, the band is stuck there and decides to go on with the show.

But how do they know the house is haunted by the dead uncle hunter? Why Janis’s wide-eyed eccentric Aunt Margo Bellacrest is a fan of the paranormal, and has shacked up with a bonafide medium named Prince Saliano (Bela Lugosi) to help her with her hobby.

Janis smells a rat (must be the Hungarian food), and asks her aunt’s lawyer Judge Spencer Mainwaring (Boris Karloff) if he is suspicious of Saliano’s intentions. Is he just using her old bag of bones aunt to get some scratchola?
Mainwaring doesn’t think so, but Janis orders him to bring in renowned psychic fraud investigator Professor Karl Fenninger (Peter Lorre) to prove her right.

Arriving to the party just before the bridge goes out, Fenninger is ready to defraud Saliano. But he’ll need Kay Kyser and his band of merry men to help. 
The group hatches a plan to rile up Saliano into performing one of his séances for the group… an act that will allow Fenninger to prove he is a fake once and for all.

But is that really a good idea to tamper with the spirits? What if Saliano is for real!
Meanwhile, the attempts on Janis’s life continue at the house. Just who is trying to off lil’ Janis, Aunt Bellacrest’s sole heir to her vast fortune, before her 21st birthday?
Is Saliano employing sorcery to off his accuser? Or perhaps one of the other guests are in for the kill.
Want to know if Saliano is a fraud, if the house is haunted, and just who is trying to kill Janis?
You’ll Find Out in this 1940 musical caper.

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 2.5
Chris Dimick finds out:
“Musical horror is a hard thing to do right. 
Signing and terrorizing just don’t seem to want to go together, unless you are watching A Clockwork Orange’s Signing in the Rain sequences. You’ll Find Out attempts to mix the spook with the song, but falls back on an old standby when the tune starts to go flat… the laugh.

This film is a musical comedy horror, and in that order. The centerpiece is Kay Kyser and his “Kollege of Musical Knowledge” band playing Spike Jones-type songs about the “Bad Humor Man” (versus the ice cream pedaling Good Humor Man) and ripping off one liners and physical comedy bits.

The movie is really a showpiece for the Kyser group, which actually did have a radio show in 1940 (a fact I know thanks to loyal RDHP reader Jim).
Because of this, some of the point was missed on Nick and I. It would be like watching Garrison Keillor’s 2006 film “A Prairie Home Companion” without ever having heard the NPR radio show the film is based on.

That said this movie was still fun to take in, especially given the all-star team filling the film’s creeper roles; Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and a surprisingly svelte Peter Lorre. I’d watch those three guys paint a fence, or cut their nails, or do their taxes, or mow the grass, or sit in a dentist waiting room, or… sorry, my brain got stuck.

I’m guessing there were three reasons these fine horror-star gentlemen decided to act in this film:
1.      It was an easy paycheck.
2.      The film counted toward a studio contract fulfillment and/or favor to a friend.
3.      They were fans of the Kay Kyser show.

Still, let’s give the bad-boys some credit. For a musical comedy horror, there were a few hair raising scenes in this flick. 
For instance, the first séance sequence featured musical instruments floating crazily about the room, eerie piano music that ran down the spine, and best of all specters entering the room and giving chilling warnings delivered in one of the spookiest voice modulations Nick and I have ever heard. 
It was as if a demon was screaming directly down the tunnel of Joan River’s ass. The horror!

Or, for a better description, it sounded like one of those voice boxes throat cancer victims use to talk, only filtered through a wind tunnel playing amped up electric guitar feedback.

You’ll come for the horror icons, stay for the funny songs, and leave after the credits.
That is to say, you WON’T be disappointed… but You Will Find Out!

N-Rating: 3.0
Nick Rich finds out:
“Thinking about this film makes me feel like scatting:

What can I say? Kay and his band of merry men sent my toes a'tappin and my kness a'slappin! See what he did to me? He's even effecting my speech three days later! Is it any wonder I wanted him to get aced while watching this film? KAY KYSER AND HIS INFECTIOUS BEATS MUST BE STOPPED!!!

'Opps! Did I infect your brain with old timey radio tunes? Tee-hee!'

But what is horror if not that which, uninvited, infiltrates our minds? What is it also, if not that which is familiar enough to relate to, yet twisted in some horrific way to bend our minds toward the macabre? Oddly enough, in my case, You'll Find Out ended up employing both of these horror elements...

You see, I grew up visiting my grandparents quite often. Better, salt-of-the-Earth types you will not find and as it turns out my grandfather loved the Lawrence Welk show. He watched it every week. For 50 years.
When having Sunday dinner the evening would be dictated, naturally, by when Lawrence was set to come one (7pm for those of you who aren't in 'the know'). 'Hey grandpa, want to play cards?' 'Maybe later Nick, Lawrence Welk is on!'
Needless to say, I grew up watching a lot of floating bubbles, singing siblings and big band renditions (which, for the record, I would say made me all the richer).

"And a 1, and a 2, and a 3!"

So I have Welk firmly ingrained in my psyche... which added an entirely different dimension to being exposed to Kay Kyser and his particular 'style'. Welk was calm, monotone and amiable, whereas Kyser behaves like a goofy teenage girl on crack. Naturally I found this persona to be alarming when tested against the warm memories of Welk and the Sunday evenings of my youth.

Kyser's speech and antics in the first 3 minutes of the film actually made me hope he would be one of the first victim's of the film (this was before I realized that he was the main character and the film was a vehicle for him and his band). Drats! Death was no release in this instance!

Sometimes they come back...

But as I found out, it's ok Kyser didn't die in this film. While he was overwhelming in the first bit of the movie, he actually tones it down and the remainder of the film is really quite enjoyable. The performances of Boris, Bella and Lorre alone are worth a viewing and the smooth tunes and period feel of this flick make it a fun 'romp'. There were some slow scenes towards the middle, but overall I enjoyed this feel-good musical comedy horror. In fact, I'd say it's a great flick to watch around Christmas... it's lite, happy and has familiar faces you actually love to see... and isn't that what we all want out of a Christmas gathering?

Two things scared me in this flick: Kay Kyser's stage persona
and Ginny Simms cemented upper lip.

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you've ever wondered what goes on behind the microphone of your favorite NPR show... or if you want to experience a horror BLT (aka Boris, Bella & Lorre).”

Things We Learned from You’ll Find Out:
-One becomes rich by being an ass.
-According to the 1940s, when dames talk they are either dramatic or hysterical.
-Chris head-bangs to all forms of music.
-“Off with your thinking caps and on with your shoes that tap” is just an awesome thing to hear.
- One can graduate from the Kollege of Musical Knowledge.
-There is a difference between a weasel, a measle and an easel.
-The only thing old fashioned in radio is the comedian’s joke.
-Nick wants Kay Kyser to die. He got his wish in 1985.
-For those who scoff at their existence, the spirits have no tolerance.
-Big band was once considered “modern trash.”
-It was once fine for strange grown straight men to share a small bed.
-Mel’s due date is 13 days away.
-Peter Lorre is the golden age’s Steve Buscemi:

Quote of the Viewing:
[Kay Kyser and his band introduce themselves to Janis’ mystic Aunt Margo by mentioning she may have heard their music on the radio]
Margo: “I’ve heard your music before, but it wasn’t on the radio. It was… [Eyes drift off into space] from another place…
Chris: [In haunting Margo voice] “… the TV!”

RDHP Presents:
Awesome Voice Club
This week’s film features three of the most distinctive actors in horror. But equally as famous as their acting is their trademark voice! Boris’s smooth speech is like warm velvet on our ears. Bela’s ethnic pratt rings of romance and pain. And Peter Lorre’s nasally whine sounds manic and perverse. But these horror icons are not the only ones famous for their speech. Below, we nominate other members for the RDHP’s Awesome Voice Club.

Morgan Freedman
Only a calming voice like Morgan’s could convince someone to watch a show called “Through the Wormhole” and not snicker like a 13-year-old.

Baby Voiced Girls
These gals, like Marilyn Monroe or Betty Boop or the girl in the above 30 Rock episode, love to put on the baby girl routine complete with soft squeaky voice and eye lash batting. 
Drives both guys and gals insane, one with lust/rage and the other just with rage.

Bobcat Godthwait
His voice is like audible crack and speed mixed with meth. Looking for a softer side of Bob, check out his performance in the Xmas Bill Murray classic Scrooged. Do it… I’m sure it’s on right now somewhere.

Vincent Price
He has the velvet pipes of Boris Karloff with just a touch more mischief. Try and hold a frown when Vinny starts a purrin’!

Christopher Walken/William Shatner
Both of their voices are like audible heart attacks. So much. Stopping and… starting!

Fran Drescher
What the hell. The Nanny? What year is this list being complied in?

Tom Brokaw
I’m. Tom Brooooookaw. And. I’m. Hoooonored. Toooo. Be. Ooooon. This. List.


If you thought Fran Drescher was annoying (and an outdated reference), try listening to this green goblin yack while balancing heavy objects on your mind. I’m surprised Luke didn’t lightsaber a brother with all that screeching and backwards talking.

Hank Azaria
If Lon Chaney was the Man of a Thousand Faces, Azaria would be his vocal equivalent. On the Simpsons alone Azaria provides the voice for Moe Szyslak, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Chief
Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, Carl Carlson and many more. Best. Voice Over. Artist. Ever.

Samuel L. Jackson
So many mutherf$%king swears come from of his mutherf$%king voice!

Stephen Hawking
Congrats, Stevie, your voice proves you are the first true cyborg.

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