You'll Find Out (1940)
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All in all, this is a great movie that the whole family can enjoy. From quick repartee to visual slapstick, it delivers from beginning to end. A refreshing break from the heavy-handed comedy too often found today.
I LOVE THIS MOVIE!!!
It's one of those so-corny-it's-hep 1940s comedy-horror farces that came into fashion with "The Ghost Breakers" and reached its full flowering with "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein." Here, Kay Kyser and his Kollege provide rather more palatable comedy relief than Bob Hope or Bud and Lou, as well as some first-class musical interludes. Horror fans may regret that Lugosi and Karloff are not given quite as much screen time as Ish Kabibble, but will be pleased to find they are both handled with warmth, delicacy and a certain gravitas befitting such grand gentlemen of the cinema. As for the top-billed "bad humor man" Peter Lorre, in no other film has his exotic decadence been showcased so deliciously.
This movie has a GREAT gimmick called the Sonovox. It is similar to the electronic voice box of today, but with much better fidelity. Two small very high powered speakers are held against the upper throat, and you just mouth the words, the speakers provide the voice. Peter Frampton used a variation of this for one of his songs.
There is a wonderful demonstration of the Sonovox at the end of the movie.
Also the big band numbers are great. The two main singers "Handsome" Harry Babbitt and "Gorgeous" Ginny Simms have very fine voices and sing very fine songs in the movie. Yes "The Bad Humor Man" is silly but "WHO CARES"?
The three "horror" stars are great too, Bela Lugosi steals the show, Peter Lorre smokes up a storm, and Boris Karloff is oddly restrained. If you like Big Band music and Old Movies, I think you will like this one.
It's wonderful how the storyline was meshed into that of a musical. That was brilliant writing. The story centers around the typical 40s mystery/horror genre - old mansion, creepy happenings, things flying around in the dark, people stuck because the bridge washed out, and music to shake in your boots by. I can certainly recommend that you check this out if you're a fan of slapstick because the horror line will definitely keep you watching. Great stuff!
The setup is simple enough: it is explicitly a self-aware movie. In fact Kyser comes on at the end and assures the audience that Lorre, Karloff and Lugosi aren't really murders. Within that are several performances of the band, performances I assume are similar to what they did in non-movie-land. Two performances.
Added to that in a clever way is a third. For this you need some background.
From about 1880 to 1910, many North Americans were spiritualists. Yes, about as many as today call themselves evangelists, the movement that displaced spiritualism. The rapidity of the change is breathtaking in a sociological context and interesting in itself. By the thirties, the "next" generation was making serious fun of spiritualism, usually in terms of uncovering a fake séance.
I've found several earlier fake séance movies, but they are all in the context of detective movies. That's another story all together. Superficially, they look like the fakery in this movie: a secret room, microphones, special effects, gullible participants holding hands.
But this is the first I think that references it as a performance. A lot flows from that tipping point on both sides: movies and the religious show.
Three layered performances, here.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
The jokes are a bit predictable but considering this film was made in 1940 it still is fun and even at times scary. Adding a bit of campiness to the classic horror genre of the time. I highly recommend it.
Who was Kay Kaiser? A band leader with a very popular radio show. It was off beat and full of double talk and music. Kaiser's career last for only a short time before he decided to give up Hollywood and move back home to North Carolina.
Here the show is on the screen as Kay and his band end up stranded in a house where the three kings of horror are wandering about. Its standard fair but everyone milks it for all they can and for the most part it's a good, if too long by 20 minute horror comedy musical.
If you run across it on TCM or one of the other oldie stations give it a shot. Its a good 97 minutes. 7 out of 10.
In brief, the Sonovox involves a source sound (such as a sound effect or musical instrument) fed through a power amplifier into two small sound transducers, like those used for horn loudspeakers that have disk rather than cone diaphragms (constructed like earphones). These transducers are pressed against a performer's throat on each side of the area outside the voice box (larynx). Audio coupled from the drivers into the voice box becomes a substitute for vocal chord stimulation, while the performer silently and carefully forms the usual speaking or singing voiced sounds using only gestures made with the mouth and tongue. An especially high quality Sonovox effect results when a well trained performer additionally speaks the unvoiced fricative components ("s", "t", "sh", etc.). A sensitive microphone closely placed in front of the performer's mouth captures the Sonovox sound for recording.
Most of my fondest Sonovox recollections come from the 1940's. A couple of famous examples of the Sonovox technique are found in radio advertising, where an antacid product was proclaimed by a chugging steam locomotive sounding like "Bromo-Seltzer, Btomo- Seltzer ...," and the need to use Lifebouy soap was promoted by a high-tone to low-tone fog horn that belched "Beeeee-Ohhhhh" (for body odor).
Perhaps one of the grandest uses of the device is found in the RKO Radio Pictures 1940 movie You'll Find Out. Here the Sonovox produces ghostly sounds such as howling winds that talk, while the Sonovox mechanism is amply (albeit somewhat unrealistically) showcased. But the best part is the concluding musical numbers where Harry Babbitt causes musical instruments "sing" along with Ginny Simms. In the first tune Harry Sonovox's with the saxophone section and muted trumpets to the song "I'd Know You anywhere" (Ginny does this one in a normal fashion midway through the film). The melody then segues into "One Track Mind" sung by Ginny, with Harry adding duet support both naturally and through the Sonovox with the clarinets. This all too brief Sonovox musical segment still runs chills up and down my spine, and is the epitome of Sonovox enhanced entertainment.
As can be deduced from the Sonovox operating description given above, producing a Sonovox sound requires specialized equipment generally unavailable to most hobbyists and musicians. However, in the early 1970's Peter Frampton developed a Sonovox like device known as a Talk Box. This much simplified unit involves a single transducer with an flexible plastic tube to transfer electric guitar music to the mouth of the performer. By mouthing the words or other effects, the guitar player emits a Sonovox type sound into a microphone. Talk Boxes may be obtained commercially for between $100-$300.
But this isn't the only modern imitation of the Sonovox. The implementation of artificial speech by means of the channel vocoder provides another way for doing the job. Quite a few hardware and software versions of these exist. There is a down-loadable PC program that is quite effective in producing Sonovox sounds and music, and the best thing about it is that it's free.
You'll Find Out features Kay and the boys hired to play at a party that their manager Dennis O'Keefe has arranged for his girlfriend Helen Parrish. She's an heiress whose money is held in trust by her aunt Alma Kruger. But Kruger is in the thrall of fake swami Bela Lugosi who's got a séance also planned for the evening. Also in attendance in addition to Parrish's girlfriends are Boris Karloff as the family attorney and Peter Lorre as a psychologist hired to expose Lugosi as a fake.
If you liked as I do Abbott&Costello Meet Frankenstein than you should like this film as well. In fact Bud and Lou also did Hold That Ghost which is even more similar to this film. But it's a double treat if you like the music of the era as I did.
Kay Kyser's orchestra also featured singers Harry Babbitt and Ginny Simms who introduce I'd Know You Anywhere which gained for You'll Find Out an Oscar nomination. Kyser himself was good as both comedian and musician.
Even though it's a comedy and not a Gothic horror film one should never pass up seeing Karloff, Lugosi, and Lorre in the same film.
Granted, there is a bit too much music ("Bad Humor Man" could've been axed), but the secret panels, seances, ghost music, and other thrills make this a highly entertaining film!
Beginning with Kay Kyser, dressed in graduation garb, hosting his Wednesday night radio quiz program, "College of Musical Knowledge" the story gets underway as Chuck Deam (Dennis O'Keefe), Kyser's manager, arranging for Kay and his band to come to the an estate where they are to entertain at the 21st birthday party for Chuck's girl, Janis Belocratz (Helen Parrish). Before their departure, Chuck rescues Janis from getting struck by a speeding automobile while standing outside the radio station. She then reveals to him this to be her second near miss experience during the past two weeks. Seeing that her life may be in danger, Chuck agrees to watch over her. Arriving by bus to the Belocratz estate with his troupe during a thunderstorm, Kyser and company find the place to not only have a spooky outlook but an assortment of oddball characters: namely Janis's aunt, Margo Belocratz (Alma Kruger), a psychic; Judge Spencer Mannaring (Boris Karloff), the family lawyer; Prince Saliano (Bela Lugosi), a turban wearing spiritualist; and Professor Karl Fenninger (Peter Lorre), the guest of honor. Mysterious circumstances occur following the explosion of a bridge being their only means of entering and leaving the estate; Janis's near death encounters ranging from a blowgun needle to a falling chandelier; a mysterious figure lurking through the window; and a mystery man (Leonard Mudie) claiming to be Professor Fenninger. As the Kyser band provide some musical entertainment to ease the tension, Kyser himself, assisted with Chuck and Kabibble's dog, Prince, takes it upon himself playing detective to see what lurks ahead. Does Kay get the results? You'll find out!
A mystery-comedy consisting of various songs by Johnny Mercer and Jimmy McHugh include: "I'm Telling You, Baby" (introduced by Sully Mason, sung by the Kyser band); "You Got Me This Way, Crazy for You" (sung by Harry Babbitt); "The Bad Humor Man" (sung by Babbitt and Kyser band); "I'd Know You Anywhere" (sung by Ginny Simms); "One Track Mind," "I'd Know You Anywhere" (reprise) and "One Track Mind" (sung by Simms).
Although the script may not appear too original, its time-worn related theme dating back to the silent era did serve as fine material for other comics as Bob Hope with THE GHOST BREAKERS (1940); Abbott and Costello in HOLD THAT GHOST (1941), or even The Three Stooges in one of their many comedy shorts for Columbia (1934-1959). Take notice how Ish Kabibble can very well be taken for the younger version of Stooge leader, Moe Howard, with his Buster Brown haircut that stands upward whenever Ish encounters elements of surprise. A little contrived, YOU'LL FIND OUT does allow for some exceptionally good individual scenes during its 97 minutes, namely the two separate séance sequences played for laughs with a touch of suspense, and Kyser going through the motions through secret panels and dark hallways, along with encountering movable objects and a sound effects machine known as the Sonovox.
Because Karloff and Lugosi share limited scenes together, and virtually take the back seat to the musical-comedy antics of Kay Kyser and his band, YOU'LL FIND OUT is generally dismissed or overlooked as part of their frequent pairings made famous over at Universal Studios. In spite of their great presence, it is Lorre who comes across as the creepier of the three with those sinister eyes and soft-speaking manner bearing no difference from his performance from suspense thrillers as his most recent STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR (RKO, 1940) to add irony to the story such as it is. Karloff retains his dignified manner as does Lugosi with his mysterious intentions, leaving much of the comedy to others involved, namely its star, Kay Kyser, with a kind face and glasses reminiscent to silent film comedian Harold Lloyd.
Often funny, sometimes silly, but typical Kyser flare, especially when looking directly into the camera to address the motion picture audience that the movie was "all in fun," which was intended to be. YOU'LL FIND OUT, which often played on American Movie Classics prior to 2001, can be seen occasionally on Turner Classic Movies, appropriately around Halloween time. Watch for Kay Kyser's next escapade with his band in PLAYMATES(1941) with guest star John Barrymore. Any good? You'll find out! (***)
I saw "You'll Find Out" on American Movie Classics many years ago and have wanted to see it again. Does anyone know if this has ever been released on DVD? Looks like it has not. Anyway, if you like this kind of stuff, its is one of the best. You might think its a blast. Or you might think it's goofy garbage.Watch it and "You'll Find Out!"
Although (as is often the case with these comedy-horrors) the supernatural turn out to be predictably down-to-earth at the film's close, there are still plenty of spooky shenanigans before that, especially a hair-raising séance scene involving a floating disembodied head which is genuinely shuddersome after all these years, a magnificent macabre sight. This film is worth watching for horror buffs too for the casting of three of the genre's finest performers - Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Peter Lorre. A turbaned Lugosi is never anything less than sinister from when he first appears in a mirror and really seems to be enjoying himself in his minor role, sending up his horror persona. Karloff in comparison is his typically genteel self until his darker side is revealed later on in the film, and finally Lorre has a ball as the fraudulent professor, inimitably reading lines with his silky voice and creating plenty of shudders. Even Kyser, who starts off as being exceptionally irritating, is quite amiable as the bumbling investigator and there are some many things going on that the running time flies by. A worthwhile curiosity, not the best perhaps but definitely not bad, and worth watching just to see the famed horror trio in their only appearance together.
The corny Kay Kyser had a hit radio show in the late 1930's and 1940's. He made one film a year at RKO from 1939 to 1943, and here, he gets to spoof the old dark house genre. The three villains are all appropriately creepy, and Kruger, usually cast as a stern dowager, is closer to the type of roles Billie Burke was playing. Dennis O'Keefe, who appeared in another similar film the same year ("Topper Returns"), is again the handsome hero protecting the endangered heroine. A cute little pup with a glow-in-the-dark waggedy tale also gets to steal a few scenes and even ends up a hero.
Musically, there are some good things here, with pretty Ginny Simms singing the Oscar Nominated "I'd Know You Anywhere". Two comical numbers are presented with some truly corny visual and verbal gags, including "Like the Fella Once Said" and the totally silly "The Bad Humor Man", giving mop-topped Ish Kabibble (the name says it all) his opportunity to take silliness to a new level of eye-rolling groans. When the film focuses on the supernatural elements of the script, it gives out a few goose-bumps, especially Lugosi's sound-altered voice coming from an instrument attached to his windpipe. That instrument, used for a musical finale, may not have altered the shape of American music, but it does provide both chills and amusement here. Corny humor may not have aged gracefully as we got more cynical, but in small doses, it can be amusing.