Not even the terrific pairing of Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre can save this mess.
Karloff plays Nathaniel Billings, an eccentric but earnest old professor. Billings spends his days working in the basement laboratory of his crumbling New England tavern home.
Along comes Winnie, a young divorcee who wants to buy Billings’ house and turn it into an inn. Billings agrees to sell, provided he can stay on and complete his experiments.
Of course, Winnie doesn’t know Billings is trying to engineer an army of atomic supermen to aid the war effort. Or that his test subjects comprise the assorted traveling salesmen that chance upon his door. Or that his experiments have all been fatal failures, leaving him with a room full of well-preserved corpses.
One would expect this sort of thing to come to light during the walk-through, but the script gives Winnie the mental acuity of a toddler.
Lorre plays Arthur Lorencz, a smarmy opportunist who’s the town doctor. He’s also the mayor, mortician, notary, and everything else. He even holds the mortgage on Billings’ home.
When Lorencz, as town sheriff, discovers one of the corpses, he confronts Billings. With idyllic pride, Billings explains his experiments. Lorencz sees dollar signs. Never mind the dead body, Billings’ experiments could net a fortune! Soon they’re partners bemoaning the lack of quality “test subjects”. It’s a terrific bit.
But rather than continue with this low-key, edgy material, the script degenerates into outright farce. The finale sees the cast held hostage by an escaped fascist seeking to blow up a nearby munitions depot. Because, of course, it makes perfect sense to open an inn next to a munitions depot. Karloff and Lorre do their best, but The Boogie Man Will Get You wastes their potential.