ARNOLD (1973) Reviews and overview of dark comedy horror

 

‘Eight murders and Arnold is the suspect!’

Arnold is a 1973 American dark comedy horror film about an old dead man whose preserved corpse marries his young lover to spite his widow.

Produced and directed by Georg Fenady (Terror in the Wax Museum) from a screenplay co-written by Jameson Brewer (The New Scooby-Doo Movies; The Addams Family series) and John Fenton Murray (The Lost Saucer series; Sigmund and the Sea Monsters series; The Atomic Kid).

The Fenady Productions-Bing Crosby Productions (BCP) movie stars Stella Stevens, Roddy McDowall, Elsa Lanchester, Shani Wallis, Farley Granger and Victor Buono.

Plot:

Lord Arnold Dwellyn (Norman Stuart) and his lover Karen (Stella Stevens) have just been married. However, this is no ordinary marriage … because Arnold is a recent corpse. There are also interesting conditions: Arnold is not to be buried but remains in the family mansion and Karen, in order to inherit his estate, must remain by him in the mansion permanently.

Not everyone is pleased by this arrangement, including Arnold’s wastrel younger brother Robert (Roddy McDowall) (with whom Karen has been having a secret affair), his widow Lady Jocelyn (Shani Wallis) and his solicitor cousin Douglas Whitehead (Patric Knowles); in fact, the only one who is happy with the situation is Arnold’s sister Hester (Elsa Lanchester).

When everybody starts trying to find ways of breaking Arnold’s will and trying to find a huge sum of cash hidden somewhere on the family estate, mysterious deathtraps, apparently planned by Arnold well in advance of his death and tailored to each of the victims, begin dealing with the greedy claimants.

Meanwhile, the local constable (Bernard Fox) investigates the mysterious deaths in a less than effective manner…

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“The humor is intentionally obvious, filled with “groaner” puns, and the entire film is something of a “camp” treat, especially given the cast. No one does his or her best work here, but all involved are at least in the proper spirit, and it’s hard not to get caught up in that spirit — but it’s also not hard to “fall out of it” after 15 or 20 minutes.” AllMovie

Arnold is a chore to get through. The lighting is flat, the music is ghastly, the sets are flimsy, and Stevens gives an embarrassingly bad leading performance. Worst of all, Arnold is timid. Had the folks at Bing Crosby Productions (yes, really!) bothered to contrive a storytelling style as crass as the film’s underlying premise, Arnold might have become a bad-cinema milestone. As is, it’s just tacky.” Every ’70s Movie

” …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.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“As though having fired off its best scene first, the rest of the humour becomes very broad. There are some occasionally entertaining despatches offered up for the various cast members – the most amusing of which is when Roddy McDowall puts on one of Arnold’s suits only to get strangled by it.” Moria

“It has too much of the contrived old-fashioned horror movie elements without adding anything new to it. Even done in the spirit of parody it is too clichéd. The sets are unimaginative and cheap […] The humor is sparse and relies mainly on corny one-liners.” Scopophilia

“A thoroughly inept black comedy/horror send-up […] The plot itself isn’t so bad; it’s the relentlessly chirpy American humour trowelled over everything , the impossible ballad, and the way the performers pause in delivery as if waiting for laughter, that really makes Arnold unbearable.” Time Out (London)

“Lots of bizarre and creative deaths in this horror spoof, including acid-laced face cream and a shrinking suit; quoth the local policeman, “If they keep dying this way, we’ll have to bury them piggy-back!” Unusual wedding scene is a must-see.” Videohound’s Complete Guide to Cult Films and Trash Flicks

Choice dialogue:

Robbie: “Damned Hindu zombie. He is the perfect houseboy for a corpse.”

Cast and characters:

Stella Stevens … Karen
Roddy McDowall … Robert
Elsa Lanchester … Hester
Shani Wallis … Lady Jocelyn Dwellyn
Farley Granger … Evan Lyons
Victor Buono … Minister
John McGiver … Governor
Bernard Fox … Constable Hooke
Patric Knowles … Douglas Whitehead
Jamie Farr … Dybbi
Norman Stuart … Lord Arnold Dwellyn
Ben Wright … Jonesy
Wanda Bailey … Flo
Steven Marlo … First Dart Player
Leslie Thompson … Second Dart Player
Murray Matheson … Lord Arnold Dwellyn (voice) (uncredited)

Filming locations:

Paramount Studios – 5555 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California

Technical details:

94 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: Mono

Release:

In the USA, Arnold was released by Cinerama Releasing Corporation (CRC) on November 16, 1973. It was released on VHS by Lightning Video but there does not seem to have been a DVD release.

Trailer:

YouTube reviews:

MOVIES and MANIA rating: