When Lord Arnold Dwellyn (Norman Stuart) died, his wife, Lady Jocelyn (Shani Wallis), became a widow. As part of his funeral arrangements Arnold’s corpse marries his mistress Karen (Stella Stevens). In his will Arnold states that Karen must live with his corpse in the house until her death. Arnold’s dotty sister Hester (Elsa Lanchester) gets a pension and is allowed to live in the mansion as long as she lives. His distant relative and solicitor Douglas Whitehead (Patric Knowles) gets to be retained as the family attorney with his more than generous annual retainer. Arnold’s younger brother Robert (Roddy McDowall) gets nothing. His widow Jocelyn also gets nothing except the title of Lady Dwellyn and the family Rolls-Royce.
Arnold’s corpse is propped up in his coffin in the living room. Arnold’s will is in the form of a cassette taped message. Arnold’s coffin is fitted with a cassette player in which the tape can be heard. In his will Arnold mentions a fortune hidden somewhere on the property. Details will be forthcoming. Everyone is interested in the fortune and Arnold’s hint that it is in a vault.
Jocelyn has been talking to Douglas Whitehead’s assistant Evan Lyons (Farley Granger) about breaking the will. She leaves the mansion and takes a room at the local inn called the Shield and Plume. She is murdered when acid in her face cream burns her. One down. Karen has been having an affair with Robert. Robert plans on hiring the best solicitor in England to break the will so they can be together and Karen doesn’t have to live with a corpse propped up in her living room. Robert ends up dead in an unusual fashion. Two down.
Things starting getting really creepy for Karen when tapes continue to arrive with Arnold’s voice seeming to know exactly what is going on in the family and Arnold looking like perhaps he either really didn’t die or has come back from the dead to make sure everyone fulfills his wishes. And the mansion seems to be booby trapped to make sure the heirs die in grisly ways. As each person is done away with the local constable (Bernard Fox), who is way over his head, reports each death as an accident.
“Arnold” was released in 1973 and was directed by Georg Fenady. It is an American horror mystery and a black comedy. Director Georg Fenady and his producer brother Andrew J. Fenady filmed the movie back to back with “Terror in the Wax Museum” 1973 and used some of the same actors.
As with “Terror in the Wax Museum” it seems to have fallen off the face of the Earth and into the realm of obscurity. The title may have put some people off. It’s a strange little film. There is a lot of grim humor and unusual methods of murder employed. It has some campy dialogue and a standard plot of greedy heirs getting their comeuppance but with a comic twist. The ending had a twilight zone tongue in cheek sort of feel to it. If you’re a fan of movies such as “Murder By Death” 1976 “Clue” 1985 or “The Cheap Detective” 1978 you may enjoy this one as well.
Although the corpse of Arnold Dwellyn was played by Norman Stuart the voice on the tapes was Murray Matheson. Dybbi, the mute, one handed Hindu that was a servant to Arnold was played by M.A.S.H.’s Jamie Farr.