Public Domain Movie: Scared to Death (1947)

Scared to Death (1947): Review

Scared to Death starts off in a morgue, and what better place could there be for a horror film to begin? As a woman lies there growing ever colder on the slab the two medical examiners wonder what her last moments might have been like, the screen goes suitably wavy and dream-like, and the viewer is transported to a time before the dead gal was a dead gal and is stretched out on a doctor’s examination couch instead. The doctor is her father-in-law and, like his son, he is anxious to get her out of the family. The not-yet-dead-gal has other ideas.

Scared to Death is the only colour film in which Bela Lugosi had a starring role, although he did have non-starring roles in two other colour films. Lugosi plays a stage magician who turns up at the not-yet-dead gal’s father-in-laws front door with a rather strange-looking dwarf beside him. It is quite a memorable sight when the maid swings the front door open to reveal Lugosi standing there in a black cape and a trilby hat, while the dwarf appears to be getting ready for a conversation with his companion’s kneecaps—it’s worth watching the film for that alone.

The not-yet-dead-gal seems to be being haunted. Either that or someone is trying to drive her out of her mind and this is exactly what she seems to think is happening. It adds more than a little credence to the idea when the maid delivers a parcel to her that seems to contain a woman’s severed head (scream!) but turns out to belong to a decapitated mannequin.

There is, however, the matter of the blue face that keeps appearing outside the windows and floating in and out of view. It looks as if someone has decapitated the mannequin’s husband as well, gone to work with some blue chalk and then stuck his head on a long stick with the intention to terrify. But do you know what? It also looks pretty darn creepy and if you decide to watch the film you might even get a shiver or two from, but are unlikely to be scared to death.

Anyway that’s about all that I can really say about Scared to Death, if you want to know more you will just have to watch it yourself. There is, as always, a player lower down the page.

Additional Information

Director: Christy Cabanne


Bela Lugosi … Prof. Leonide
George Zucco … Dr. Josef Van Ee

Nat Pendleton … Bill ‘Bull’ Raymond
Molly Lamont … Laura Van Ee

Joyce Compton … Jane Cornell
Gladys Blake … Lilly Beth (the maid)

Roland Varno … Ward Van Ee
Douglas Fowley … Terry Lee

Stanley Andrews … Pathologist
Angelo Rossitto … Indigo

Lee Bennett … Rene the Killer
Stanley Price … Intern

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