Thursday, November 24, 2016

Sh! The Octopus - A Fun Lighthouse Mystery

By Steve D. Stones

This 1937 comedy-mystery feature produced by Warner Brothers is loosely based on a stage play known as The Gorilla, then later made as a 1930 talkie, and was then made into a comedy starring the Ritz brothers in 1939. In this version, an octopus is substituted for the gorilla role. The script has many miles on it from its various filmed versions. The film stars two great comedy veterans - Hugh Herbert and Allen Jenkins as bumbling police detectives. They provide great comic relief to the film.

A young artist named Paul Morgan, played by John Eldredge, purchases a secluded lighthouse so he can work in private on his marine paintings. Captain Cobb (Brandon Tynan) escorts Morgan into the lighthouse and tells him the place has not been occupied for over twenty years. Morgan finds evidence that this is not true. A soft, warm candle is on the table, indicating that someone has been there recently. A knock at the door reveals another local captain - Captain Hook, who is the only other person with keys to the lighthouse.

Meanwhile two police detectives, Kelly (Hugh Herbert ) and Dempsey (Allen Jenkins)  are traveling on the mainland by car in the pouring rain when a tire blows out. They stop to change the tire and are confronted by a screaming attractive woman named Vesta Vernoff (Marcia Ralston) soaked by the rain. Just before the tire blows out, a radio report in the car tells of an octopus sinking a ship. Vernoff tells of seeing her stepfather's corpse at the lighthouse and of an octopus that lives in the bottom of the lighthouse.

When Vernoff and detectives Kelly and Dempsey arrive at the lighthouse, a hanging corpse is discovered at the top of the lighthouse dripping blood on the table below. Kelly and Dempsey try to investigate, but discover that the stairs of the lighthouse have been removed. A secret panel opens in the wall, and the detectives find some stairs that lead to the hanging corpse. The corpse turns out to be a stuffed dummy with a bottle of ketchup dripping on the table below.

I won't spoil any more of the plot, but some of the fun elements of this film are of scenes of octopus tentacles reaching out from behind doors and a curtain. Somehow the octopus manages to get out of the water below the lighthouse and make it to the main level to reach out behind the doors and curtains to scare the main characters.

Another fun sequence shows a pair of Detective Kelly's shoes hopping around, which is later revealed to be toads inside the shoes. A turtle with a lighted candle on its back burns the seat of Kelly's pants as he is sitting in a chair. Kelly's scuba outfit fills up with water in another hilarious scene as Dempsey and Morgan try to deflate all the water out of the suit.

In March of 2008, Turner Classic Movies played this film on a double-feature with another octopus film - It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955). For further information about Sh! The Octopus, refer to Gary and Susan Svehla's entertaining book - Guilty Pleasures of The Horror Film, published by Midnight Marquee Press, Inc. in 1996.  Happy viewing.

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