Cast & Crew
When Winnie Layden discovers that a delapidated colonial tavern is for sale, she zealously offers to buy the property, intending to turn it into a charming inn. The owner, Professor Nathaniel Billings, agrees to sell it on the condition that he be allowed to continue his experiments in the basement lab. Eagerly agreeing to his terms, Winnie hires the professor's eccentric housekeeper, Amelia Jones, who raises imaginary chickens, and his pig-loving handyman, Ebenezer, to help run the place. Retiring to his lab, the professor sets about completing his latest experiment, the transformation of Johnson, an itinerant peddler, into a superman. Unfortunately for Johnson, the experiment fails, and rather than becoming a superman, the peddler becomes a dead man. Soon after, Dr. Arthur Lorentz, the town's sheriff, doctor, banker, mayor and justice of the peace, arrives at the tavern to close the sale. He is followed by Winnie's ex-husband Bill, who has tracked down Winnie to tell her that he is to report to the armed services in ten days. Bill, who is appalled by his wife's disregard for money, tries to prevent the sale, but the wily Lorentz, who holds the mortgage on the property, quickly closes the deal. Soon after, J. Gilbert Brampton knocks at the door and inquires about renting a room. At dinner that night, Brampton is describing his work as a choreographer when a scream interrupts the meal. Ebenezer leaves the table to comfort his friend, a ghost named Uncus. Sensing that something is amiss, Bill sneaks into the professor's lab and discovers Johnson's body. After grabbing Winnie, Bill runs to Lorentz's house to report a murder. Pinning on his sheriff's badge, Lorentz returns to the tavern to question the professor. When the professor explains that Johnson's death was accidental and asks the sheriff's help in depositing the corpse in cold storage with "the others," Lorentz accuses the professor of being a homicidal maniac. After he realizes there is money to be made in supermen, however, Lorentz offers to invest in the professor's experiments. Later, when Lorentz tries to placate Bill by telling him that Johnson was not dead but just unconscious, Bill begins to believe that the talk of corpses and ghosts is part of a plot to frighten Winnie into selling back the land cheaply. Several days later, a salesman named Maxie appears at the door, peddlng powder puffs. Seeing him as a new subject for their experiments, the professor and Lorentz buy his entire stock. When Maxie faints at the good news, they carry him to the basement. After he awakens, Maxie confesses that he suffers from an inferiority complex, and the two offer to cure him and eagerly place the professor's experimental helmet on his head. The top of Maxie's head is ticklish, however, and when he is is no longer able to tolerate the helmet, Lorentz sends him to his office to retrieve a box of sedatives. After Maxie leaves, the professor and Lorentz observe Brampton rattling the floorboards, and becoming suspicious, decide to search his luggage. When the kitten that lives in Lorentz's pocket begins to meow, he and the professor follow the animal to a new boarder's room and there find the border's dead body. Lorentz and the professor immediately call the police, but when Bill enters the room to see the corpse for himself, it has vanished. While driving to the tavern, the officers, Starrett and Quincy, are stopped by a soldier for driving too close to a munitions plant and are detained as spies. Meanwhile, Maxie returns to the tavern with a box of sedative powder, but when his blocked sinuses prevent the sedative from working, the professor and Lorentz inhale the powder and pass out. Believing that he has killed them, Maxie summons Winnie and Bill to the basement, and when they inhale the drug, they too pass out. Soon after, the professor and Lorentz awaken, and when they find Bill's unconscious body, they decide to experiment on him. Interrupted by the sound of someone breaking in, they hastily hide Bill's and Winnie's bodies in the cold storage room with the other corpses. The intruder introduces himself as facist Silvio Bacigalupi, the human bomb, and announces that he plans to blow up the munitions plant. When Maxie returns to the basement, Silvio hides, and the professor and Lorentz decide to combat the human bomb by transforming Maxie into a superman. Meanwhile, Winnie and Bill awaken amid the bodies and discover a secret passageway leading to Bill's room. Proceeding to the living room, they find Brampton's body, a knife plunged into his back. After Brampton regains consciousness, he explains that his corset deflected the knife's blade and offers Winnie $20,000 for the property, admitting that he is really a curator for a historical society. When the officers finally arrive at the house, Brampton accuses Amelia of stabbing him. She in turn shows the police a body in the closet and Bill informs them of the five others downstairs. The group descends into the basement just as the professor pulls the switch, extinguishing yet another one of his subjects. As they argue over Maxie's body, Silvio comes out of hiding and lights the fuse to the dynamite that he carries in his knapsack. At that moment, the bodies come parading out of the store room, causing the terrified Silvio to toss his bomb at Maxie. When the bomb explodes, Maxie awakens and Lorentz announces that the professor has inadvertently developed a state of suspended animation. After the flabbergasted officers threaten to commit the group, Lorentz assures them all not to worry because he is chairman of the board at the asylum.
Robert B. Hunt
M. W. Stoloff
And if you ever need anything, like medical attention, or fire insurance, or a marriage performed, or a loan, perhaps? I should be delighted to oblige.- Dr. Lorenz
Doesn't anybody else do anything in Jinxville?- Winnie Slade
Oh, they... they vote once a year.- Dr. Lorenz
Do you imagine I could take advantage, exploit, capitalize on a great scientific discovery? Cheat millions of people all the world over? Profane my profession? Suppose I make a few dollars, don't you think I wouldn't put it right back into science?- Dr. Lorenz
If he is a choreographer, then I am Pavlova.- Dr. Lorenz
It isn't in Brampton's room. That proves he did it! He's covering up!- Dr. Lorenz
In this sack, I have forty kilos of dynamite, and I don't mean ravioli!- Silvio, the Human Bomb
They murdered him! Just like they murdered the other one!- Bill Leyden
Please! Please! The word is, "martyrized."- Prof. Nathaniel Billings
In onscreen credits, Jeff Donnell's name is presented as (Miss) Jeff Donnell. According to pre-production news items in Hollywood Reporter, Jack Fier was initially slated to produce this picture and Ned Dandy, Aubrey Wisberg, Fred Rinaldo and Robert Lees were to have worked on the screenplay; the extent of their contribution to the released film has not been determined. Many reviews commented that this film was a "poor man's version" of the 1941 play Arsenic and Old Lace, which featured Boris Karloff in its original Broadway run. This was the last film in Maxie Rosenbloom's three picture deal with Columbia, according to a Hollywood Reporter news item.