Movie Review: Scared Stiff (1945)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1945 mystery/comedy starring Jack Haley and Ann Savage.

Synopsis: Chess editor Larry Elliot is the worst newspaper reporter alive and often will miss or completely ignore a good story and focus on something less important. However, with the rest of the newspaper staffed tied up with an escaped convict story, the newspaper has no choice but to entrust him with covering a festival hosted by their biggest advertiser and assign him the story with the understanding he will lose his job if he screws up again.
Unfortunately for Larry, his bumbling ways continue when he takes the wrong bus and ends up in the wrong city. To make matters worse, the man sitting next to him on the bus is murdered and he is the number one suspect.

Who's In It?

The movie (which also goes by the name Treasure of Fear) stars Jack Haley, Ann Savage, Barton MacLane, Veda Ann Borg and Roger Pryor.


I started watching this classic movie a couple weeks ago but was only able to get through the first 15 minutes before having to turn it off. I had a little bit of time at lunch today so I decided to finish it up and, overall, I thought it was a decent movie.

When I started watching this film, I didn't realize it was going to be a comedy (though I probably should have considering it starred Haley). But, that was actually a pleasant surprise.

I loved how Haley played Jack Elliot. He was a likable guy and apparently a chess wizard. But, as the movie progressed, it was easy to see how his newspaper bosses got so frustrated with him, especially when he had a murder occur inches away from him and never realized it. He was also so nervous and jittery, it would be easy to think he was responsible for the crime and was trying to get away.

The murder mystery was also somewhat interesting. Since there was a big deal made over the escaped prisoner, George 'Deacon' Markham (MacLane) I (correctly) figured he would play some sort of role in everything. However, it was actually a lot more complex than that, with someone (who may or may not be involved with the murder) trying to steal a valuable chess set and a variety of potential suspects.

The suspect that intrigued me most had to be the woman in the room across the hall from his, Flo (Borg). Her story about just being on vacation seemed a little off and the way she took interest in Elliot, despite him being a murder suspect, made me think she was after something. I wasn't sure if she was involved with the murder. But, I did think she wasn't as innocent as she pretended to be.

Probably the only thing I wasn't a fan of when it came to this movie was the little brat, Oliver (Buddy Swan). As I've said in other reviews, I'm not really opposed to child actors in classic movies like this, but they rarely add anything beyond the cuteness factor. And, in this case, there really wasn't anything cute about him. Oliver was just annoying and, had the filmmakers chosen to leave him out, he wouldn't have been missed, even though I did, admittedly, enjoy it when he got his comeuppance at the end (in a way that wouldn't be allowed in today's movies).

Scared Stiff

A meek reporter happens upon murder, an escaped gangster and a stolen jade chess set.

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Final Opinion

It wasn't quite what I was expecting it to be, but it turned out to be a halfway decent mystery/comedy and I would recommend it for a rainy day.

My Grade: B

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Updated: 02/09/2018, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 04/08/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
The library system here does not have Scared Stiff catalogued amongst its Blu-ray and DVD collections. So I don't expect to be seeing this classic in the immediate future.

The IMDb gives the title Scared Stiff to subsequent 1953 and 1987 releases. The first-mentioned film includes Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Carmen Miranda and Lizabeth Scott as interpreting what sounds like a different plot. Would you happen to have seen either of the above-mentioned movies?

Also, who nowadays -- Adam Sandler? -- would interpret comedic roles the way Haley did, and what would you think of a colorized reboot or remake?

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