Another surprisingly high-quality addition, raising the overall level of the project to a strong C:
It’s lauded as the BEST of the three Topper movies by some fans on imdb, but you’ll find people praising "Death Wish" sequels as classics in the hoi polloi reviews. Can’t quite see this as better than the original, but it has the charms of the first, even if it lacks Cary Grant. Your enjoyment depends on your appreciation for middlebrow 40s comedies with a jokey-spooky theme, and the inevitable overacting that accompanies an encounter with a floating special effect.
As was the rule in the olden days, the action had to take place in a gigantic matte painting:
This gives you a clue where you might have seen it, many years ago - it’s just the sort of inoffensive haunted-house movie they’d play on Saturday afternoons on local TV. But there’s more money in that FX right there than in most of the Bulldog Drummond budgets, period. For the sets they spared no expense:
It has an excellent cast, including John Waters:
Well, no. It has Joan Blondell, who is always, to use the technical term, a “hoot.” Caroline Landis plays the Pretty Friend, and is she ever:
If you’re not familiar with the series, it’s about a fellow who can talk to ghosts. Topper is not the ghost. Topper is the man. After Joan Blondell is knocked off, she returns as a spunky and occasionally corporeal ghost who enlists ol' Toppie to solve her murder.
As for Topper's wife, she may sound familiar: (flash video; mouse over for controls)
Of course it's who you think it is. It reminded me again that the first experience my generation had with late-30s early 40s culture came from Oz; as kids we had no references for the actors. They existed in those roles, and those roles only. When we saw them later in other roles it almost seemed as if they were cheating, or playing hookey from their real job.
Anyway: Light comedy. Hijinx. Misunderstandings. Secret passages. That sort of thing. The most sensible person in the film wants to have nothing to do with ghosts - unfortunately the conventions of the time require that he exhibit bug-eyed cowardice, but he’s the best comic actor in the picture.
Yes, it’s Rochester. But as with his radio incarnation, he’s no Fetchit. He gets off my favorite line in the movie, too - and it’s proof that post-modern pop culture references were not invented in the 1990s. This should show how his fame was larger than the role:
That line probably brought the house down.
Bonus: a cameo by young, fat David Letterman, uncredited.