More Halloween Harvest --- You'll Find Out
I’ve got sympathy for casual buyers/renters blundering into the path of Warner’s new Karloff and Lugosi DVD set. The box says they’re Horror Classics, though closer examination puts the lie to that. Between forums and disc reviews, these four titles have been parsed into molecules and fan conclusions are pretty near the same. I’m like others for wanting everything K and L did at Warners/RKO/Allied Artists (those catalogues owned by WB). Having descended to Zombies On Broadway and You’ll Find Out, it looks as though victory is ours. Best of this pack The Walking Dead plays Judas Goat in leading collector sheep to the slaughter of Frankenstein – 1970 and aforementioned two. I won’t try reader patience dismembering these when for surprising fact there’s much to like about You’ll Find Out and points of interest in all four. Kay Kyser has always interested me for being a North Carolina native and having returned here after making a clean break from show biz in 1950. The story was that Kyser declared he’d drop out upon realizing a first million from performing. Apparently, that’s just what he did. Unlike bandleaders lured back to spotlights from retirement, Kyser put paid to all aspects of music-making life and had zero desire to revisit his past. Major names having done that number in a handful. I’ve not forgotten one of Richard Lamparski’s books wherein Kay was tracked down to Chapel Hill by NC collector Milo Holt and subjected to an afternoon of old Kyser musicals unspooled in the family’s living room. The former headliner’s daughters had no interest in seeing them and … it seemed Kay and Georgia (his wife Georgia Carroll) watched only out of politeness. That was 1973. Kay Kyser died in 1985. His daughter has subsequently taken up a documentary project with aid from the North Carolina Museum Of Art. I’ll want to see that when it’s done.
The Bad Humor Men that livened up You’ll Find Out in 1940 were Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Bela Lugosi. Their billing played musical chairs according to which credits or poster you consulted. Wide audiences preferred the three laughing at themselves. These were days when Mom, Dad, and kids attended movies together and nothing split tickets like a show too scary for fragile patronage. The Frankensteins and Draculas weren’t worth a risk of sleepless nights for little ones. Horror films served best in isolation and done on small budgets, for they’d never broaden out to audiences so big as those listening weekly to Kay Kyser’s radio program. You’ll Find Out was the richest stage Karloff and Lugosi ever worked on together. Thousands would have been seeing them here for the first time. The likes of You’ll Find Out made K and L safer commodities, paving a way for spook spoofing to come and Karloff’s triumph of self-parody, Arsenic and Old Lace. I’m happy to see the pair amidst luxurious trappings wherein careful photography and elegant costuming display both at peaks of effectiveness (we fans are very protective of K and L’s status and dignity). It may be all in fun, but Lugosi here conducts a whale of a séance that I found creepier than many such episodes played straight amidst cheaper environs. Yes, you could say they’re "wasted," but there’s generally at least one of the three menacing Kyser and band throughout You’ll Find Out’s 97 minutes, so I was not restless.
There’s a big dose of silly with every Kyser serving. Comedy became as much his shtick as music, and jesting band members were favorites with or minus instruments. Smoother than fire engine Spike Jones, the Kyser sound bounced from squirrelly to mellow depending on a given moment’s demand. Kay was immensely likeable and pretty good with dialogue (his a lilting drawl, just like mine). He didn't seem intimidated by powerhouse talent sharing sets and stages (a later co-star would be John Barrymore). You’ll Find Out opens with the band’s radio show in progress, and it’s here we glimpse how well Kyser worked his audience. The act plays at a disadvantage later as YFT repairs to its haunted house, a setting more congenial to triple threat of Karloff, Lugosi, and Lorre. What’s left essentially replays Cat and Canary nonsense with extended slippage through hidden panels and concealed rooms. Nowaday fans have loosed microscopes upon scenes where Kyser comes across King Kong’s spider and dinosaur models inexplicably strewn about cupboards, these being a handy short-cut for RKO set decorators who’d kept the things in storage since 1933. With help of freeze frames, the 2009 Kong brain trust has identified each and all of these miniatures. Working my own pause button was a singular highlight of You’ll Find Out, but the thing I want to know is, what happened to those wonderful artifacts? How long did they survive? It seems someone told me of a Desilu sales reel wherein Desi Arnaz strode amongst props at the RKO lot he and Lucy bought in the fifties, and there were Kong models still in evidence. That would be some fifteen years after You’ll Find Out. Were all these little monsters eventually thrown away, or did little monster offspring of lot personnel wind up taking them home for play toys?