Scared to Death (1947) is a horror film directed by Christy Cabanne and starring Bela Lugosi. It was filmed in Cinecolor, is one of only three color pictures Lugosi made, and the only one he starred in. The film is notable for its narration by a dead woman — she describes the events leading up to her death.
The film opens with the disclosure by morgue examiners that a beautiful woman has literally died of fright. The plot reveals how she reached the fatal stage of terror.
The woman is married to the son of a doctor, the proprietor of a private sanatorium, where she is under unwilling treatment. Both the son and the doctor indicate they want the marriage dissolved. Arriving at the scene is a mysterious personage identified as the doctor’s brother who formerly was a stage magician in Europe. He is accompanied by a threatening dwarf.
After it is apparent that the wife is terrified of the foreigners, it is disclosed that she is the former wife and partner of a Paris dancer known as René, who had been shot by the Nazis. Attempts to draw a confession that she had betrayed her dancer husband and had collaborated with the Nazis led to the use of a device employing a death mask of the dead patriot, which literally frightens her to death.
Although the young newspaperman hero and his sweetheart guess the answer to the story, they allow the diagnosis “scared to death” to stand.
” …director Christy Cabanne seems to have tried very hard to convince audiences that this was nothing so passé as a horror movie, but what else are we to think we’re watching when a green-faced villain eavesdrops through the windows after dark, when George Zucco plays a doctor with an apparently unsavory secret, or when Bela Lugosi strides onto the set with Angelo Rossitto at his side, clad in his unmistakable scarlet-lined Dracula cape? More seriously, Scared to Death lacks the conviction necessary for the defiant stupidity of the most entertaining of the 1940’s poverty-row spookshows. Its creators seem embarrassed by the movie’s glaring lapses of logic.”
1000 Misspent Hours