Scared to Death

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Scared to Death
original 1947 theatrical poster
Directed by Christy Cabanne
Produced by William B. David
Written by W.J. Abbott
Based on play Murder on the Operating Table by Frank Orsino
Starring Bela Lugosi
George Zucco
Nat Pendleton
Molly Lamont
Music by Carl Hoefle
Cinematography Marcel LePicard
Edited by George McGuire
Golden Gate Pictures
Distributed by Screen Guild Productions
Release date
  • February 1, 1947 (1947-02-01) (United States)
Running time
65 minutes
68 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $135,000 (estimated)[1]

Scared to Death is a 1947 thriller film directed by Christy Cabanne and starring Bela Lugosi. The picture was filmed in Cinecolor. The film is historically important as the only color film in which Bela Lugosi has a starring role.[2][3]


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 (Bela Lugosi) identified as the doctor's cousin who had been a stage magician in Europe. He is accompanied by a threatening dwarf (Angelo Rossitto).

After it is apparent that the wife is terrified of the foreigners, it is disclosed that she is the former wife and stage partner of a Paris magician known as René, who was believed to have been shot by the Nazis. Attempts to draw a confession that she had betrayed her magician husband and had collaborated with the Nazis led to the use of a device employing a death mask of the supposedly 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.



The film was based on a one-act play which in turn was based on a 1933 murder case involving Dr. Alice Wynekoop.[4]


The film was featured in an episode of Deadly Cinema.


  1. ^ Internet Movie Database Box office/Business for
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Mark Thomas McGee, Talk's Cheap, Action's Expensive: The Films of Robert L. Lippert, Bear Manor Media, 2014 p 108

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