YOU'LL FIND OUT! (RKO Radio, 1940), produced and directed by David Butler, marks the second in a series of musical-comedies starring that band-leader and radio personality from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Kay Kyser. A sequel to his screen introduction, THAT'S RIGHT, YOU'RE WRONG (1939), with Adolphe Menjou, Lucille Ball and Dennis O'Keefe in the cast, this edition finds Kyser and his band members (Ish Kabibble, Sully Mason, Harry Babbitt and Ginny Simms) in a "haunted house" theme supported by not one but three horror film greats, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Peter Lorre, in straightforward performances. Also in support are Helen Parrish in a Deanna Durbin look-alike appearance; and Dennis O'Keefe as her romantic interest.
Beginning with Kay Kyser, dressed in graduation garb, hosting his Wednesday night radio quiz program, "College of Musical Knowledge" the story gets underway as Chuck Deam (Dennis O'Keefe), Kyser's manager, arranging for Kay and his band to come to the an estate where they are to entertain at the 21st birthday party for Chuck's girl, Janis Belocratz (Helen Parrish). Before their departure, Chuck rescues Janis from getting struck by a speeding automobile while standing outside the radio station. She then reveals to him this to be her second near miss experience during the past two weeks. Seeing that her life may be in danger, Chuck agrees to watch over her. Arriving by bus to the Belocratz estate with his troupe during a thunderstorm, Kyser and company find the place to not only have a spooky outlook but an assortment of oddball characters: namely Janis's aunt, Margo Belocratz (Alma Kruger), a psychic; Judge Spencer Mannaring (Boris Karloff), the family lawyer; Prince Saliano (Bela Lugosi), a turban wearing spiritualist; and Professor Karl Fenninger (Peter Lorre), the guest of honor. Mysterious circumstances occur following the explosion of a bridge being their only means of entering and leaving the estate; Janis's near death encounters ranging from a blowgun needle to a falling chandelier; a mysterious figure lurking through the window; and a mystery man (Leonard Mudie) claiming to be Professor Fenninger. As the Kyser band provide some musical entertainment to ease the tension, Kyser himself, assisted with Chuck and Kabibble's dog, Prince, takes it upon himself playing detective to see what lurks ahead. Does Kay get the results? You'll find out!
A mystery-comedy consisting of various songs by Johnny Mercer and Jimmy McHugh include: "I'm Telling You, Baby" (introduced by Sully Mason, sung by the Kyser band); "You Got Me This Way, Crazy for You" (sung by Harry Babbitt); "The Bad Humor Man" (sung by Babbitt and Kyser band); "I'd Know You Anywhere" (sung by Ginny Simms); "One Track Mind," "I'd Know You Anywhere" (reprise) and "One Track Mind" (sung by Simms).
Although the script may not appear too original, its time-worn related theme dating back to the silent era did serve as fine material for other comics as Bob Hope with THE GHOST BREAKERS (1940); Abbott and Costello in HOLD THAT GHOST (1941), or even The Three Stooges in one of their many comedy shorts for Columbia (1934-1959). Take notice how Ish Kabibble can very well be taken for the younger version of Stooge leader, Moe Howard, with his Buster Brown haircut that stands upward whenever Ish encounters elements of surprise. A little contrived, YOU'LL FIND OUT does allow for some exceptionally good individual scenes during its 97 minutes, namely the two separate séance sequences played for laughs with a touch of suspense, and Kyser going through the motions through secret panels and dark hallways, along with encountering movable objects and a sound effects machine known as the Sonovox.
Because Karloff and Lugosi share limited scenes together, and virtually take the back seat to the musical-comedy antics of Kay Kyser and his band, YOU'LL FIND OUT is generally dismissed or overlooked as part of their frequent pairings made famous over at Universal Studios. In spite of their great presence, it is Lorre who comes across as the creepier of the three with those sinister eyes and soft-speaking manner bearing no difference from his performance from suspense thrillers as his most recent STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR (RKO, 1940) to add irony to the story such as it is. Karloff retains his dignified manner as does Lugosi with his mysterious intentions, leaving much of the comedy to others involved, namely its star, Kay Kyser, with a kind face and glasses reminiscent to silent film comedian Harold Lloyd.
Often funny, sometimes silly, but typical Kyser flare, especially when looking directly into the camera to address the motion picture audience that the movie was "all in fun," which was intended to be. YOU'LL FIND OUT, which often played on American Movie Classics prior to 2001, can be seen occasionally on Turner Classic Movies, appropriately around Halloween time. Watch for Kay Kyser's next escapade with his band in PLAYMATES(1941) with guest star John Barrymore. Any good? You'll find out! (***)