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The third of producer Hal Roach's Topper films, Topper Returns eschews the frothy "screwball" format of the first two in favor of an "old dark house" comedy-mystery. Roland Young returns as banker Cosmo Topper, who gallantly offers a lift to pretty hitchhikers Gail Richards (Joan Blondell) and Ann Carrington (Carole Landis). This results in a few baleful glances from Topper's wife, Clara (Billie Burke), but the worst is still to come. It seems that Gail and Ann are en route to a chilly old mansion, recently inherited by Ann and populated by all manner of sinister types, including old reliable menaces Dr. Jeris (George Zucco) and Lillian (Rafaela Ottiano). The only person whom the girls can trust -- or can they? -- is Ann' father (H.B. Warner). Unable to sleep in the creepy mansion, Gail suggests that she and Ann exchange bedrooms. This proves to be a major mistake when a mysterious, hooded assailant, intending to murder Ann, kills Gail instead. Seconds later, Gail's ghost arises from her body and heads to the nearby summer house where Mr. and Mrs. Topper are staying. Having had his fill of ghosts in the first two Topper films, Topper wants nothing to do with Gail's spirit, but she finally convinces him to help her identity her killer, and to rescue Ann from a similar fate. Some of the film's best moments belong to Eddie "Rochester" Anderson as Young's eternally frightened chauffeur (at one point, Anderson threatens to quit the Toppers and go back to Jack Benny)! More contrived and slapstick-oriented than the earlier Toppers, Topper Returns still works as a neat and entertaining comedy, even in its dreadful computer-colorized version. A decade later, Thorne Smith's "Topper" characters would be revived for a popular TV series, starring Leo G. Carroll, Anne Jeffreys, and Robert Sterling. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Willette Acquisition Corp.
NR -- Not rated
1 hour, 28 minutes
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