Neil LaBute's remake of Death at a Funeral opens this week, and it got me thinking as to how much mirth has been generated over the years by the demise of some poor onscreen sucker. Think of the advantages these corpses have. They make the perfect straight man and they never flub a punchline. And, if handled correctly, a dead body can flop out of a coffin or roll down a hill with comic aplomb. Hence, here are seven comedies centered around dead bodies:
1. The Trouble with Harry (1955, Alfred Hitchcock)
This is actually my favorite Hitchcock film; it's one of only two flat-out comedies the Master made, and the other one (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) is more like a standard screwball. This one is rich with the kind of sinister black humor that the director included in his coming attractions trailers and TV shows. It also has a truly gorgeous Technicolor autumn countryside setting, with a button-cute Shirley MacLaine in her film debut (as well as young Jerry Mathers, who would go on to play the title role in TV's "Leave It to Beaver.") The title character is the dead guy, and the trouble he causes is that no one is exactly sure how he died and who might have contributed. Just imagine seeing this in a cinema in the 1950s...