A scene from SH! THE OCTOPUS, directed by William C. McGann for Warner Bros.

Sh! The Octopus (1937, William C. McGann)

Sh! The Octopus is a painfully unfunny spoof of the “old dark house” genre. Instead of a house, though, it takes place in a lighthouse on a rocky island. That setting should be enough, but it appears Warner only budgeted for the lighthouse model. The action principally takes place inside the lighthouse, in its large central room.

We hear about other rooms… but we never get to see them.

The film opens with John Eldredge taking possession of the lighthouse. The action then awkwardly moves to Allen Jenkins and Hugh Herbert as two moron detectives. Octopus is in this weird, “make fun of the Irish” comedy style. I’ve never really seen anything like it before….

Anyway, Herbert and Jenkins end up at the lighthouse and countless characters magically appear there too. No one seems to remember it’s supposed to be three miles out to sea.

Most of the acting is bad. Herbert’s endearing, but not good. Jenkins is endearing and mediocre. He’s clearly better than the material.

Eldredge is good. Margaret Irving is absolutely fantastic.

Sadly, she’s not in the film enough and, as Eldredge’s romantic interest, Marcia Ralston is terrible. George Rosener’s awful too.

There’s one amazing special effect at the end (and some good ones throughout involving octopus arms), but there’s nothing else. The most amusing part is this strange section with animals performing tricks.

The plot gets really confusing, which got me hoping the payoff would at least be satisfactory.

Unfortunately, it is not. Not one bit.



Directed by William C. McGann; screenplay by George Bricker, based on a play by Ralph Spence and a play by Ralph Murphy and Donald Gallaher; director of photography, Arthur L. Todd; edited by Clarence Kolster; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Hugh Herbert (Kelly), Allen Jenkins (Dempsey), Marcia Ralston (Vesta Vernoff), John Eldredge (Paul Morgan), George Rosener (Capt. Hook), Brandon Tynan (Capt. Cobb), Eric Stanley (Police Commissioner Patrick Aloysious Clancy), Margaret Irving (Polly Crane) and Elspeth Dudgeon (Nanny).


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