One of the oddest and most clearly surreal of all Hollywood feature films, William McGann’s Sh! The Octopus (1937) features Warner Bros. stalwarts Allen Jenkins and Hugh Herbert as two dimwitted detectives investigating mysterious goings-on at a deserted lighthouse. Of course, the lighthouse serves as the clandestine headquarters of a master criminal known only as The Octopus, who keeps a live, giant octopus in an aquarium underneath the lighthouse. That’s just the beginning of this incredibly bizarre film, which seems to do whatever it wants to do whenever it wants to do it, without any regard for logic, narrative, or viewer expectations.
There are numerous websites that discuss this film in detail; a quick Google search will uncover them; suffice it to say that this one-of-a-kind 54 minute film has an air of experimental abandon that reminds one of nothing so much as Luis Buñuel’s L’Age d’Or (1930); the climax of the film is a bizarre mashup of every imaginable genre, from horror to comedy to romance, and all possible stops inbetween. Sh! The Octopus has recently been released as part of a box set of six films on Warner Archive Video; certainly worth an hour of your time.