On a cool, October night in 1956, Howard and Betty Slack join the rest of the salesmen of the Waldo Gray Insurance Agency (Jake, the pseudo-intellectual, Ferdinand, the former clergyman, Wayne, the bully and Harvey, the loser… along with their wives and the Widow Harwood) who have gathered at the boss’ home (past the cemetery, almost into the country!) to enjoy the hospitality of the Grays… Waldo and Marlene, son Timmy and dog Spot… to eat Lobster Newburg, drink blue champagne and compete with one another for the position of Waldo’s recently deceased Vice-President Henry Harwood.
After each has made his presentation, dinner is interrupted by notice of a fire, to which the Grays invariably rush… leaving their protégés to their own devices. More champagne is consumed and mischief ensues… infidelity and backbiting, interruptions by a politician and rented beatnik, a mousetrap. Howard and Betty discover that the champagne has possibly come from Bad China… a suspicion bolstered by Timmy Gray, who also shows them a cabinet of vodka and a secret radio, as well as a secret door that leads downwards into unimaginable depths. Alarmed, Howard pours the champagne out into the tankful of lobsters but the guests are drunk already, and the lobsters, growing to vast proportions, smash through their confinement and begin a course of mayhem and murder that is enhanced by fire and by the salesmen’s own megalomania.
Escaping down the secret stairwell, Howard, Betty, Timmy and Spot encounter fugitive slaves, remorseless bounty-hunters and their hell-hound; leading to a course of perilous adventures brought to a close only by the return of Waldo Gray for his decision, explanations, cigars and more champagne.
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