The short begins on a dark and stormy night. Donald is trying to relax by listening to the radio, but everything on is some combination of violent and terrifying. Then a mysterious, menacing stranger appears at the door... but he turns out to be a travelling book salesman.
Donald reads one of the crime novels the salesman leaves behind, and is quite literally pulled into the story when the characters in the novel accuse him of stealing a pearl necklace.
This cartoon features the following tropes:
- "Bang!" Flag Gun: The Cop uses one of these on Donald, but Donald is so wound-up he acts as if he's been shot for real. Pauline and King both freak out as well and make a break for it.
- Creator Cameo:
- Lesley J. Clark, the hot-iron salesman, is a caricature of Les Clark of Disney's "Nine Old Men".
- Also, the author of the book, J. Harold King, is likely a caricature of Jack King, a longtime director of Donald cartoons.
- The cop (and the one who stole the pearls) is H. Hugh Hennessy, named after one of the studio's top layout artists.
- Deranged Animation: This is hands down one of the weirdest Disney shorts ever, with its bizzare dream logic plotting and surreal, constantly changing backgrounds.
- Dirty Cop: The Cop steals Pauline's bracelets. Then eats them like donuts. He also turns out to be the one who stole the pearls and is clearly not above threatening anyone's lives after the fact.
- Femme Fatale: Pauline, the dame whose pearl necklace got stolen.
- From Beyond the Fourth Wall: The characters in the crime novel Donald reads accuse him of stealing the pearls. Then the book's author shows up to explain everything.
- Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: The author is dressed as one of these when he shows up to explain the plot.
- It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: The short opens on such a night at Donald's house.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: "CLARK! The hot irons!"note The Cop later threatens Donald with a switchblade knife."Hot! Hot! Hot!"
- Killer Gorilla: One of the radio shows Donald listens to is about one. As he listens, the chair he's sitting one turns into a gorilla about to strangle him.
- Mexican Standoff: Played somewhat straight: in a scene often removed from TV broadcasts, the Cop has a switchblade at Donald's throat, while Pauline raises an axe above the Cop's head.
- Mood Whiplash: The book salesman goes from menacing to jolly as he talks about the bicycle he could win selling magazine subscriptions.
- Officer O'Hara: The Cop that threatens Donald is a textbook example.
- Ominous Pipe Organ: Plays throughout the short.
- Only the Author Can Save Them Now: An In-Universe example. And then it's subverted when the Cop threatens the author's life when he is found out to be the culprit.
- Or Was It a Dream?: The short ends with Donald trying to brush off the whole experience as just his imagination getting away with him, only for the pearls to materialize on his neck.
- Raincoat of Horror: Donald is greeted at his door by an intimidating-looking figure wearing a raincoat. It turns out to be a jolly character looking to sell him magazines.
- Retcon / All There in the Manual: A (slightly more) sensical explanation for the events of the short was given in an animated prologue made during the sixties for a rebroadcast of the short on TV. In that version, Witch Hazel (the one from the Donald Duck cartoon "Trick or Treat") creates all those characters to confuse Donald and makes him think he's having a bad dream.
- Shout-Out: The whole short is basically the Disney equivalent of the Tex Avery short, Who Killed Who?, right down to the Ominous Pipe Organ music and the cop in both cartoons being voiced by Billy Bletcher.
- Surreal Humor: Justified, as it's all supposed to take place in Donald's imagination.
- Traveling Salesman: One of these shows up and gives Donald the book that kicks off the plot.
- Your Radio Hates You: Donald tries to relax listening to the radio, but every station is playing either horror stories or crime dramas.