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Universal Australia are currently re-releasing a lot of their Universal classics onto DVD, but it seems that in this country anyway, they don’t want to release any of the classic Abbott & Costello movies of the 1940s. Before the end of the year some Laurel and Hardy films will be released (great) but no A&C. (Not even the classic A&C Meet Frankenstein) I am actually not entirely sure whether there have been any official A&C DVD releases in Australia, although I do know that Africa Screams is available on a cheap public domain DVD. It’s a shame as they are really good films.
Hold That Ghost is one of the earliest A&C films and their first foray into the comedy/horror genre that they would do to greater effect a few years later. One of the first things that I noticed with this film is just how abusive Bud is to Lou. There are occasions where he hits Costello with all the fervour of Moe Howard slapping Larry and Curly in the 3 Stooges shorts. It is quite uncomfortable to watch and I am glad that this element was toned down in later films as it doesn’t seem to have the cartoony humour of the Stooges. It just seems really mean.
It is a pretty funny film and it did provide quite a few laughs, although I found Lou to be a tad more annoying than he is in later films. Here he is a man/child rather than a proper, well defined character. I guess as this was just the third film that Abbott & Costello (but fourth released) made they were still honing their screen personas, even though they had been working together on the vaudeville circuit for many years. He also does that annoying whistle thing that Warner Bros. Babbitt and Catstello always parodied. Otherwise he does have a few golden moments, including the famed candle sequence and is quite funny.
It should be noted that Shemp Howard, one of the 3 Stooges appears briefly in this film as a bartender. He doesn’t really do anything of note but it’s always interesting to see Shemp pop up in non-Stooge films. This was in the years when Shemp was trying to make it on his own and Curly took his place in the Stooges. (Although Shemp would replace Curly a few years later after Curly’s stroke) He’s also in W.C. Fields’ The Bank Dick.
I enjoyed the film a lot and wish that this and other A&C comedies would be officially released in this country onto DVD. They have been released several times in the USA so it’s not that difficult for Universal Australia to do (hint, hint).