Posts from the ‘Abbott & Costello’ Category

Keep ‘Em Flying

Keep 'Em Flying

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Keep ‘Em Flying is one of the earliest of Abbott & Costello‘s comedies (5th or 6th) and like most of the boy’s early films it is great. Like many of their early films it is another comedy about army life, which were so popular during World War II.

This film features regular A&C co-star Dick Foran as pilot Jinx Roberts, who enlists in the Army Air-Corps and brings Bud and Lou along as his personal mechanics. It also features Martha Raye in the dual role as A&C’s twin girlfriends which leads to a lot of  humour comes when Lou gets muddled up as to which twin is which.

One thing that I find amazing is just how good and how funny the early A&C movies are. I guess that by the late 40s Bud and Lou started recycling old jokes and routines and were really unwilling to try anything new or daring. By the 1950s when their popularity started to slip as Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin became the hot new comedy duo, budgets were cut resulting in some very boring and unfunny films, although they are almost saved through Lou’s charisma and the fact that he’s always so damn likable.

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Abbott & Costello Meet The Invisible Man

Abbott (right) and Costello, 1942

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Abbott & Costello Meet The Invisible Man is a hard film to categorize. You’d think that with Abbott & Costello in the film it would be a comedy but it isn’t particularly funny. It is amusing in parts but in others the jokes seem very tired. Perhaps this is because I have watched a few A&C films these past few months and can see how they reused gags over and over and over again.Thankfully Lou is so likable and amusing, and he even gets the upper hand on Abbott in a few scenes.

The movie does work sort of as a mystery/suspense type of film or as sci-fi and to be truthful it’s entertaining enough. It’s still a lot better than the later film where the boys met the mummy.

Africa Screams

Abbott (right) and Costello, 1942

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This was one of five independent films that Abbott & Costello made throughout their career. It doesn’t have the budget of their studio films and in fact has the feel of a TV production about it. The sets are rickety and the plot at times is quite un-PC, but the film is enjoyable and a lot funnier than Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy which I previously reviewed, but nowhere near as good as Hold That Ghost or Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. They do share the spotlight with some very talented co-stars. Big game hunters Clyde Beatty and Frank Buck were big stars in the 40s and have cameos here, as does Shemp Howard of the Three Stooges and Joe Besser (who would also briefly become a Stooge) with his big sissy persona. They provide a few chuckles. Former World Heavyweight Boxing champion Max Baer and former Heavyweight contender Buddy Baer appear in the film as thugs, with Max making a joke about Buddy’s defeat by Joe Louis‘ knocking him out.

This is just prior to the slide in quality that A&Cs films would suffer throughout the 50s but they were a little hit and miss at this point. Compared to earlier A&C films the budget looks to be a lot smaller here.

Ride ‘Em Cowboy

Ride 'Em Cowboy

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Ride ‘Em Cowboy is a 1942 Abbott & Costello comedy that is funny in places but it does feel some boring musical pieces. One bright spot is the number featuring Ella Fitzgerald. I wish that she had have been given a bigger role than just being relegated to the background and singing one number, as well as the duet with the Merry Macs.

Abbott & Costello are quite funny in this, although there are a number of jokes involving native American Indians that today would be considered politically incorrect. Lou Costello is not as annoying as he was in Hold That Ghost, which came out a year earlier, and is funnier. The abuse that Bud gives Lou has also been toned down a lot since that earlier movie.

Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy

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This is not Abbott & Costello‘s finest hour. They look very old, especially Abbott, and the jokes are old and stale. It’s not scary either, while the mummy looks just like a guy wrapped in bandages. It is watchable but that is the best that I can say about it, this was Abbott & Costello’s second last film together.

The Naughty Nineties

Abbott (right) and Costello, 1942

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This is one of Abbott & Costello‘s funniest films and includes a few of their better known sketches, including Who’s On First. The plot features A&C on a riverboat.

I’d recommend the film just on the basis that it contains Who’s On First as it’s probably one of the best film comic routines ever. (I do know that A&C did do it in an earlier film and that a lot of their material was recycled over and over again, but I really don’t care!)

Hold That Ghost

Abbott (right) and Costello, 1942

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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).