Friday, September 25, 2020

Abbott & Costello

I recently re-visited some of the Abbott and Costello comedies. I hadn't seen most of these in almost 20 years. Along with Bob Hope, Abbott and Costello are my favorite movie comedians of the WWII-era. It's always a pleasure to re-watch their classic routines.

Among their movies I've watched recently, two were entirely new to me:

First up was Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952), one of only two films the team made in color. I'd wanted to see this one for a long time, since I always enjoy Charles Laughton and especially his performance in the title role of 1945's Captain Kidd, so I looked forward to seeing his return to that role here. Apparently, Laughton was a huge fan of Abbott and Costello and always wanted to work with them, and he finally had his chance with this film. Unfortunately, it's far from the team's funniest; in fact, I'd probably rank it as about the least amusing of their films. Hopefully Laughton had a good time making it, though -- he certainly appears to be having a lot of fun hamming it up as the comic villain.

Next was The Noose Hangs High (1948), one of the few films Abbott and Costello made for a studio outside of their home base of Universal. This was an independent production, and as a result, it was not included in previous home video collections of the team's films. Perhaps surprisingly, it's actually one of their best vehicles they appeared in, at least after their wartime peak. The set-up involves the team being hired to deliver $50,000 to a gangster to pay off a bet, but the money ends up being lost en route and inevitably they are suspected of having stolen it. The rest of the film follows their efforts to retrieve the money and save themselves. Contains a couple of their classic routines preserved on film for posterity.

Finally, this morning I watched In Society (1944), a middling comedy from their peak years at Universal. The first part finds room for some good slapstick comedy as plumbers Abbott and Costello are called out to a swanky mansion to fix a leak in the middle of the night. Then they're mistaken for high society types and wreak havoc at a weekend party. At the last minute, there's some business about a stolen painting that the team has to retrieve in order to clear themselves from suspicion of theft. It pretty much follows the formula that Universal had established with the team's films by this point. The highlight is the classic "Susquehanna Hat" routine. I had seen this one before, years ago, and I seem to remember it was right around this point in their filmography that they seemed to run out of steam a bit, not surprising given the furious rate at which they were cranking these films out during these years. I checked, and even though they'd only been starring in films for three years at this point, this was already their 12th movie!

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