Monthly Archives: October 2010

Abbott & Costello Meet The Invisible Man

Directed by Charles Lamont
Produced by Howard Christie
Written by Frederic I. Rinaldo
John Grant
Robert Lees
Hugh Wedlock Jr
Howard Snyder
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Nancy Guild
Arthur Franz
Music by Erich Zeisl
Cinematography George Robinson
Editing by Virgil Vogel
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date March 19, 1951
Running time 82 min.
Country United States
Language English

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, but it is a huge fall from their classic films of the mid-1940s. The film does also contain lots of references to the earlier Invisible Man films.

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Westworld

Directed by Michael Crichton
Produced by Paul Lazarus III
Written by Michael Crichton
Starring Yul Brynner
Richard Benjamin
James Brolin
Music by Fred Karlin
Cinematography Gene Polito
Editing by David Bretherton
Distributed by MGM
Release date November 21, 1973
Running time 88 min. (theatrical)
Country US
Language English

Westworld was a film that scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. I had nightmares of an out of control robot Yul Brynner chasing me and he couldn’t be killed, which is basically the plot of this movie.The Simpsons parodied the film in the Itchy & Scratchy Land episode.

It’s an enjoyable film to watch but not as scary as I thought it was when I was a kid. It’s an interesting concept of having a theme park full of robots that run amok due to a computer virus. Of course the film (and book it was based on) was made before everyone had a home computer so the idea of computer viruses was virtually unknown. I like some of the little things that Yul does that remind us that he is not human but a robot, such as the way in which he walks while stalking the hero Richard Benjamin.

I notice that Westworld is set to be remade with Russell Crowe in the lead role. I don’t see the point of a remake of what is a great film but if that is the case hopefully it is better than the remake of Robin Hood. It seems that Hollywood has run out of original ideas as now there are so many mediocre remakes or sequals to earlier films. This may be a topic for another time but how many crappy remakes have their been in the last decade?


The Geisha Boy

Directed by Frank Tashlin
Produced by Jerry Lewis
Written by Frank Tashlin & Rudy Makoul
Starring

Jerry Lewis as Gilbert Wooley
Marie McDonald as Lola Livingston
Sessue Hayakawa as Mr. Sikita
Barton MacLane as Major Ridgley
Suzanne Pleshette as Sergeant Pearson
Nobu McCarthy as Kimi Sikita
Robert Hirano as Mitsuo Watanabe
Ryuzo Demura as Ichiyama
The Los Angeles Dodgers as Themselves

    Distributed by Paramount Pictures
    Release date December 23, 1958
    Running time 99 minutes
    Language English

    The Geisha Boy is another of those Jerry Lewis films that I would have watched several times as a kid. It is currently available on DVD for $5 from Big W. It is mildly entertaining, despite a few politically incorrect gags from Jerry. There are a few good gags with Jerry and his rabbit, although these do wear a little thin after the first half an hour of the movie. Thankfully after this point the rabbit jokes are used quite sparingly. The relationship between Jerry and the little Japanese kid is a bit schmalzty and the scene at Tokyo airport paints Jerry as being a huge jerk, but otherwise this is an amusing film that is quite enjoyable.

    I can also see that Jim Carrey stole much of his schtick from Jerry Lewis by watching this film.


    3 Ring Circus

    Directed by Joseph Pevney
    Produced by Hal B Wallis
    Written by Don McGuire & Joseph Pevney
    Starring Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis
    Joanne Dru
    Zsa Zsa Gabor
    Sig Ruman
    Distributed by Paramount Pictures
    Release date December 25, 1954
    Running time 103 minutes
    Country United States
    Language English

    3 Ring Circus is the only Martin & Lewis film that is currently not available on DVD. I’m not sure why that is but I remember when I was a child that Channel 7 or 10 would show this movie over and over on a Sunday afternoon. It’s probably the Martin & Lewis film that I have seen the most times and despite not having seen it for a couple of decades (or more) I still remember parts of the film quite vividly. (Although I do remember seeing Hollywood Or Bust quite a lot of times on TV too!)

    This is of course the film set in a circus where Jerry Lewis gets to don a clown costume and the boys get to duet on Puncinello. He dreams of being a clown but first has to earn his stripe in the circus by doing odd jobs such as training as a lion tamer or washing the elephants. It’s just an excuse for Jerry to display his goofy humour.

    The film is not great but it is OK and better than a lot of other Martin & lewis films. As a kid I never noticed this but the film is very clichéd and the ending especially is very schmaltzy. This is at the orphans benefit where there is a little girl, in braces, who just won’t laugh at Jerry the clown no matter what he does. Personally I don’t blame her for not laughing at the clown as nothing he does is particularly funny, but the schmaltzy part comes when Jerry starts crying because of his failure to make the girl laugh, which causes her to laugh hysterically. One thing came across my mind as I watched this scene, perhaps the little girl is not really sad at all, maybe she’s just someone who cruelly gets her kicks out of the misfortune of others.

    It’s also good to see Zsa Zsa Gabor, Kathleen Freeman and Elsa Lanchester in the film too, although with the exception of Zsa Zsa they are relegated to what are virtually cameo roles.

    I have always been fascinated by circuses and clown in particular. I have always had a love/hate feeling for clowns and dreamt of being a clown when I was a kid, despite (or maybe because) of the fact that many clowns seem so evil. I always wonder just why they feel they need to hide their identities behind their makeup ala James Stewart in The Greatest Show On Earth.

    I guess that this film could have been the beginning of the end for the Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis team as this seems to be the film where Jerry started to become a lot more self-indulgent with his comedy and takes up a lot of the spotlight, instead of concentrating on the equal partnership with Dean that brought him his initial fame. Dean is relegated to the background for much of the film. There also was allegedly a lot of tension on the set between Dean and Jerry and many people have speculated that this could be the reason why this film has never been released on DVD (or home video), although that does not explain why Hollywood or Bust is on DVD, as that is the final film the duo made and the one that Jerry has found too sad to watch. It would still be good to see released onto DVD as although it isn’t hilariously funny, it is still quite interesting and entertaining. Kids will probably love this film.


    The Valley Of Gwangi

    Directed by Jim O’Connolly
    Produced by Charles H. Schneer & Ray Harryhausen
    Starring James Franciscus
    Gila Golan
    Richard Carlson
    Laurence Naismith
    Freda Jackson
    Gustavo Rojo
    Music by Jerome Moross
    Cinematography Erwin Hillier
    Editing by Henry Richardson & Selwyn Petterson
    Distributed by Warner Bros.
    Release date September 3, 1969
    Running time 96 minutes
    Country United States
    Language English

    You would think that any movie that combines cowboys with dinosaurs would be the best film ever made, but that is not the case with Valley Of Gwangi. This is not to say that it is a bad movie, it just doesn’t live up to the potential of the premise of the film. It takes 45 minutes until Gwangi, an Allosaurus (not a T-rex), appears.

    Despite all this the film is still pretty good. It is impossible to dislike anything that features the stop-motion magic of Ray Harryhausen, although he is not at the top of his game here. Some of the animation is a bit jerky and not as smooth as it should be, for example with the flight of the Pteradactyl or in the scenes where Gwangi battles the elephant. Despite this the film is still enjoyable.


    Africa Screams

    Directed by Charles Barton
    Produced by Edward Nassour
    Written by Earl Baldwin, Martin Ragaway & Leonard Stern
    Starring Bud Abbott
    Lou Costello
    Clyde Beatty
    Frank Buck
    Shemp Howard
    Joe Besser
    Music by Walter Schumann
    Distributed by United Artists
    Release date May 4, 1949
    (New York City, New York) May 27, 1949
    Running time 80 mins.
    Language English

    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. Africa Screams is good in comparison to what was about to come. I should also mention that Abbott is quite abusive to Costello in this film and this is perhaps the most un-likable that I have seen Bud.

    Africa Screams is in the public domain and there are many poor copies of it about. The best version is available on Amazon for $7.98.


    Back To School

    Directed by Alan Metter
    Produced by Chuck Russell
    Written by Steven Kampmann, William Porter, Peter Torokvei & Harold Ramis
    Starring Rodney Dangerfield
    Sally Kellerman
    Burt Young
    Keith Gordon
    Ned Beatty
    William Zabka
    Sam Kinison
    Robert Downey, Jr.
    Paxton Whitehead
    Adrienne Barbeau
    Terry Farrell
    Music by Danny Elfman
    Cinematography Thomas E. Ackerman
    Editing by David Rawlins
    Distributed by Orion Pictures
    Release date June 13, 1986
    Running time 96 min.
    Country United States
    Language English

    Back To School is a typically 80s movie, featuring the schtick of Rodney Dangerfield and lots of generic 80s rock. This is not a bad thing. Rodney Dangerfield essentially plays Rodney Dangerfield, so if you know his comic persona you know what to expect, although he doesn’t do as much of the ‘no respect’ stuff here. One thing that I find amazing is that it took him so long to get any success. Although he was a stand-up comic in the 1940s and appeared on TV in the 60s, but it wasn’t really until the 80s and in particular Caddyshack and Back To School that he found widespread fame.

    Back To School also features an early appearance by Robert Downey Jr. This would have been at around the same time that he was appearing in Saturday Night Live, but in Back To School he really doesn’t do much except act weird.

    Overall there are a few laughs to be had and for better or for worse they don’t make ’em like this any more.

    Back To School is available on Amazon for $11.49.

    Rodney Dangerfield’s autobiography, It’s Not Easy Bein’ Me: A Lifetime of No Respect but Plenty of Sex and Drugs is also available on Amazon for $11.19.