Daily Archives: October 1, 2010

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.

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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.