Category Archives: Abbott & Costello

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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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.


Ride ‘Em Cowboy

Directed by Arthur Lubin
Produced by Alex Gottlieb
Written by True Boardman & John Grant
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Dick Foran
Anne Gwynne
Ella Fitzgerald
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography John W. Boyle
Editing by Philip Cahn
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date February 20, 1942
Running time 86 minutes
Language English

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 of 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

Directed by Charles Lamont
Produced by Howard Christie
Written by John Grant
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Marie Windsor
Michael Ansara
Music by Joseph Gershenson
Editing by Russell Schoengarth
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date June 23, 1955 (U.S. release)
Running time 79 min.
Language English

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

Directed by Jean Yarbrough
Produced by John Grant & Edmund L. Hartmann
Written by Edmund L. Hartmann, John Grant, Edmund Joseph &
Hal Fimberg
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Alan Curtis
Rita Johnson
Music by Lloyd Akridge & Paul Dessau
Editing by Arthur Hilton
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date June 20, 1945
Running time 76 min
Language English

This is one of Abbott & Costello’s funniest films and includes a few of their better known sketches, including Who’s On First.

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

Directed by Arthur Lubin
Produced by Burt Kelly & Glenn Tryon
Written by Robert Lees, Fred Rinaldo & John Grant
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Richard Carlson
The Andrews Sisters
Shemp Howard
Music by H.J. Salter Editing by Philip Cahn
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date August 6, 1941 (U.S. release)
Running time 85 min
Language English

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).


Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein

Directed by Charles Barton
Produced by Robert Arthur
Written by Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo & John Grant
Starring
Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Lon Chaney, Jr.
Bela Lugosi
Glenn Strange
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography Charles Van Enger
Editing by Frank Gross
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release date 15 June 1948 (US)
Running time 83 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein was one of my favourite films as a kid. It was a film that I found to be both scary and funny in equal parts. I really loved this movie so much that I just had to order it from Amazon because I could not find it for sale anywhere in Australia, and I desperately wanted to see it again. I just wanted to know if the film held up as well now as it did back when I was a kid.

I popped the DVD disc into my Sony DVD player the other day and found that the film really lived up to my expectations. Whilst I no longer find the film as scary as I did as an eight year old there were still a few heart pounding moments, especially the scene when Lou is unknowingly being stalked by the Wolfman in the hotel room. (See picture below) Also, like most seventy year old comedy films, the humour has dated quite a bit, but there are still a few chuckles to be had, especially the look of fright on the Frankenstein Monster’s face when he first lays his eyes on Costello. It’s funny to see the Monster being so afraid as someone as harmless as Lou.

It is probably true that this film was probably the beginning of the downward spiral in A&C’s popularity even though they did have a few box office hits after this film. Their popularity really waned as Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis became the #1 Hollywood comedy team, and A&C started to go back to the same ideas again and again (ie; going back to the team ups with Universal’s monster icons). They really weren’t known for their innovation, especially as they really only liked to use gags and routines that they had honed to perfection by performing them thousands of times on the vaudeville circuit. Still A&C Meet Frankenstein is a classic and a movie that I recommend for anyone who likes both classic comedy and classic monster movies.