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Tag Archives: Abbott and Costello

Pardon My Sarong (1942)

11001879653_9d277517af_bOne of the things I always liked as a kid about Bud Abbot and Lou Costello movies was the ebullient mish-mash of comedy, music and even occasionally the dancing, all for less than 90 minutes. And the first twenty-five minutes of Pardon My Sarong has it all. It is my favorite twenty-five minutes in all their movies.

Abbott and Costello are bus drivers, Algy Shaw (Abbott) and Wellington Pflug (Costello), who have been hired by a rich playboy (Robert Paige) to drive him and his multitude of giggling female companions to his club, where he is going to enter a yacht race. Unfortunately, Algy and Wellington do not have the permission of the bus company to take their bus and the irate owners send out a detective to arrest them (if you look carefully, the meeting full of bus executives contains ubiquitous bit actors like Charles Lane and Chester Clute).

The songs at the club are provided by the Ink Spots, a quartet that was extremely popular in the 1940s. They sing “Do I Worry” and “Shout Brother, Shout.” The latter song is sung while Tip, Tap, & Toe – a tap dancing trio – perform a dance on a table, slipping and sliding and tapping on the well polished tabletop. I’ve always been a sucker for a tap dancing interlude in a movie and I particularly liked this one as a kid (I loved tap dancing so much I even took lessons for seven years – though I hardly recall a step now). If a tap dance were to break out in the middle of a film noir or horror movie I would probably still enjoy it.

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William Demarest shows off his warrant for their arrest, while Abbott and Costello have a look

During the singing, the spoiled playboy discovers that his agent stole the crew of a rival yachtsman, whose sister is now extremely angry with him (played by Virginia Bruce). Algy and Wellington run into the private detective (played by one of my favorite character actors, the always cantankerous William Demarest), who chases them into the backstage of a theater, where Marco the Magician is performing (Sig Arno, a Preston Sturges regular). Algy and Wellington pretend to be magicians and the three men have a field day among Marco’s various props, such as the inevitable trunk with the trap door. Costello even makes an omelette in Demarest’s hat.

That is the first twenty-five minutes, but the rest of the film is even more ridiculous. Virginia Bruce manages to accidentally get herself aboard Robert Paige’s yacht, along with Algy and Wellington, and they run into a storm and get lost at sea until they happen upon an island in the south seas, where they run into the villainous Lionel Atwill out to steal the native’s jewels while the natives think Wellington is a great hero.

The movie is politically incorrect, ridiculously plotted (Lionel Atwill’s plan is rather strange) with seriously Hollywoodized and naive natives (though the villains seem pretty dense, themselves) who sing and dance and turn their song in praise of their god into a jive song (and they wonder why the local volcano god is angry).

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The man with the headdress that looks like a white cake with candles on it is Leif Erickson. The chief’s feather headdress is also pretty wild

Another amusing visual gag in the second half is when Algy and Wellington are running away from Atwill’s henchmen and pose as statues while the henchmen mill about in perplexity. Every time the henchmen turn around, they are in a different pose. Abbott’s imitation of the blank and straight-faced look that many statues have is particularly good.

Lionel Atwill, that scion of classic horror movies, does hardly anything, but his very reputation as a horror actor lends suitable villainy to the proceedings. Leif Erickson has a role as a jealous warrior whose fiance is interested in Costello and gets to wear the most extraordinary hat you have ever seen. All the costumes are a riot, the music is lively (there was a craze for south seas music during the early forties), it’s fun to recognize all the different character actors and Abbott and Costello are in top form. Wacky, but I think one of their most entertaining films.

 

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2015 in Comedy

 

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Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

220px-A&cfrankMost people say that the comedy/horror/spoof Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is the best way to be introduced to the original Universal Studio’s monster movies. But not me. I did my research to watch Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Never was a person more prepared than I. I have so often watched the spoof of something before actually watching the something and this time I was determined to be on the right side of the joke. And my preparation included: Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man and even The Invisible Man – all in their original, horrific glory.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is probably the most remembered movie Bud Abbott and Lou Costello made (though their routine “Who’s on First” might be more well known). It was apparently their most financially successful and definitely their most critically praised.

The story revolved around Chick (Abbott) and Wilber (Costello), two baggage clerks, who are warned not to deliver two large boxes to the McDougal House of Horrors. But they ignore the warning (which came from Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man), and the monsters are loose…though not in the McDougal House of Horrors. They have a nice, creepy castle they can repair to that is owned by a fugitive scientist from Europe, Dr. Sandra Mornay, who, as far as I can gather, specializes in brain implantations. She is also going to help Count Dracula to recharge Frankenstein’s monster, who apparently has depleted energy. It is not exactly clear why Dracula wants the monster, other than to have someone to do his dirty work, but his entire purpose seems to be wrapped up in getting the monster in working order.

However, he does not want the brain that is currently in the monster, the brain that was put in by Dr. Frankenstein in the original movie and was labeled abnormal. He wants a brain that is obedient, weak, easily led and not too bright. Dr. Mornay thinks Wilber’s brain will do nicely and is trying to vamp him, as is an insurance investigator for Mr. McDougal, Joan Raymond, who is trying to figure out where Mr. McDougal’s exhibits disappeared to. Meanwhile, Chick can’t figure out why all these pretty girls are chasing after Wilber.

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Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Glenn Strange, Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi

Also in the mix is Lawrence Talbot, who is trying to convince Chick and Wilber that he is the Wolf Man and that he is on their side. The trouble is, they don’t believe him and he keeps turning into a wolf and trying to attack them.

Half the fun comes from Wilber, who keeps seeing these monsters, but Chick never believes him and always seems to just miss being where they are. Wilber’s reactions are priceless, his flabbergasted terror and inarticulate gasps and mumblings. Chick is trying to talk sense into him – when he is not trying to talk him into giving him one of his two dates for the costume ball that Sandra invited Wilber to…although Joan has also managed to come along.

The ending is definitely the highlight. Chick and Wilber are running around in comic terror from the bumbling Frankenstein monster while Dracula and the Wolf Man are engaged in an earnest, deathly combat that is entirely peripheral to Chick and Wilber.

One of the things that makes the movie so funny is how absolutely serious the monsters take their roles, especially Lugosi as Count Dracula. He said that he approached the movie with exactly the same attitude as he did his role in the original Broadway show and the original 1931 film. Lon Chaney Jr., also plays his role earnestly in his quest to stop Dracula and deal with his nightly transformation. There is a fun line when he tells Costello, with internal torment at his plight, that every night, when the moon rises, he turns into a wolf. “Yeah, you and every other guy.” Costello replies.

th8OW940SCFrom all accounts, Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s monster, had a lot of fun with the role. He would walk around the studio in all his makeup with a big grin on his face and he would constantly break out laughing at the antics of Costello during shooting, so they had to keep shooting retakes.

Ironically, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein marks the final appearance of all three monsters; monsters who had each been in multiple sequels. Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney both originated the roles and it is poetic that they should make the monsters’ final appearance. Lon Chaney is actually the only person to play the Wolf Man in all the Wolf Man movies. Boris Karloff, however, declined to play his originated role of the monster, so instead they cast Glenn Strange.

As a bonus, there is a vocal cameo by Vincent Price as The Invisible Man. Although Claude Rains originated the role, Vincent Price did play the second Invisible Man in The Invisible Man Returns.

Of course, this wasn’t really the end of these monsters. They were remade many times, by many different studios, by many different actors. Hammer Film Productions began making horror films in the 1950s and 60s that were in color, with lots of blood (which was new, since horror had traditionally been associated with black and white movies because of how shadowy and atmospheric black and white movies can be). I want to see their 1958 Dracula, starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Count Dooku vs. Grand Moff Tarkin? What’s not to like?

But there’s not much to beat great monsters and great comedy, all in the same movie. And although Abbott and Costello would go on to meet many other monsters, like the Mummy, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the Invisible Man (and Boris Karloff in Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff), this is considered their finest.

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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Movies

 

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