Starting off today’s Abbott and Costello double-feature, we have their 1943 comedy Hit The Ice.
Coming Up Shorts! with… Pink Pajamas (1964)
(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)
(Length: 6 minutes, 19 seconds)
A tired Pink Panther finds a place to spend the night, only to find the home belongs to an alcoholic “little man.” This is a fun one, with the characters still remaining silent, yet easily communicating to the audience what is going on. A few fun gags as the Panther brushes his teeth and showers, etc. Admittedly, the focus seems to switch from the Panther to the “little man” halfway through, but it’s still a fun cartoon.
And Now For The Main Feature…
Nurse Peggy Osborne (Elyse Knox) is suspicious of new patient Harry “Silky” Fellowsby (Sheldon Leonard), although Dr. William “Bill” Burns (Patric Knowles) believes her suspicions are unfounded. She’s right, however, as Silky is using his hospital stay as an alibi for when he and his partners, Buster (Joseph Sawyer) and Phil (Marc Lawrence), rob the nearby bank. They’re just waiting for some “boys from Detroit” to arrive. Meanwhile, a pair of photographers, Flash Fulton (Bud Abbott) and Tubby McCoy (Lou Costello) come to the hospital after Tubby falls off a ladder at a fire, and they are mistaken as being the boys Silky is waiting for. Flash and Tubby believe they are being hired to take pictures, and so they take some photos at the bank. However, after Silky and his goons leave, Flash and Tubby realize the bank has been robbed, but it is too late, as the cops believe THEM to be the robbers! Peggy noticed that Silky was gone at the time, but he was back in his bed before Dr. Burns returned. Dr. Burns had been hired to be the resident physician at a resort in Sun Valley, Idaho, so Silky convinces him to take him along (and brings Peggy along as his nurse for insurance). Flash and Tubby follow along, hoping to catch the criminals and prove their own innocence. On the train ride, Tubby meets and falls in love with singer Marcia Manning (Ginny Simms). Silky, who had originally helped her catch her big break, tries to use this to his advantage by having her try to get the photo negative, but she fails. Can Flash and Tubby capture the criminals before they eliminate all potential witnesses?
In production, Hit The Ice was being planned under the working titles Oh Doctor and Pardon My Ski. The movie was mainly filmed on the Universal backlot, but some stuff was filmed in Soda Springs, California. One of the sets was actually built on a skating rink in Westwood, California. At first, the movie was going to be directed by Erle Kenton, who had directed a few of the earlier Abbott and Costello films, but he and Lou didn’t get along, so he was fired. Charles Lamont was hired to direct the movie, and, with its success, he would go on to direct eight more Abbott and Costello films, up through their final Universal movie.
Personally, I have mixed feelings about this movie. I will readily admit that I do like it, as Abbott and Costello still get to have a lot of fun, doing some of their routines like “Teller What?,” “Pack / Unpack,” “Piano Scene” and “Handkerchief Gag,” and doing them all well! Seriously, it’s hard NOT to laugh when they get going! That being said, I do have several problems with this movie. For one thing, I really don’t think either of the two side romances work very well. While we get Lou’s Tubby falling for Ginny Simms’ Marcia Manning, she supposedly cares for orchestra leader Johnny Long (playing himself), but little really goes on there. And the romance between Patrick Knowles and Elyse Knox’s characters really doesn’t work either. Their relationship is somewhat adversarial to start, since she believes Silky is faking his illness and he doesn’t see anything. The only real hints of romance occur when they are at the skating rink at the resort and that scene is not helped by the skating being done by doubles (at least, that’s what I’m assuming since the camera changes shots to further away for most of the skating routine), which really takes away from it. And speaking of doubles, Bud and Lou have that problem too (although, as much as they are in the movie, it makes more sense for them). I mean, Patrick Knowles and Elyse Knox have so little to do, I’d rather they had either cast two people who could skate AND act, or take out that skating scene entirely. Getting back to Bud and Lou, though, the rear screen projection takes away from it a little (I know it’s been done in some of their other films, but it just bothers me more here). Still, in spite of these complaints, this is still a fun film, and well worth it just for the boys doing their comedy routines! So, yes, I do still recommend it!
This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection from Shout Factory.
Film Length: 1 hour, 22 minutes
My Rating: 8/10
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