For the first half of today’s Abbott and Costello double-feature, we have their 1953 comedy Abbott And Costello Go To Mars.
After accidentally breaking a window, orphanage groundskeeper Orville (Lou Costello) hides in a truck. He soon finds himself taken to a secret base where a rocketship is being developed. The truck driver, Lester (Bud Abbott), catches him, and, believing him to be a spy, takes him to Dr. Wilson (Robert Paige), the head of the base. Dr. Wilson doesn’t believe him to be a threat, but he asks Orville to stay, just the same, as a result of the project’s secrecy. So Lester gets him to help load up the rocket, but, in the process, they accidentally launch, with just the two of them on board. Trying to figure out how to steer the rocket, they end up going in and around numerous landmarks. When they hear on the radio that the government has called out the army to shoot the ship down, Lester and Orville decide to head for space. Orville accidentally hits another button, which results in them landing. Lester and Orville assume they have landed on Mars, but the reality is that they have landed in New Orleans during Mardi Gras! Donning their spacesuits, they go into town and encounter the various “Martians” (again, people wearing various costumes). Meanwhile, a pair of escaped convicts, the highly educated Mugsy (Horace McMahon) and his less educated friend Harry (Jack Kruschen) come upon the rocketship as Lester and Orville are leaving. Mugsy and Harry put on some spacesuits themselves and go into town, where they proceed to rob both the bank and a clothing store before returning to the rocket. Lester and Orville hear about the robbery at the same time as some of the townspeople and have to run, since they match the description of the thieves. They get back to the ship, where Mugsy and Harry force them to take off. This time, they actually head for space, although they end up heading for the planet Venus. Before they land there, Lester and Orville regain control of the ship, but, upon landing, they discover that they are out of fuel. Orville is sent off the ship to look around, and he discovers the planet is inhabited entirely by women! They are led by Queen Allura (Mari Blanchard), who had previously banished all men from the planet. However, a celestial light comes over Orville, and so the queen’s subjects want Orville declared king. Meanwhile, Lester, Mugsy and Harry are captured, but Lester is freed by king Orville while the other two are sent to the dungeon. Queen Allura keeps Orville on a tight leash, threatening to banish him if he even thinks about cheating on her! Will Lester and Orville get out of this ordeal and get back to Earth?
For me, Abbott And Costello Go To Mars continues the downward trajectory of the later Universal Abbott and Costello films. There are a number of things that bother me about it, but the casting of the Miss Universe 1953 contestants as the inhabitants of Venus bugs me the most. I mean, according to the movie, the inhabitants of Venus are supposed to have banished men nearly 400 years before and become a more advanced civilization, both in technology and science (having discovered the secrets of eternal life and youth, etc.), and yet, based on the script and performances, I just don’t feel like that’s actually the case. For me, they act more like I would expect the stereotypical beauty contestants to behave. Most don’t seem as intelligent as I would think, and they look like they could be easily conquered if the planet were invaded. It would be one thing if they were just acting that way around the men to fool them, but when they behave that way around each other, that just doesn’t work. Seriously, if they were more like Amazons than beauty queens, they would have looked tougher to conquer (that, and the script would need to be changed to make them more intelligent).
Of course, the casting of the Miss Universe contestants is hardly this film’s only problem. It doesn’t help that, in spite of the film’s title, Bud and Lou’s characters never actually go to Mars; instead they just visit New Orleans and Venus. I would also say that it feels at times like some scenes and characters are otherwise unnecessary, such as the opening with Lou’s character at the orphanage, Martha Hyer’s character of Janie Howe, etc. Now, maybe I am being a little harsh on this movie. I personally just don’t care for most science fiction films (particularly from this era of film), and adding Abbott and Costello when they are not in their prime doesn’t help. I know I previously gave a poor review for the similar Road comedy, The Road To Hong Kong, but, when all is said and done, I still go back to that film far more than I generally want to with this film. Now, it does have its merits, and I enjoy seeing it here and there, but it still feels like one of the worst Abbott and Costello films, and I therefore cannot bring myself to recommend it.
This movie is available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory as part of the 28 film The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection, and is one hour, seventeen minutes in length.
My Rating: 4/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952) – Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello – Abbott And Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1953)
Lost In Alaska (1952) – The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection – Abbott And Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1953)
Coming Up Shorts! with… Wags To Riches (1949)
(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection)
Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.
Welcome to my new feature on various theatrical shorts! Sometimes my comments will be on shorts included as extras on a disc set I am reviewing, and other times, they will be completely unrelated to the movie being reviewed (and I will try to indicate which). Hope you enjoy!
(Length: 7 minutes, 11 seconds)
Droopy inherits a mansion, and Spike attempts to do him in so that he gets everything. Very fun cartoon, with more hilarious gags as all Spike’s attempts on Droopy’s life keep backfiring on him. A cartoon I have seen many times, and one that just doesn’t grow old! Even more fun, now that it’s been given a great restoration!
And stay tuned for more of Coming Up Shorts! featuring cartoons by Tex Avery (and the eventual post on the entire Volume 1 set), along with other shorts!