As we get into the home stretch of the Abbott and Costello films (at least, those I have to work with), we have a triple-feature for today! Starting us off is their 1955 film Abbott And Costello Meet The Keystone Kops!
Harry Pierce (Bud Abbott) convinces his buddy Willie Piper (Lou Costello) to use his aunt’s money to buy a movie studio, believing it to be a good investment. What they don’t know (at first) is that they have been conned by Joseph Gorman (Fred Clark) into buying one of Thomas Edison’s closed down studios. By the time Harry and Willie figure it out, Gorman and his friend Leota Van Cleet (Lynn Bari) are on a train heading towards Hollywood, where he plans to be a big director, under the pseudonym Sergei Toumanoff. On his way, Gorman (or maybe I should say “Toumanoff”) is stopped and hired by movie producer Rudolph Snavely (Frank Wilcox). Harry and Willie make their way out there, on foot and by train. At one point, they find themselves on the back of a covered wagon being chased by Native Americans, before it is revealed that the whole chase was being filmed (and by none other than Toumanoff)! Snavely likes the stunts that Harry and Willie do with the wagon, and wants them hired as stuntmen. Toumanoff and Leota recognize Harry and Willie, and make plans for some stunts that may kill them. To make sure, Toumanoff hires a thug named Hinds (Maxie Rosenbloom) to help off them. Between the two of them, they make plans to have Willie double for Leota in a plane, with another pilot being given live ammunition to shoot at them (instead of the blanks he was supposed to be using). However, things don’t go as planned, and both Harry and Willie survive. When viewing the footage they had shot, Snavely decides to hire Harry and Willie as a new comedy team, with Toumanoff as their director! At first, Toumanoff protests, but Snavely reveals that he figured out Toumanoff is Joseph Gorman. Snavely allows him to keep the job and name, providing he would reimburse his victims out of his pay (and keep Harry and Willie safe). Faced with no alternative, he goes along with it, although Harry and Willie soon find out that Toumanoff is Gorman and try to find some evidence. Gorman and Leota are forced to go on the run when Hinds demands his pay, which they can only provide by stealing the money from Snavely’s safe. Harry and Willie walk in on them taking the money, leading to a chase that quickly involves the Keystone Kops!
I admit that, going into it, I was not looking forward to seeing this movie again. I saw it once before, and at that time, I was left with the feeling that it was one of the worst Abbott and Costello films. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was better than I thought (although still far from perfect). The movie did have many fun moments. Bud and Lou do their “Oyster” routine again (except this time it’s a squirrel that keeps switching between loaves of bread), with the added fun that Bud actually sees the squirrel at the end of the routine. One of the film’s best moments is when Bud and Lou’s characters try to find evidence against Fred Clark’s Joseph Gorman. Bud goes into the house dressed as a burglar, while Lou is outside dressed as a policeman (with a mustache!). They run into trouble because there is a real thief there (dressed like Bud) and a real policeman comes (and he looks similar to Lou), and the comings and goings really drive Fred Clark’s character crazy! Then, there is the final (hilarious) chase scene with the Keystone Kops!
As I hinted at, this movie does still have its problems. For one thing, the stunt doubles for Bud and Lou are way too obvious (especially watching how Bud himself moves for his age, then seeing the double running like a much younger man). Then, there is the frequent use of rear screen projection. To be fair, there isn’t much to be done about it, but it still looks way too fake. But, ultimately, I would say the Keystone Kops are the biggest disappointment. For one thing, in spite of their prominence in the title, they really don’t appear until the very end, feeling more like a quick cameo appearance. Had the film gone with its working title of Abbott And Costello In The Stunt Men, it might not have been quite so bad (still not a great title, but at least better). Then, of course, there is the fact that the Keystone Kops are not that recognizable anymore. The Universal executives were concerned about that at the time, although at least then, the comedies featuring them were starting to show up on TV, and they were still relevant. Now, it seems like only the hardcore film fans might have any idea who they are (and beyond this film, I can’t really say as I do, yet). Still, as I said, I did enjoy this movie more than I thought I would the second time around, and I would recommend giving it a try!
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, nineteen minutes in length.
My Rating: 6/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Coming Up Shorts! with… Daredevil Droopy (1951)
(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: 6 minutes, 27 seconds)
Droopy and Spike compete to get a job in a circus. While it’s Droopy and Spike competing again, it’s still good fun here! Admittedly, there is one quick, not-very-PC joke here, but it’s a blink-and-you’ll miss it moment. Otherwise, the gags work well, the competition between Droopy and Spike continues to work, even for the one moment that Spike manages to get Droopy just a little. Admittedly, the final gag is a repeat from one of the earlier shorts, but it gets a laugh from me (as do most of the others here)!
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!