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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Spawn Of The North (1938)

For today’s movie, we have that 1938 film Spawn Of The North, starring George Raft, Henry Fonda and Dorothy Lamour! Of course, to precede that, we have an Ant And The Aardvark theatrical short, which is available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Ant And The Aardvark from Kino Lorber. Once past that, we then have today’s main feature!

Coming Up Shorts! with… I’ve Got Ants In My Plans (1969)

(Length: 6 minutes, 17 seconds)

The aardvark has to contend with a green aardvark chasing after the same ant. At first, this one starts out looking like it’s going to be the usual formula, with the aardvark trying to catch and eat the ant. Then the green aardvark shows up, and everything changes. With the ant captured, we now have the two aardvarks trying to take each other out. The gags may not be the most original, but they’re still worth quite a few laughs, making this cartoon fun to watch every now and then!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Alaskan fisherman Jim Kimmerlee (Henry Fonda), who is now the owner of a salmon cannery, is reunited with his friend Tyler Dawson (George Raft), who had been off hunting seal. However, Jim is having trouble with Russian fisherman Red Skain (Akim Tamiroff), who is trying to steal fish from one of his traps. Tyler comes between them, and prevents them from fighting. Afterwards, Tyler returns to town, where he is living in a hotel owned by his girlfriend, Nicky Duval (Dorothy Lamour). While Jim and Tyler are hanging out together, Dian Turlon (Louise Platt), who is the daughter of local newspaper editor Windy Turlon (John Barrymore) and also an old friend of theirs, returns to Alaska. They both try to ask her to the local dance for the night, although she turns them down. However, at the dance, she starts warming up to Jim. Tyler wants to go in on a partnership with Jim, but Jim’s business with the cannery leaves him unable to do so. Not long after, when a bunch of fisherman (including Jim and Tyler) are getting some ice from an iceberg, they have to save somebody else when too much ice falls and destroys another ship. While they are helping the other fisherman, Jim realizes that some of the fish in Tyler’s boat must have been stolen, and he tries to warn Tyler that anybody caught stealing fish from someone else’s nets will be killed, but Tyler shrugs it off. Not much later, Jim and some of the other fishermen catch some of Red’s men stealing their fish, and they deliver their dead bodies to Red’s place (where Jim also sees Tyler hanging out). When Jim celebrates his birthday, Tyler is noticeably absent. Jim is warned by the other fishermen that Red is trying to steal more fish, and has Dian try to get Nicky to warn Tyler not to go anywhere. Unfortunately, Tyler doesn’t listen to Nicky, and her attempt to sabotage his boat doesn’t stop him, as he joins Red with another boat. Jim and the other fishermen arrive at the nets while some of Red’s crew and Tyler are taking some of the fish. Tyler starts shooting harpoons at them while his compatriots try to get away. Jim reluctantly has to shoot Tyler to get him to stop. The badly injured Tyler somehow ends up back with Red and his gang, but they leave him to die. Jim finds him, and brings him back to the hotel, where Tyler is able to receive some medical care. Red, however, soon comes to town, and tells Jim there is only room for one of them in town. Tyler overhears, and wants to find a way to help his old friend Jim.

Spawn Of The North was based on a novel of the same name by Florence Barrett Willoughsby. For this movie, Paramount Studios put together a steel and concrete tank which could hold 375,000 gallons of water, in order to do close range shots of fishing boats and power cruisers. There were also some scenes shot on location at Lake Arrowhead, Lake Tahoe, Balboa Island and on the coast of Southern California. The movie proved to be popular with audiences at the time, and Paramount Studios would make use of the property again when they remade it in 1954 as Alaska Seas.

Now, I am coming off my first time seeing Spawn Of The North, and I will readily admit that it’s a movie I saw mainly for one reason: actress Dorothy Lamour. Admittedly, I mainly know her from the seven Road films with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, the handful of movies she made with Bob Hope alone, and her cameo in Here Comes The Groom. So, this being more of a non-comedic role for her was different than I’m used to, and yet still satisfying! She was wonderful here as a woman with a bit of a past, and yet, as mentioned in the story, she has reformed somewhat. She certainly has a history with George Raft’s character, which allows for some humor there in the way they interact. Yet, when all is said and done, she cares for him, and tries to do what she can to save him, even when he doesn’t want her to.

And, of course, Dorothy Lamour is hardly the only reason for the movie, either! There’s some fun to be found in the idea of this being an Alaskan western (you know, with fish pirates instead of cattle rustlers, and fisherman instead of cowboys, etc.). I wouldn’t say that this is one of Henry Fonda’s better films, but he does well enough here as something of a heroic character. But, one of the better and more fun characters is the college educated newspaper editor, as played by John Barrymore, who is prone to showing off his knowledge of words, usually simplified for everyone else by his assistant Jackson, as played by Lynne Overman. Only complaint there is that we don’t get to enjoy enough of the character’s eloquent speaking here! This was a fun movie, and one I felt was worth seeing!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. The movie is using at best an HD scan of the film, and the lack of a restoration shows. I certainly wish this movie could have been treated better, but, at the same time, I’d be surprised if it was popular enough to warrant the cost of restoring it in the first place. As I said, it’s far from perfect, but, all things considered, it’s good enough for me to still enjoy the film. The movie itself is one hour, fifty minutes in length.

My Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

George Raft – Black Widow (1954)

Jezebel (1938) – Henry Fonda – Jesse James (1939)

Dorothy Lamour – Road To Singapore (1940)

And here’s the Our Gang/Little Rascals restoration campaign!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1

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.

“Hello, all you happy people.” – Droopy

Welcome back for another full post of Coming Up Shorts! This time, I’m focusing on various cartoons from MGM that were directed by Tex Avery. The shorts I’m covering were all a part of the Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1. While the shorts have not been released in chronological order, those in this set were originally released theatrically between 1943 and 1951.

Here’s a list and quick plot description for each of the cartoons included in this set (for my comments on the individual cartoons, click on the title to go to my previous reviews):

Tex Avery Classics

  1. Red Hot Riding Hood (1943) (Length: 7 minutes, 14 seconds)
    • The re-telling of Red Riding Hood, making Red a nightclub performer, Granny a nightclub owner, and the Wolf a womanizer.
  2. Who Killed Who? (1943) (Length: 7 minutes, 46 seconds)
    • We have a murder mystery, with a detective looking to find out who committed the murder while avoiding his own death.
  3. What’s Buzzin’ Buzzard? (1943) (Length: 8 minutes, 12 seconds)
    • Two very hungry buzzards decide to try to eat each other, to hilarious effect!
  4. Batty Baseball (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 27 seconds)
    • For this short, we have a very screwy baseball game.
  5. The Hick Chick (1946) (Length: 7 minutes, 10 seconds)
    • Hick rooster Lem ends up fighting with a city slicker for the affections of his girlfriend, Daisy.
  6. Bad Luck Blackie (1949) (Length: 7 minutes, 8 seconds)
    • A little kitten is being chased by a dog, when he runs into a black cat that volunteers to help.
  7. Garden Gopher (1950) (Length: 6 minutes, 11 seconds)
    • Spike the dog has to deal with a troublesome gopher when he tries to bury his bone.
  8. The Peachy Cobbler (1950) (Length: 6 minutes, 43 seconds)
    • After an old cobbler gives some bread to some hungry birds, a group of elves help him catch up on work while he sleeps.
  9. Symphony In Slang (1951) (Length: 6 minutes, 45 seconds)
    • At the gates of heaven, a young man arrives speaking only in slang, and, unable to understand him, the main official turns to Noah Webster for help.

Screwy Squirrel

  1. Screwball Squirrel (1944) (Length: 7 minutes, 24 seconds)
    • Screwy Squirrel faces off against the bird dog Meathead.
  2. The Screwy Truant (1945) (Length: 7 minutes, 1 second)
    • Screwy Squirrel avoids going to school while being chased by the truant officer dog.
  3. Big Heel-Watha (1944) (Length: 7 minutes, 46 seconds)
    • Big Heel-Watha has to hunt don Screwy Squirrel to find some meat for his tribe.
  4. Lonesome Lenny (1946) (Length: 7 minutes, 46 seconds)
    • A big, lonely dog (who is too strong for his own good) chases his new little friend, Screwy.

George & Junior

  1. Hound Hunters (1947) (Length: 7 minutes, 18 seconds)
    • George and Junior try to work as dog catchers, but a small dog keeps eluding them.
  2. Red Hot Rangers (1947) (Length: 7 minutes, 59 seconds)
    • Forest rangers George and Junior try to put out a fire started by a lit cigarette.


  1. Dumb-Hounded (1943) (Length: 8 minutes, 1 second)
    • The Wolf escapes from prison, and Droopy must hunt him down.
  2. Wags To Riches (1949) (Length: 7 minutes, 11 seconds)
    • Droopy inherits a mansion, and Spike attempts to do him in so that he gets everything.
  3. The Chump Champ (1950) (Length: 7 minutes, 14 seconds)
    • Droopy and Spike compete in a variety of sports.
  4. Daredevil Droopy (1951) (Length: 6 minutes, 27 seconds)
    • Droopy and Spike compete to get a job in a circus.

As usual, I remind you that, when it comes to theatrical shorts, my own knowledge is generally Wikipedia level at best (not to mention whatever I find sometimes through Turner Classic Movie’s website), so I may not necessarily get everything right. Anyway, here goes. Tex Avery was a well-known animator and director from the golden age of American animation. He started out working as an inker and animator at Universal’s animation studios on some of the “Oswald The Lucky Rabbit” cartoons. During this time, he lost the use of his left eye when, in a bit of horseplay apparently common there, he was hit in the eye by either a thumbtack or wire paper clip thrown at him. Less than thrilled with his salary there, he ended up being fired. He next worked for Leon Schlesinger at Warner Brothers, where he became a director with his own unit, where they would help establish Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny, along with introducing Daffy Duck. However, he had issues with Leon Schlesinger, and he quit, briefly working for Paramount before he signed with MGM in 1941. There, he would make use of his own style, whether it be the fast pacing of the shorts, or the characters sometimes breaking the fourth wall, or making fun of the fairy tale tropes that Walt Disney made use of. He would do his shorts at MGM up through 1950, when he had to take time off from being overworked. He returned to do two more cartoons before leaving MGM entirely for the Walter Lantz studio at Universal (which would be short-lived because of salary issues yet again).

The set of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 is comprised of shorts made by Tex Avery during his tenure at MGM. The shorts included are, as I said before, not necessarily included in chronological order. The main reason for that is what shape some of the elements are in, as many of the original negatives for MGM’s pre-1951 cartoons had been destroyed in a 1965 vault fire. But, for the nineteen shorts included in this set, Warner Archive Collection used 4K scans of the best available archival elements, and the results are fantastic! Every short looks so colorful, and it makes for easy viewing! This set contains many classics, including Red Hot Riding Hood, which turned the Little Red Riding Hood story on its ear, and gave us “Red,” as well as the Wolf, who was a frequent character in some of the shorts. We also got the likes of Screwy Squirrel, with four out of five of his shorts being included. And, my personal favorites of the set, the four Droopy cartoons. I remember those the most vividly from my own childhood (although I have some recollection of some of the stand-alone cartoons as well), and it’s great seeing them looking better than I’ve ever seen them look! I very much enjoyed this set, and I can certainly say that I look forward to seeing and enjoying Volume 2 (which has sadly been delayed by the pandemic, but, at least at the time of this writing, it’s being worked on and coming)! To borrow another quote from Droopy to describe my feelings about this set:

“You know what? I’m happy. Hooray.”

Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. The whole set has a runtime of two hours, eighteen minutes.

And here’s the Our Gang/Little Rascals restoration campaign!

Screen Team Edition & WOIANRA 2019 on The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection

“Heeeeey Abbott!”

We’re back again for another round of Screen Team Edition, and, you guessed it, this time we’re focusing on that classic comedy team of Abbott and Costello! Now, the boys mainly made their movies at Universal Studios, an output that has recently been represented on Blu-ray by Shout Factory as a 28-film collection with some extras, so I will focus on them and that group of movies, with a few comments around their non-Universal output as well.

The List (numbered by order of release date):

Their Universal Output (included in The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection):

1. One Night In The Tropics (1940) My Rating: 6

2. Buck Privates (1941) My Rating: 9

3. In The Navy (1941) My Rating: 10

4. Hold That Ghost (1941) My Rating: 8

5. Keep ‘Em Flying (1941) My Rating: 7

6. Ride ‘Em Cowboy (1942) My Rating: 8

8. Pardon My Sarong (1942) My Rating: 9

9. Who Done It? (1942) My Rating: 10

10. It Ain’t Hay (1943) My Rating: 8

11. Hit The Ice (1943) My Rating: 8

12. In Society (1944) My Rating: 8

14. Here Come The Co-Eds (1945) My Rating: 9

15. The Naughty Nineties (1945) My Rating: 10

17. Little Giant (1946) My Rating: 6

18. The Time Of Their Lives (1946) My Rating: 10

19. Buck Privates Come Home (1947) My Rating: 7

20. The Wistful Widow Of Wagon Gap (1947) My Rating: 10

22. Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) My Rating: 10

23. Mexican Hayride (1948) My Rating: 10

25. Abbott And Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff (1949) My Rating: 6

26. Abbott And Costello In The Foreign Legion (1950) My Rating: 9

27. Abbott And Costello Meet The Invisible Man (1951) My Rating: 9

28. Comin’ Round The Mountain (1951) My Rating: 8

30. Lost In Alaska (1952) My Rating: 5

32. Abbott And Costello Go To Mars (1953) My Rating: 4

33. Abbott And Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1953) My Rating: 5

34. Abbott And Costello Meet The Keystone Kops (1955) My Rating: 6

35. Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy (1955) My Rating: 8

Their Non-Universal Output (not included in the set):

7. Rio Rita (1942) My Rating: 8

13. Lost In A Harem (1944) My Rating: 10

16. Abbott And Costello In Hollywood (1945) My Rating: 5

21. The Noose Hangs High (1948) My Rating: 9

24. Africa Screams (1949) My Rating: 9

29. Jack And The Beanstalk (1952)

31. Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952) My Rating: 8

36. Dance With Me, Henry (1956)

Background info (prior to their team-up):

William Alexander “Bud” Abbott was born on October 2, 1897. His parents, Rae Abbott (a bareback rider) and Harry Abbott (a publicist and booking agent) both worked for the Barnum and Bailey Circus. As a kid, he worked at New York’s Coney Island alongside his father. He eventually got into burlesque, where he worked both onstage and off. Along with his wife, he produced a number of variety shows, and started working as a straight man when he couldn’t afford to pay anybody else. His reputation as a straight man continued to improve enough that he started working with some bigger comedians.

On March 6, 1906, Helen and Sebastian Cristillo were blessed with a son, Louis Francis Cristillo, in the city of Paterson, New Jersey. He became a good athlete, particularly in basketball and boxing. However, Lou ended up planning on becoming an actor, so he hitchhiked out to Hollywood in 1927. Work didn’t come easily, though, as he mainly worked as a laborer, extra, or stunt man. None of that paid very well, so he worked his way back towards Paterson. He would start finding work in burlesque to gain some stage experience.

As a team:

While various sources seem to indicate different ways they met, the general idea seems to be that Bud and Lou did meet a few times, but they didn’t really work together until one fateful evening in 1935. They were both working at the same theatre, the Eltinge in New York City, when Lou’s usual partner fell ill, and Bud, who was working there, filled in. The audiences responded well to them, but they did not immediately decide to team up. However, they did meet up again, and more officially became a team in 1936. They toured through burlesque shows and vaudeville theaters as they honed their routines. They gained a lot more exposure and popularity in 1938 when they performed on the “Kate Smith Hour” radio show. After that, they moved out of burlesque and onto the Broadway stage for The Streets Of Paris. Universal Studios soon signed them for one film, which would turn out to be One Night In The Tropics. While the movie itself was not well received, Bud and Lou were, and Universal quickly signed them to star in two more films. Buck Privates would establish them even more, resulting in them doing another service film (In The Navy) before their second film (Hold That Ghost) could be released. Their films were very successful, essentially saving Universal Studios from bankruptcy, and propelling them into the top 10 movie stars for quite some time, and they were number one at the box office for 1942.

Everything was going great… and then, they suffered a one-two punch. First, Lou suffered a bout of rheumatic fever, which kept him laid up for most of a year. Then, right when he was getting ready to come back, Lou’s son drowned. While that hit him hard personally, he still came back to work, and they kept making movies. Of course, audiences were starting to tire of their films, with the plots staying fairly similar. As a result of that, and possibly a fight between the two of them, they worked separately for Little Giant and The Time Of Their Lives before going back to working together. However, it was with Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (a film Lou admittedly didn’t want to do) that they were back on top. Of course, the problem with that was that they were being given a new formula to work with, which Universal pushed over the next few years. Lou had another bout with rheumatic fever after Abbott And Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff that resulted in them being off again for another year.

The fifties brought about a number of changes for Bud and Lou, most of them not good. Up to that time, their films had all been black-and-white, as Universal had been reluctant to pony up for color for any of their films. However, as part of their contracts, they were allowed to do some outside films. Using that, they made Jack And The Beanstalk and Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd in color through their own production companies. Bud and Lou also started appearing on television, first as hosts of the Colgate Comedy Hour, and then they got their own TV sitcom. The problem was, this also worked against them, as, between the TV shows, their new movies, and some of their older films that Universal was reissuing to theatres, audiences were getting overexposed to them, and growing tired of them. The fact that they were both growing older didn’t help, especially since they were being given less-than-stellar scripts, as well as facing competition from the new and much younger comedy team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

But one of their biggest problems was the IRS. Whether because of a crooked accountant or because of gambling their money away (or some combination thereof), Bud and Lou found themselves owing a huge amount of money to the IRS. It essentially forced them to sell off a lot of their assets, including their homes. That debt really hurt them when it came time to renew their contract with Universal. They demanded more money, in the hopes of being able to pay it off, but with their films failing to be as successful as they had been in the past, Universal decided it wasn’t worth it and dropped them.

The boys tried one more time with Dance With Me Henry, an independent film that, in some respects, allowed their characters to start showing their age. Still, it didn’t go over well with audiences. They were reunited for a 1956 episode of the TV show This Is Your Life that focused on Lou. They tried, however briefly, to go to Las Vegas to do their act, but the magic wasn’t there anymore, and they disbanded the team.

The aftermath:

After they broke up in 1957, Lou tried to keep going on his own, doing a few TV appearances and the movie The 30 Foot Bride Of Candy Rock before he passed away on March 3, 1959 from a heart attack. Bud, due to the IRS going after him, came out of retirement and attempted to partner with Candy Candido, although he quickly called it quits, feeling it wasn’t the same without Lou. He did provide his own voice for the Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Abbott And Costello Cartoon Show. After a series of strokes, Bud died of cancer on April 24, 1974.

The routines:

“Two Tens For A Five,” “Smoking,” “Who’s On First?,” “Jonah And The Whale,” “365 Days – Firing,” “Mustard,” “Dice Game,” “Loan Me $50,” “Drill,” “Play The Radio,” “You’re 40, She’s 10,” “The Lemon Bit,” “7×13=28,” “Buzzing The Bee,” “Moving Candle,” “Changing Room,” “Comic Ballet,” “Figure Of Speech,” “Go Ahead And Order Something,” “Poker Game,” “Herd Of Cows,” “Crazy House,” “Go Ahead And Back Up,” “Tree Of Truth,” “Stinker,” “Handcuffs,” “Limburger Cheese,” “Alexander 2222,” “Watts Volts,” “Mudder/Fodder,” “Betting Parlor,” “Teller What?,” “Pack/Unpack,” “Piano Scene,” “Handkerchief Gag,” “Go Ahead And Sing,” “Bagel Street,” “Life Guards,” “Oyster,” “Wrestling Match,” “Higher/Lower,” “Feathers In The Cake,” “Necktie Pitch,” “Frog In The Soup,” “Silver Ore,” “Money Exchange,” “Forefathers,” “Whale Spout,” “Venusian Balloons,” “Squirrel In The Bread,” “Take Your Pick,” and more!

The set (The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection):

This set contains all 28 of the Universal-owned Abbott and Costello films on Blu-ray, from One Night In The Tropics up through Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy. The transfers range from being decent (on most of them) to being really good (mainly for some of those released individually by Universal Studios). While I wish they could all have been restored, I also realize that would have been very expensive for them to do (and would have been reflected in a much higher list price than most would be happy with). So, these are good enough for me. Extras on this set include The World Of Abbott And Costello (1965), Abbott And Costello Meet Jerry Seinfeld, Abbott And Costello Meet The Monsters, Abbott And Costello Meet Castle Films, audio commentaries on a few movies, a few featurettes, some bloopers/outtakes from several movies, and a 44-page booklet on Bud and Lou and their films from Universal.

My opinion:

Bud and Lou are among the few classic film stars I grew up with (as opposed to learning to like in my late teens or older), so it is no surprise that I am fond of them. I can say that I’ve seen most of the movies a time or two before, along with their classic sitcom. With this recent run through of their filmography, I found my opinions of some films improving, while others more or less stayed the same. I do think, as a whole, that most of their earlier films are better than some of their later fare, but there are certainly enough laughs to be found throughout their entire filmography! I have no trouble whatsoever recommending the recent Blu-ray set, in between the movies and the extras!

And here’s the Our Gang/Little Rascals restoration campaign!

TFTMM 2020 & WOIANRA 2019 on… The World Of Abbott And Costello (1965)

And to finish off today’s triple feature (not to mention, our run through of the Abbott and Costello filmography), we have the 1965 film The World Of Abbott And Costello.

Well, this one should be fairly quick and easy. The World Of Abbott And Costello is a compilation film, making use of clips from various movies that the comedy team of Abbott and Costello made for Universal Studios. Movies represented by film clips include The Wistful Widow Of Wagon Gap, In The Navy, Hit The Ice, Who Done It?, Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein, Mexican Hayride, Hold That Ghost, Abbott And Costello In The Foreign Legion, Little Giant, In Society, Ride ‘Em Cowboy, The Naughty Nineties, Buck Privates Come Home, Buck Privates, Abbott And Costello Meet The Keystone Kops, Lost In Alaska, Comin’ Round The Mountain, Abbott And Costello Go To Mars and Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy. The film is narrated by comedian Jack E. Leonard.

Ok,now that we are past all that, I can tell you what I think of it. As a whole, this is a very weak film. By way of the narration, it “attempts” to tell the story of Abbott and Costello (although anybody expecting this to be a documentary is looking at the wrong film, as it doesn’t come anywhere near what I’ve heard). Outside of the opening and closing credits, the entirety of the film utilizes clips from their films. The problem with that is that they use clips from the lesser films along with their better stuff. When it actually uses footage of their comedy routines, it’s good and funny (but those moments are a little too few and far between). The narration by Jack E. Leonard isn’t that great either, as he throws in his own quips, almost all of which land with a thud. And sometimes his narration rather annoyingly covers some of the (far, far better) comedy routines, most noticeably during the “Who’s On First?” routine at the end of the movie. Personally, I think there are better ways to be introduced to the Abbott and Costello films (mostly by giving their earlier films a try), so I really wouldn’t recommend this movie at all.

This movie is available as part of the 28-film The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection from Shout Factory, and is one hour, fifteen minutes in length.

My Rating: 3/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy (1955)The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection

And here’s the Our Gang/Little Rascals restoration campaign!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Spinach-Packin’ Popeye (1944)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s 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, 6 seconds)

After giving blood, Popeye loses a fight to Bluto and tries to convince Olive not to reject him. A bit of a clip show, making use of some footage from “Popeye The Sailor Meets Sindbad The Sailor” and “Popeye The Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves.” Obviously, the animation styles between the old and the new differ, but it still works quite well here. One of the better clip shows amongst the Popeye cartoons, and one I do enjoy seeing every now and then!

And stay tuned for more of Coming Up Shorts! featuring more of Popeye (and the eventual post on the entire 1940s Volume 1 set), along with other shorts!

TFTMM 2020 & WOIANRA 2019 on… Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy (1955)

We’re sticking around for the second film of today’s triple-feature as we finish out the Universal run of the Abbott and Costello films, with their 1955 comedy Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy!

Note: even though the credits list their parts as Pete Patterson (Bud Abbott) and Freddie Franklin (Lou Costello), they go by their own names within the movie, so I will stick with their own names for the synopsis.

Dr. Gustav Zoomer (Kurt Katch) has announced to a journalist that he has found the mummy of Klaris, with a clue to a big treasure. He is overheard by many parties. Among them are Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, who hope he will hire them to help take the mummy to America. However, before they can talk to him, Dr. Zoomer is murdered by members of Klaris’ cult followers. When Bud and Lou discover the body of Dr. Zoomer, they take pictures that they send to the police. The only problem is, Lou took a picture of Bud with the body, and now the police suspect him of being the murderer! While on the run from the police, they return to Dr. Zoomer’s home, where they hope to find some clues to his murderer. While they are searching, two other groups are also there, looking for a medallion that would reveal the lost tomb of the Princess Ara. Lou stumbles across it, and, when one group gives chase, they make a run for it. Unsure of the medallion’s value, they ask around, only to scare people away. In a pawnshop, they run into Madame Rontru (Marie Windsor). Unknown to them, she is a treasure hunter and the leader of one of the groups after the medallion. She offers them money for the medallion, but she wants to meet them at a cafe later that evening to pay them. While they are waiting for her, Lou accidentally eats the medallion. Madame Rontru takes him to a doctor to confirm that he ate the medallion, and it is there that they meet Semu (Richard Deacon). He is the leader of Klaris’ followers, but, to lead them into a trap and recover the medallion, he pretends to be a professor, with an ability to read heiroglyphics. Once they arrive at their destination, Madame Rontru and Semu go their separate ways, so they can each plan their betrayal of the other, while Bud and Lou are forced to start digging. Lou finds the secret passage, and encounters Klaris, who scares Lou into spitting out the medallion. Bud and Lou hope to make a deal with Semu, although Klaris keeps causing them trouble.

After dealing with Dracula, the Frankenstein monster, the Wolfman, the Invisible Man, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, of course Abbott and Costello had to meet up with the Mummy! Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy was directed by Charles Lamont, the ninth time that he would direct Bud and Lou in the movies. Of course, by this time, Bud and Lou were no longer the darlings of the studio, with their recent films not received as well by audiences. In spite of the fact that this movie was finished a day early and came in within the budget, Universal spent very little money advertising the movie. After the movie was finished, it was also time for Bud and Lou to renew their contract with Universal, but in between their films not being as successful and their demands for more money, Universal decided instead to drop them.

For me, this movie was truly a return to form for Bud and Lou (although sadly a short-lived one with Universal ending their contract). They made use of some of their comedy routines, including “Changing Room” and “Take Your Pick.” With Lou’s character eating a medallion at one point, we rather hilariously see the villains shaking him up as they try to find it in his stomach with an x-ray machine (although it is fairly obvious at one point that it is some stunt doubles throwing a dummy around instead of Lou). While Lou and his antics when scared by the Mummy are nothing new, he’s still very effective and funny when scared. This is a fun movie, very effective around Halloween, but equally good any other time of the year. I have no trouble whatsoever with recommending this movie!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Universal Studios either individually or in the Mummy Legacy Collection, or as part of Shout Factory’s 28-film set The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection, and is one hour, nineteen minutes in length.

My Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Abbott And Costello Meet The Keystone Kops (1955)Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello

Abbott And Costello Meet The Keystone Kops (1955)The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures CollectionThe World Of Abbott And Costello (1965)

And here’s the Our Gang/Little Rascals restoration campaign!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Sink Pink (1965)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)

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, 21 seconds)

The Pink Panther faces off against a hunter trying to recreate Noah’s ark so he can hunt all the animals. Fun little idea, although the cartoon mainly focuses on the hunter trying (and failing) to outwit the panther. This one actually changes things up a little, as the hunter actually talks for most of the cartoon (and the panther himself has one quick line to end the cartoon)! It’s fun, and worth seeing every now and then even if it does break with the otherwise mostly silent cartoons in this series.

And stay tuned for more of Coming Up Shorts! featuring more of the Pink Panther (and the eventual post on the entire Volume 1 set), along with other shorts!

TFTMM 2020 & WOIANRA 2019 on… Abbott And Costello Meet The Keystone Kops (1955)

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

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Abbott And Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1953)Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello – Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy (1955)

Abbott And Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1953)The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures CollectionAbbott And Costello Meet The Mummy (1955)

And here’s the Our Gang/Little Rascals restoration campaign!

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!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… Father Of The Bride (1950)

For the Third Spencer Tracy And Katharine Hepburn Blogathon, hosted by Crystal of In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood and Michaela of Love Letters To Old Hollywood, I have Spencer Tracy’s 1950 solo outing Father Of The Bride, also starring Joan Bennett and Elizabeth Taylor!  But first, we have a Popeye short, available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection.  Once we’re past that, let’s head on down to the stage, where I’ll hand things over to the narrator to tell the story!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Anvil Chorus Girl (1944)

(Length: 7 minutes, 5 seconds)

Popeye and Bluto come across Olive, who is working as a blacksmith and try to help her out. A bunch of hilarious gags as Popeye and Bluto try to show off their abilities as a blacksmith. A bit of fun here, especially since this seems to be voice actor Jackson Beck’s first turn as Bluto. Also apparently a remake of an earlier Fleischer era short, but it’s certainly enjoyable enough on its own merit!

And Now For The Main Feature…

(Narrator): We open on a house that has clearly just held a big party. As we survey the mess of confetti, streamers and trash, we come upon a worn out Stanley Banks (Spencer Tracy). As he notices us, he starts to talk about weddings, thinking in particular of the one he just went through, and how it started just a few months before…

(Host): Flashback!

(Narrator): Indeed! Activate the time machine!

(Use your imaginations for time travel effects here. All I can do is say we’ve gone back three months.)

(Narrator): Three months earlier, Stanley came home from work just like any other day. During dinner, his daughter, Kay (Elizabeth Taylor), casually mentions that she has become engaged to Buckley Dunstan. Although uneasy about it at first, Stanley decides to support her in the idea. His wife, Ellie (Joan Bennett), almost immediately starts throwing herself into wedding preparations, but he is still unsure, trying to not only remember who Buckley is amongst her beaus, but also worrying about what kind of a life he could give her. He passes on these worries to Ellie, and, once he remembers who Buckley (Don Taylor) is, they make arrangements to meet his parents, Herbert (Moroni Olsen) and Doris (Billie Burke) Dunstan. Not long after the meeting of the parents, Stanley and Ellie throw a party to announce the engagement, although Stanley doesn’t get to announce it since he is stuck in the kitchen the whole time making drinks for everyone. As much as he had hoped for it to be a small wedding, the costs start getting larger, forcing him to attempt to shrink the guest list, with little success. Other than the spiraling costs, things run smoothly until Kay and Buckley have a fight over the honeymoon plans and Kay decides to call off the wedding. However, the two come to their senses and reconcile. Of course, they still have the wedding rehearsal to get through, and that doesn’t go too well (at least, not according to Stanley). The night before the wedding, Stanley’s fears of ruining the wedding cause him to have a nightmare –

(Eerie music quickly plays on organ backstage)

(Narrator): Yes, indeed. His jitters result in him going after a late snack, where he also finds Kay with her own worries. He is able to talk her through calmly (in spite of his own anxieties), and they get through the night. The next day comes, and the place is a madhouse, as everybody tries to get ready for the wedding itself, while getting things around at the house for the reception later.

(Organ starts playing “Here Comes The Bride)

(Narrator): And there we have it, with the wedding going off without a hitch, and the reception also going well. That should do for the story. Now, let’s get back to our host. By the way, nice organ playing back there.

(Host): What do you mean? I’ve been out here the whole time!

(Organ begins playing VERY eerie music backstage)

(Wakes up in bed in a cold sweat)

(Host): Ok, that was pretty freaky. (Sorry, had to get some Halloween fun in there! 😉 ) Getting serious again, I know I enjoy this movie a lot, mostly because of Spencer Tracy. We get the whole tale more or less told from his character’s point of view, and it makes it easy to sympathize with his feelings on the matter. More than anything, the film is about the relationship between his character and his daughter (as played by Elizabeth Taylor). And that relationship feels real, from the way she calls him “Pops” and comes to him when she has trouble, or the way he tries to help her out (even if he keeps sticking his foot in his mouth). I’ve heard that Spencer Tracy had wanted Katharine Hepburn to play his wife in this movie, but others thought they were too romantic a team to play a domestic couple with children. Whatever the reason, I’m glad she wasn’t cast in this instance, as I feel that would have altered the movie too much. As we got it, the story is being told from Spencer Tracy’s perspective, and, as such, it focuses on him. If Katharine Hepburn was in it, I feel like it would have been harder to tell the story from his perspective, and it would have given us a different film entirely.

(Host): Whatever the case may be, it’s still a well-told story. Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor are not the only ones who give good performances here, as we get something good from everybody. Joan Bennett does great as the wife, who eagerly looks forward to planning the wedding (even after Spencer’s character unloads his worries on her). Billie Burke has a fun (although way too short) appearance as Buckley’s mother, and up-and-coming Russ Tamblyn (here billed as “Rusty”) has a background role as one of Kay’s brothers. For me, this is a fun film, that certainly earned its sequel, giving us more time with these wonderful characters. Admittedly, I’ve only seen the sequel once, since it is public domain and hasn’t been given a good release by Warner (who has the film elements), but I remember liking it well enough. I’ve never seen the remake (or its sequel) with Steve Martin, but you’d be hard-pressed to convince me to try that, when I’ve got the opportunity to see the far-superior (in my mind) actor and comedian Spencer Tracy. I certainly want to thank Crystal and Michaela for hosting this wonderful blogathon, as it was a fun reminder to revisit an old favorite that, for me, slipped through the cracks. This is a wonderful movie, and one I have no trouble whatsoever recommending!

(Host): This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection, and is one hour, thirty-three minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Without Love (1945) – Spencer Tracy – Pat And Mike (1952)

And here’s the Our Gang/Little Rascals restoration campaign!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Kentucky Kernels (1934)

Today’s movie is the 1934 RKO comedy Kentucky Kernels, featuring the comedy team of (Bert) Wheeler and (Robert) Woolsey! But, of course, we have three shorts to precede it, all of which are included as extras on the Blu-ray release of Kentucky Kernels from Warner Archive Collection!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Buddy’s Circus (1934)

(Length: 6 minutes, 31 seconds)

Buddy runs a circus as a baby gets into the mix. Can’t say as I have any prior experience with this “Buddy” character, since I mainly know the Looney Tunes era that features the likes of Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, etc. It’s an interesting cartoon, certainly done in a similar style to most cartoons of this era. It has its flaws, mostly revolving around some racial stereotypes of the time that make a few brief appearances here. Like I said, it’s interesting, but hardly worth many viewings.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Dance Contest (1934)

(Length: 6 minutes, 54 seconds)

Popeye competes with Bluto for Olive’s affections in a dance contest. First chance I’ve had to see one of the earlier Fleischer cartoons with Popeye in quite some time, and I’ve gotta say this one was fun! Sure, it was Popeye vs. Bluto, but it feels so fresh compared to some of the later cartoons! Of course, it’s fun seeing what Popeye did for dancing here (maybe not so much with Bluto, who was a little violent in his dancing with Olive, but then again, we’re cheering for Popeye, not him)! All in all, a fun cartoon to get the chance to see!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Sock-A-Bye, Baby (1934)

(Length: 6 minutes, 22 seconds)

Popeye is babysitting, but the sounds of the city won’t let the baby sleep. A lot of different noise-related gags here, which are different than I’m used to with Popeye. Which is NOT a bad thing! This cartoon was fun! Admittedly, Popeye seems to have the same reaction, whatever the noise: to destroy/ beat up whatever is making the noise (but it’s fun seeing some things try to keep going until he finishes them off)! I certainly enjoyed this one!

And Now For The Main Feature…

(Host): Magician Elmer Dugan (Robert Woolsey), also known as “The Great Elmer,” is down on his luck. He is living with his buddy Willie Doyle (Bert Wheeler) in a shanty under the bridge. One night, their fishing nets catch the suicidal Jerry Bronson (Paul Page). They pull him out of the nets, and try to convince him his life is worth living by suggesting he adopt a child. They volunteer to find him one at the orphan’s home, run by Mrs. Baxter (Margaret Dumont).

(Sounds of glass breaking offstage)

(Host): Oh, no. You didn’t.

(Narrator): Yes, I did. He he he.

(Host): Oh, fun. You know what our rather spiteful narrator did, folks? He brought in Spanky Milford (as played by that Little Rascal George “Spanky” McFarland, who was loaned out to RKO by the Hal Roach studio for this film). He’s a nice kid, but he’s got one big problem: he has a fondness for breaking glass!

(Host): Anyways, back to the story. Elmer and Willie are able to adopt Spanky for Jerry, but, when they bring Spanky over, Jerry is leaving for his honeymoon! He promises to return for the boy, and he gives them a check (although Spanky tears it up). Fast forward a few weeks, and now their shanty has greater airflow (since Spanky has been breaking all the windows).

(Sound of shattering glass)

(Host): (Winces). Yes, like that one. (muttering under breath: darn that narrator for bringing him in, anyways.) Anyways, they are visited by a pair of lawyers, who say that Spanky has inherited an estate in Banesville, Kentucky. Spanky refuses to go without his “Uncle Elmer” and “Uncle Willie.” The lawyers, who are reluctant to accompany Spanky there because of a big feud in the area between the Milford family and the Wakefield family, are relieved at the prospect, and offer to pay the expenses for Elmer and Willie to take him (but they don’t mention the feud). When Elmer and Willie see the wad of money the lawyers are offering, they quickly accept. On the train ride there, they meet Gloria Wakefield (Mary Carlisle), for whom Willie falls for immediately. When they arrive at the station, her father, Colonel Wakefield (Noah Beery), is waiting for her. Unaware of the feud, Elmer and Willie invite them over for dinner (an invitation they keep open even after learning about the feud). At first, the party seems to be going well, with everybody getting along, including Colonel Wakefield and Spanky’s aunt Hannah Milford (Lucille LaVerne), who seem to have feelings for each other. Then, Spanky opens a bottle of champagne, resulting in everyone thinking a gun went off, and the feud is back on! (Ah-ha, you thought Spanky was going to open a bottle here, too, didn’t you? Well, I locked that stuff up, and kept the key away from the narrator!)

(Narrator): Drat! I wondered where the key was!

(Host): He, he, he. You see, I can do it to you, too. Anyways, moving on. The next day, Elmer and Willie go over to the Wakefield home to smooth things over. However, after one of the servants let them in, they overhear Colonel Wakefield planning revenge on them and the Milford family. Unable to get out of the house without being discovered, they try to hide. Elmer is found by the Colonel in Gloria’s room, and the Colonel immediately sends for a minister.

(Narrator plays “Here Comes The Bride” on organ backstage)

(Host): (Walking backstage): No, no, no! Not now! You’re a few days (and one post) too early!

(Sounds of a cartoon hammer hitting someone on the head)

(Music stops)

(Host): (Walking back onstage, drops a big rubber mallet on the way out): Right then. Willie tries at first to pose as the minister, but the real one shows up, and they both get out of Dodge as quickly as they can. The next day, the Colonel gets all the Wakefields together to shoot the Milfords, but Gloria warns Elmer and Willie before the Wakefields arrive. However, when they get into a carriage to leave, Spanky gets out to break the glass in the greenhouse, and they’re stuck there.

(Checks backstage on the narrator, finds him starting to wake up).

(Host): (Whispering): I better stop right there. Any further, and the narrator may start a feud to go along with the story!

(Host): As far as it goes, this movie is my first experience with the comedy team of Wheeler and Woolsey. The only reason I can claim to have heard of them before I decided to try this movie is that I saw requests for their films on the Warner Archive Facebook fan page many times earlier in the decade (requests that obviously ceased to happen after Warner Archive released all of the Warner-owned films on DVD). But, Kentucky Kernels was another thirties film released to Blu-ray (and a comedy to boot, in a year I enjoy comedies that much more), so I figured I would give it a shot. And boy, am I glad I did! From start to finish, the comedy of Wheeler and Woolsey won me over, and kept me laughing! Their comedy was mainly dialogue-driven, but it worked well enough for me!

(Host): Of course, they were hardly all the fun here, as “Spanky” McFarland certainly entertained throughout the movie! If there was any unbroken glass left over, it was only because he didn’t notice it! Of course, I will also say that I enjoyed the film’s one big musical number, the song “One Little Kiss” which was written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby (to be fair, there was one other song, “Supper Song,” but it was so short it hardly seems worth mentioning). It’ll be a while before “One Little Kiss” isn’t stuck in my head (but, like I said, I enjoyed it, so that’s not a bad problem)! If there’s any criticism to level against this movie, it would be directed towards actor Willie Best (who is billed here as “Sleep ‘n’ Eat”). To be fair, it’s not so much him, it’s the material he has to work with, which is obviously rather racist. Luckily, he is for the most part in the background or at least has quick appearances, and it’s easy enough to get past it (at least, it is for me). I enjoyed this movie quite easily, and I certainly recommend it!

(Host): This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection, with the Blu-ray boasting a 4K scan of the original nitrate camera negative. Simply stated, the movie looks fantastic! As much as I enjoyed it, I hope it does well enough for them to release a few more of the Wheeler and Woolsey films on Blu-ray! This movie is one hour, fifteen minutes in length.

(disappears from center stage in a puff of smoke)

(Narrator): There he goes! Stage right!

(Starts to run after trying to tiptoe off)

(Falls through trapdoor)

(Host): Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh! (Slams into ground) Ow.

(Host): (From down below) Now why couldn’t that have happened with the other trapdoor when I was trying to disappear before?

(Narrator): He, he, he.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating :

And here’s the Our Gang/Little Rascals restoration campaign!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… Speedy (1928)

Now, for some rather timely fun, we’ve got Harold Lloyd’s 1928 silent comedy Speedy!

Before I get into today’s review, I have a few words to say. As you might have been able to tell from some of my reviews, I am very much in favor of film restoration, so that many classics can be seen looking much better than they have in a long time. Well, there are two big restorations that are going to making use of crowdfunding to help pay for the restorations. One that has already started (and I should have mentioned a week or so ago when it started) is a campaign on indiegogo being run by boutique label Classicflix, who has licensed most of the Hal Roach Our Gang/Little Rascals shorts. They are hoping to raise at least $70,000 over the next few weeks. They have said they plan to restore them whether or not they succeed with this crowdfunding campaign, but making it to $70,000 (or surpassing it) will allow them to give these shorts a better restoration, a faster one, and also allow them to keep going with their other projects in a timely manner. I will be listing the link at the bottom of this post. The other crowdfunding campaign has not started yet (at least, not at the time of this writing), and that is for the 1952 Abbott and Costello film Jack And The Beanstalk. That one will likely be on Kickstarter, and will be hosted by Robert Furmanek and the 3-D Film Archive (and also get released by Classicflix). When that one goes live, I will add links to that, too. Links for either will be added to every post from now until the campaigns end (and, after that, I will remove them from all posts). I certainly recommend helping them out with either campaign (but especially the Our Gang/Little Rascals campaign, which will require more)! And now, back to today’s movie!

Harold “Speedy” Swift (Harold Lloyd) is obsessed with baseball. So much so that he keeps getting in trouble at work, including his most recent job as a soda jerk. In spite of being fired from his job, he still decides to take his girlfriend, Jane Dillon (Ann Christy), to the Coney Island amusement park. After a long day of fun (and spending all his money), the two of them catch a ride home on a friend’s moving truck. On the way, Harold proposes marriage, but Jane turns him down. She wants to marry him, but currently she is worried about her grandfather, Pop Dillon (Bert Woodruff). He currently owns (and runs) the last horse-drawn trolley in New York City, but a railroad magnate wants the route (although he is unwilling to meet Pop’s and, quite frankly, Harold’s asking price). The next day, Harold gets a job as a taxi driver, although he quickly gets a few tickets from the police. One of his fares turns out to be Yankee player Babe Ruth (as played by himself), who needs to get to the baseball stadium. After the cab ride, he invites Harold in to see the game. While there, Harold overhears the railroad magnate on the phone trying to hire a bunch of thugs to destroy Pop’s trolley (and injure him) the next day. Harold elects to take Pop’s place the next day, and, with the help of the neighborhood, fights them off. That night, though, the trolley is stolen, and, since Pop’s contract with the city requires him to make a run once every twenty-four hours, Harold must rush to find it before time runs out and Pop’s route is worthless!

The movie was shot on location in sites such as the old Penn Station, Yankee Stadium, and Coney Island’s Luna Park. Of course, due to Harold Lloyd’s popularity at the time, they had to hide the camera and secretly film their scenes at Coney Island to avoid attracting attention from adoring fans. Due to the location shooting, the costs were higher on this film than on his previous movie, The Kid Brother, yet the movie still proved to be a big hit. It also turned out to be Harold’s last silent movie, as the advent of sound had begun the year before with the success of The Jazz Singer, and while Harold took on talking pictures, he no longer enjoyed the success he had had with his silent comedies.

Like the other Harold Lloyd silent comedies that I’ve seen (besides The Kid Brother, I have two more reviewed that will be showing up within the year), I really enjoyed Speedy! There are many fun moments here, from the section at Coney Island, to the final last-ditch trolley run, to the fight just before it that is between the thugs and the American Civil War veterans in the neighborhood (and remember, this is set in the 1920s, so these guys aren’t exactly young, here). But, especially at this time of the year, with the baseball season coming to a close, the fun is all the baseball-related antics for most of the movie. Harold’s way of using donuts and pretzels in a display case to show the baseball score for some of his coworkers at the soda fountain is rather clever and amusing. But, obviously, Babe Ruth’s cameo as one of Harold’s cab fares is one of the film’s highlights. With Harold mainly paying attention to his passenger and ignoring the road, you can’t help but laugh while simultaneously sitting on the edge of your seat as he somehow manages to avoid crashing into traffic! While suicide itself is not a laughing matter, you can’t help but chuckle at Babe Ruth’s line of “If I ever want to commit suicide, I’ll call you” at the end of his cab ride. But, again, this is an enjoyable movie, one I don’t mind seeing any time of the year! This year, it’s more fun at this time if only to enjoy the baseball parts without the health risks for the actual players (not to mention seeing footage of Babe Ruth hit a home run from an actual game)! So, yes, I certainly recommend this one!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection, and is one hour, twenty-six minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

Here’s the link for the Our Gang/Little Rascals campaign!

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Kid Brother (1927) – Harold Lloyd

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bumping Into Broadway (1919)

(Available as an extra on the Speedy (1928) Blu-ray/DVD from Criterion Collection)

(Length: 25 minutes, 51 seconds)

As a struggling playwright, the Boy (Harold Lloyd) helps pay his neighbor’s rent, instead of his own. Later, he follows her to a speakeasy, and tries to help her when the place is raided by the police. A lot of different stuff happens here, but Harold Lloyd is hilarious in everything! I know I particularly get a kick out of watching him evade the police at the speakeasy! It’s certainly a fun short, and one I don’t mind seeing every now and then!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Never Give A Sucker An Even Break (1941)

We’re back for some more movie fun, so let’s start off with today’s short, which is available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Ant And The Aardvark from Kino Lorber, and then we’ll set the stage for the main feature!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Ant From Uncle (1969)

(Length: 6 minutes, 7 seconds)

The ant complains about a lack of relaxation, while the aardvark tries to hunt him down.  A few fun gags here, including a recurring gag of the aardvark sucking up different things, such as a small pond when he demonstrates his abilities for us, the audience. We also get one of those rare times that the aardvark is able to “eat” the ant by pretending his mouth is the entrance to a club (and, of course, while the ant is in there, he talks as if it is a real nightclub to get himself out)! Admittedly, the closing gag falls flat, but the short is still otherwise enough fun to enjoy watching every now and then!

And Now For The Main Feature…

The story for Never Give A Sucker An Even Break was the idea of one Otis Criblecoblis. Wait, Otis Criblecoblis? Oh, right, that’s a pseudonym that star W. C. Fields wrote under for this movie. He had been under contract at this time to Universal Studios for four films, of which this was his last. He had fought to do a movie his way under them, and this was supposedly his opportunity to do it with his script, staging, and supporting cast. But, at first, the script was too short (according to the studio), and so it had to be rewritten several times to get it to a decent length. Then, the censors at the Hays Office objected to a great many things about the movie. So, Universal took things further and had some other writers work on it, with their version of the script quite detestable to W. C. Fields. However, he got the last laugh, as the film’s director, Edward Cline, decided to shoot the film with Mr. Fields’ script, and so the Universal executives had no idea. However, the movie still turned out to be Mr. Fields’ last starring film, as the studio dropped him, and his own health started to deteriorate enough that he couldn’t do full movies anymore. Anyways, enough background info, time to hand things over to my new narrator, and get to the movie itself. So, take it away!

The Great Man (W. C. Fields) is on a plane with his Niece (Gloria Jean) when…

Hey, wait a minute! You’re getting a little far into the movie! Try again!

Mr. Van Cleve (Thurston Hall) arrives home to find his wife had thrown a big costume party for her society friends. However, he is very tired but can’t get to sleep because of a leaky faucet, so the plumbers are called. So enter the plumbers, Eddie Harrington (Bud Abbott) and Albert Mansfield (Lou Costello)…

Ok, now you’re not even doing the right movie. Why don’t you set the stage for me, and let me take over?

Fine. We’re heading now to the stage, which is almost bare, save for a chair, a hat rack and our nuisance of a host. Ready now?

Ok, Ok. (Muttering under my breath: That’s the last time I bring in a special narrator for one of these things.) (Normal voice) Here we go, back to Never Give A Sucker An Even Break. To start with, we find W. C. Fields in a cafe, where he converses with the waitress before he leaves for-

(From offstage, a straw hat comes flying in and lands on my head, before the top breaks off and the whole thing falls down to my feet.)

You know, Mr. Fields, I may be tall, and I may be thin, but I am NOT a hat rack!

(Sticks hat on hat rack, for what it’s worth, as it quickly falls down to the ground over the hat rack.)

Where was I? Oh, yes. Mr. Fields was going in to Esoteric Pictures, where he hoped to pitch a script to the Producer (Franklin Pangborn). However, the Producer is currently more interested in rehearsing Fields’s niece, Gloria. Once Mr. Fields is able to see the Producer, he lets him read the script. Playing themselves in this “movie-within-a-movie,” Mr. Fields (A.K.A. The Great Man) is on a plane with his niece Gloria, when he falls off the observation deck. He lands on a bed down on the ground, where he meets the beautiful Ouilotta Hemogloben (Susan Miller), who has never met a man. After playing a kissing game of “Squidgilum” with her, he meets her mother, Mrs. Hemogloben (Margaret Dumont), who has kept her isolated on a mountain as a result of her own troubles with men. Upon seeing her, Mr. Fields jumps into a basket that takes him down to the bottom of the mountain, where he goes to a nearby village and is reunited with Gloria. While in the village, he learns that Mrs. Hemogloben is quite wealthy, and considers the idea of marriage. However, his Rival (Leon Errol) also hears, and climbs up the mountain to propose to her himself. Mr. Fields is able to get there himself to propose, and Mrs. Hemogloben accepts (while Mr. Fields shoves his Rival off the mountain). After talking with Gloria, though, he reconsiders, and the two of them hop in the basket, which starts unwinding its way down to the bottom of the mountain. At this point, the Producer is done with the rather ludicrous script that had been handed to him, and immediately bans Mr. Fields from coming on the lot. Later, while he’s out shopping with Gloria, he meets a woman who wants to get to the maternity hospital. Assuming she’s about to give birth (she’s not, as she’s not even pregnant), he rushes her to the hospital in a mad chase with a…

(Sounds of a firetruck siren coming closer from off stage)

What in the world?!?!? Uh-oh!

(dives out of the way as firetruck comes driving through from one side of the stage to the other)

“Hey Abbooooooooooooott!! I’m a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad boy!”

What?!?! What are they doing here?

Weren’t they in this movie?

NO!!! The footage from the big chase at the end was used in the Abbott and Costello film In Society, but that was a few years later! And what’s with them almost running me over?!?!?

That’s what you get for messing with your narrator!

Oh, so what? I was essentially through with the story, anyways. On to my opinion of this movie. This was my first time seeing this movie, and I will readily admit I enjoyed it quite a bit! W. C. Fields was indeed hilarious throughout the movie. The story is almost non-existent, with everything going from one scene to another, but, for me, that works just fine! This movie certainly may not be realistic, but the jokes land well most of the time, and that’s all I can begin to ask for! So I would definitely recommend this one!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. The Blu-ray transfer mainly seems to be an HD scan of the movie, without being given a new, modern restoration. It’s sad, but at the same time, not every movie is going to be lucky enough to get that, especially if the potential sales aren’t there. For me, this movie looks good enough, and it’s easy enough to get lost in enjoying the movie itself without worrying about the picture. I only hope it does well enough that more W. C. Fields movies make the jump to HD (although hopefully with better transfers). The movie is one hour, eleven minutes in length.

Hey, anybody up for a game of “squidgilum?”

(puts hands on head, closes eyes and puckers up )

(sounds of audience members making a mad dash to get out of their seats)

(opens up eyes)

Oh, come on!

Had enough?

Ok, I’m out out of here!

(angrily tap dances off stage)

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Alice In Wonderland (1933) – W. C. Fields