What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Africa Screams (1949)

Next up, we have the 1949 Abbott and Costello comedy Africa Screams. But before we get into that, I have one more poll to post.

Previously, I picked Doris Day for January 2021’s “Star Of The Month” (and have the movies to review, based on my poll for that). After that, I posted a poll to pick the star for February 2021, and I can announce that the choice was Clark Gable (of course, I’ll be picking the four movies I review for that month). Now, I have one last poll to pick the star for March 2021 (and I’ll be picking the movies for whomever wins). So, get your vote in, and I’ll be ready to start working on it! Now, back to our regularly scheduled review…

Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott) and his buddy Stanley Livington (Lou Costello) are working at Kloppers department store when they are both approached about a map in a now out-of-print book. Stanley is willing to draw the map, but Buzz smells the opportunity for some serious money, especially when he learns that Diana Emerson (Hillary Brooke) is hiring Clyde Beatty (played by himself) to lead an African safari. Buzz makes Diana drag them along on the safari, much to Stanley’s dismay (since he is scared of all animals, big and small). Once on the trip, Buzz again overhears Diana talking to her two thugs about diamonds in the area, and he tries to have Stanley draw the map, only to learn that Stanley didn’t know the right map! So, the safari keeps going on, while Stanley worries about his reputation (well, it’s more like Buzz, since he’s the one constantly getting Stanley into trouble). Eventually, Buzz and Stanley accidentally stumble across some diamonds, but find themselves captured by a tribe of African cannibals. They escape, but the natives want to make a deal with Diana to get them back! So now Buzz and Stanley are on the run from everybody (all the while, of course, Buzz is obsessed with getting HIS damonds)!

Africa Screams was Abbott and Costello’s second independent film, following the previous year’s The Noose Hangs High. The associate producer for the movie, David S. Garber, was a studio manager at Universal Studios. He helped bring Bud and Lou to Nassour Studios for this movie, and brought much of the crew that had been working with Bud and Lou on their films at Universal. The film’s title was a reference to the 1930 documentary Africa Speaks, and for Africa Screams, they brought in explorer Frank Buck, who had done a number of early safari treks on film, as well as lion tamer Clyde Beatty. Bud and Lou ended up not getting along with the Nassour brothers, who were very money-conscious, and complained about the money Bud and Lou spent on pies for periodic pie fights to alleviate the tension. The Nassour brothers fought back by painting the set and charging it to the production, to Lou’s dismay and refusal to pay. Personally, I’m on Bud and Lou’s side, and I almost wish I could have visited this set when the movie was being made, if only to have some fun being involved with the pie fights!

Until recently, I had seen Africa Screams once before, on a DVD rented from Netflix a decade or so ago. Since the movie itself had long before fallen into the public domain, it was one of those DVDs put out by many different labels that utilized a very poor transfer. As a result, I didn’t really take to the movie at the time, nor did I bother to look into finding a decent transfer on disc in spite of my fondness for Abbott and Costello. However, with the recent release of the movie on an official Blu-ray (more on that in a moment), I was willing to give it a try. This time around, it was well worth it! I had a lot more fun with the movie, enjoying the antics of the then-current Stooge Shemp Howard as the very nearsighted hunter (if you can call him that with his vision, or lack thereof) Gunner, plus future Stooge (and costar on The Abbott And Costello Show TV series) Joe Besser. Of course, Lou is a lot of fun, and most of his best moments are with some of the animals, whether it be the small kitten that scares him at the beginning, or the “crocodiles,” or especially with the ape portrayed by Charles Gemora. Admittedly, the movie does have some issues that make it of its time, such as some of the images underneath the opening credits (which are barely noticeable unless you’re really looking at them), as well as a special effect near the end of the movie that renders some of the African natives white in the face from fear. Still, these are minor problems in a movie that is otherwise a lot of fun (certainly more than I remembered), and it is one that I would quite heartily recommend!

In the late 1980s, Robert Furmanek located some surviving 35mm nitrate elements of the movie, and did the best he could for the time being. However, in the time since, the movie has seen many a home video release (due to its public domain status), with few releases offering up good quality. In December 2019, Robert Furmanek started a Kickstarter campaign to restore the movie, as the elements were starting to deteriorate. The campaign was very successful, and the movie was given a 4K restoration by him and his team at 3-D Film Archive. The new transfer was licensed out to Classicflix for a limited, special edition on Blu-ray and DVD. It’s been a while in coming, and it was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020. Having seen it, all I can say is that IT’S WELL WORTH IT!!! The movie itself looks fantastic, and I have no complaints about it. But wait, THERE’S MORE!! Also included is the Abbott and Costello comedy sketch “The Rubdown,” taken from a performance on live TV from 1953, which has been restored from a kinescope, a radio show from 1948 with Bela Lugosi (with the original unedited version that includes audience warm-ups and other stuff, plus what was actually broadcast), an Abbott and Costello comic book in 3-D, outtakes/bloopers, and more! Honestly, if this doesn’t make for one of the best releases of the year, I’d be surprised, its just that good! From what I’ve heard, another label, VCI, is putting out the Abbott and Costello film Jack And The Beanstalk later this year, and will include Africa Screams as a bonus feature, but that will NOT be the new transfer released by Classicflix. So, if you want Africa Screams looking the best it has in a LONG time, get this Classicflix release while it is still available (last information I heard was that it was limited to 2,500 copies, and it was selling pretty good, so don’t wait)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Classicflix as a limited special edition exclusive to their own website and their eBay store, and is one hour, twenty-five minutes in length (the last five minutes are the restoration/Kickstarter donor credits).

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Mexican Hayride (1948) – Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello – Abbott And Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff (1949)

Coming Up Shorts! with… What’s Buzzin’ Buzzard? (1943)

(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: 8 minutes, 12 seconds)

Two very hungry buzzards decide to try to eat each other, to hilarious effect! With one of the buzzards being a very obvious imitation of star James Durante (at least, for those of us who still know who he was), I certainly got a kick out of it! And wile it was very much a satire of the food rationing going on at the time, back in WWII, it still manages to work well. Throw in a gag that reminds you that this short was originally seen in theatres, and it’s a fun watch (just don’t watch it when you’re hungry, or the closing gag will REALLY make you hungry, unless you’re vegetarian)!

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!

TFTMM 2020 & WOIANRA 2019 on… The Time Of Their Lives (1946)

Moving on to the second half of today’s Abbott and Costello double-feature, we have their 1945 comedy The Time Of Their Lives.

In 1780, American tinker Horatio Prim (Lou Costello) comes to the home of Tom Danbury (Jess Barker), where he hopes to find his sweetheart, indentured servant Nora O’Leary (Anne Gillis). Horatio does not have enough money to set her free, but he does have a letter from George Washington that should be good enough for Nora’s masters. However, Tom is making plans to help Benedict Arnold turn West Point over to the British, and his fiancee Melody Allen (Marjorie Reynolds) overhears. She gets Horatio to help her get word to Washington’s men, but on the way, they are mistaken for traitors and shot. Now cursed to wander the Danbury estate until the end of time (or their innocence is proven), they are stuck, as the house is burned and furniture looted. Fast forward to the then-modern times in 1946, and the house has been restored, with most of the original furniture. The house itself is now being occupied by Sheldon “Shelly” Gage (John Shelton), June Prescott (Lynne Baggett), Mildred “Milly” Dean (Binnie Barnes) and psychiatrist Ralph Greenway (Bud Abbott). Since Ralph looks exactly like his ancestor Cuthbert Greenway (also played by Bud Abbott), Horatio takes to playing pranks on him. The housekeeper, Emily (Gale Sondergaard), is aware of their existence, and, once the others are aware, they all decide to figure out what they can do to help the two ghosts. Through a seance, they learn about Horatio’s letter from George Washington, and they do what they can to help find it.

After the success of their previous film, Little Giant (and the continuation of the feud in which they still were not on speaking terms), Abbott and Costello again worked separately for the movie The Time Of Their Lives. This movie takes it even further, as they really don’t interact with each other (especially since Lou is playing a ghost that none of the live characters can actually see for most of the movie), and they do none of their classic routines for this movie. This movie ended up being one of the most expensive Abbott and Costello films to date as a result of the special effects, made somewhat worse by Lou’s habits. Normally, Lou had a habit of taking home mementos from the movies that he made, and, rather problematically, sometimes before production on a set was finished. It was made worse here, since the special effects required them to shoot some of the scenes over a two day period, since at least two takes were required for every shot, one with the actors and one without. At one point, Lou took home some of the props before a scene was finished, and so everything that had been filmed for that scene had to be redone!

I’ve seen it said that this is considered to be one of their better movies, and, in my opinion, it certainly is! While they aren’t interacting as much, Bud and Lou are still a lot of fun here (and certainly better than they were in Little Giant). It’s actually fun to see them with a slight role reversal, with Lou getting to pick on Bud for once! Not to mention Bud being the one scared, as opposed to Lou (although he gets scared a little, too)! I admit, it’s not a movie that you will want to think too hard about, as there are different plot points that don’t make sense. I mean, seriously? It took these two ghosts 165 years to figure out that nobody could see them? And even when they did figure it out, they still feel the need to make themselves “invisible?” Seems more like an excuse for the filmmakers to show off what they could do for special effects. Still, though, the movie just works well. It doesn’t really have the side romances I’m prone to complaining about with these movies, and actress Marjorie Reynolds, whom Lou is paired with for most of the movie, is able to hold up her end of the comedy pretty well, moreso than other cast members in some of the other Abbott and Costello movies. Again, I enjoy this one a lot, as I consider it one of their best movies, and it is one that I have no trouble whatsoever recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of the 28-film The Complete Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection, and is one hour, twenty-two minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Little Giant (1946) – Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello – Buck Privates Come Home (1947)

Little Giant (1946) – The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection – Buck Privates Come Home (1947)

Holiday Inn (1942) – Marjorie Reynolds

Coming Up Shorts! with… Who Killed Who? (1943)

(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, 46 seconds)

We have a murder mystery, with a detective looking to find out who committed the murder while avoiding his own death. More fun gags from Tex Avery, along with Richard Haydn’s familiar voice as the Victim. I certainly enjoyed the touch of the organ music, giving it the feel of a radio program from that time. Yet another cartoon that was a lot of fun, continuing to make the set that it’s included on quite worthwhile!

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!

TFTMM 2020 & WOIANRA 2019 on… Little Giant (1946)

For the first part of today’s Abbott and Costello double-feature, we have their 1946 film Little Giant.

From his mother’s farm in Cucamonga, California, Benny Miller (Lou Costello) takes a correspondence course to become a salesman. While his attempts to sell backfire on him, he “graduates” the course and decides to go to L.A. to become a salesman. He goes to see his uncle Clarence Goodring (George Cleveland), who works at the Hercules Vacuum Cleaner Company, but, since there is a rule in place that they cannot hire the relatives of others who work there, Clarence tries to help get Benny hired without revealing their relationship. The manager, E. L. Morrison (Bud Abbott), mistakes Benny for a model and asks him to undress. Once the mistake is realized, Morrison hires him to make up for it. However, Benny causes trouble with one potential customer, which results in a lawsuit and Benny being fired. However, Clarence sends Benny to a branch in Stockton, which is being managed by Morrison’s cousin, Tom Chandler (also Bud Abbott). Benny doesn’t do any better there, either, and is almost fired until the other salesmen play a prank on him and make him believe he is psychic. However, the joke’s on them, as his belief in his “ability” to read minds results in him breaking a sales record. He is sent back to the main office, where his uncle reveals that Morrison has been embezzling from the company. Morrison is less than thrilled with Benny’s return (not to mention the fact that Benny was hinting around at what he had been doing in front of his boss). So Morrison tries to find a way to discredit Benny before he is revealed.

Much ado has been made of this film being a departure from what the earlier Abbott and Costello films had been like. After sixteen films where the comedy was driven mostly by gags and making use of the comedy routines they had been doing together since they first teamed up, they decided to have the comedy come from the story. In this movie, they didn’t do much as a team! Admittedly, these changes were at least partially the result of the two starting to feud and not being willing to speak to each other off camera. The movie focused in on Lou’s character, which allowed Bud to play multiple characters.

My own feelings on this movie are mixed. I’m now coming off my second time watching this movie. After the first time I saw it, I was really disappointed by it. Now, my opinion has improved a bit after the second viewing. I enjoyed the moment with Lou and Sydney Fields, as Fields argues with everything Lou tries to say. From some of the radio shows, it’s been moments like that that I remember quite fondly and get quite a few laughs out of, so it was refreshing to enjoy a moment like that onscreen. And I do enjoy the fact that this movie does away with the side romances that have plagued a lot of the earlier films, with Lou’s romance being the only one for the movie. All that being said, the movie does seem to get dragged down by the off-screen feud between the two. I just could feel that things were off the first time I saw it, and that feeling is still there. The boys do have one comedy routine together, their “7×13=28” routine, although it doesn’t feel as good as when they’ve done it elsewhere, like in In The Navy. I do consider this to be one of the weaker Abbott and Costello films, but it still has enough enjoyment there for it to be a movie that I would recommend seeing at least once!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of the 28-film The Complete Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection, and is one hour, thirty-one minutes in length.

My Rating: 6/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Abbott And Costello In Hollywood (1945) – Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello – The Time Of Their Lives (1946)

The Naughty Nineties (1945) – The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection – The Time Of Their Lives (1946)

Coming Up Shorts! with… Red Hot Riding Hood (1943)

(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, 14 seconds)

The re-telling of Red Riding Hood, making Red a nightclub performer, Granny a nightclub owner, and the Wolf a womanizer. A lot of fun to be had here, with it starting out like every other version of Red Riding Hood, before the characters demand a different interpretation. The screwy antics made this one a lot more fun that I would have thought, and it was worth seeing to get a few good laughs!

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… Abbott And Costello In Hollywood (1945)

Continuing on with today’s celebration of Clean Movie Month 2020 as hosted by the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, we have another Abbott and Costello movie! This time, it’s their 1945 MGM comedy Abbott And Costello In Hollywood.

Buzz Kurtis (Bud Abbott) and his buddy Abercrombie (Lou Costello) are working at a barbershop for some of the big Hollywood stars. While giving a shave and shoeshine to Hollywood agent Norman Royce (Warner Anderson), they observe how easily he seems to make money, and decide to become agents themselves. As their first client, they take on singer Jeff Parker (Robert Stanton), whom they saw being turned away by Norman. They also have the help and support of their former co-worker-turned-starlet Claire Warren (Frances Rafferty), who takes a liking to Jeff. However, they have trouble with Norman’s star, Gregory Le Maise (Carleton G. Young), who turned down the role for a movie but at the same time, doesn’t want to lose out to a rising newcomer (especially since he has designs on Claire himself). Buzz and Abercrombie are able to get Jeff the role in the movie directed by Dennis Kavanaugh (Donald MacBride), but when Gregory decides to go after the role, Jeff is fired. So Buzz and Abercrombie try to cause trouble for Gregory, helped by him pushing Abercrombie off his boat. Abercrombie is alright, but Buzz forces him to hide and claims he is murdered, which results in Gregory going on the run. However, a disguised Abercrombie accidentally reveals himself to a disguised Gregory, resulting in a chase through a carnival where the movie is being filmed.

This movie is one of a handful of Abbott and Costello films with slightly different titles, depending on the source. Some list it as Bud Abbott And Lou Costello In Hollywood, while others shorten it to Abbott And Costello In Hollywood (personally, I’ll stick with the latter, since it’s shorter and what I’m more familiar with). It’s the third and final movie that the pair ended up making for MGM. While one would think their popularity would have warranted higher production values, MGM still kept things simple, doing a lot of filming on their backlot (well, except for the big musical number that ends the movie). The movie ended up not being that popular, and MGM took the opportunity to terminate their contract with the pair.

I will readily admit, I do feel like this is the movie where things really started to go downhill for Abbott and Costello. I can easily understand why this movie didn’t do so well. For being an MGM film set in Hollywood (and for two of the biggest stars at that time), the celebrity cameos are a lot more minor than you would expect. To be fair, “Rags” Ragland does have one of the film’s better moments, as Lou’s first-ever customer being given a shave, which is quite funny, but the other cameos aren’t exactly big names, either. Admittedly, Lucille Ball, who makes a cameo here, did become bigger in just a few years, but, looking back, her appearance just feels wasted, when you know you’d love to see what her “Lucy” character could really do when working with Lou. Then, of course, there is the problem of the side romance between Frances Rafferty and Robert Stanton’s characters. Yes, I know, the side romances are a common complaint of mine in the Abbott and Costello films, but, going back through these, I do find these two actors doing a relatively poor job, and don’t even feel like they are in the right movie, just dragging everything down.

Still, in spite of my comments, Bud and Lou do have some memorable moments. Besides Lou giving a shave to “Rags” Ragland (and Bud teaching Lou how to shave a few minutes before that), we also have them doing their bit of Lou being unable to sleep one night, with Bud trying to play a record to put him to sleep. Or, there is their attempt to get Carleton Young’s Gregory arrested, first by having him pick a fight with Lou, and then running with the “murder.” Honestly, when not dragged down by the film’s side romance, Bud and Lou are this movie’s best moments. And the movie is a pretty good Code movie. The violence is, at most, comically exaggerated. And while you do get the impression that Carleton G. Young’s Gregory Le Maise is prone to utilizing that old Hollywood problem of the “casting couch” (or, in this case, his beach house) with his female co-stars, he is presented as the film’s villain. As Frances Rafferty’s Claire Warren notes, “Going out to his beach house might help your career, but it hurts your reputation. Personally, I favor my reputation.” So, at least from the Code’s perspective, this is a good movie. However, all that being said, too much doesn’t work like it should here, and for that reason, I really can’t recommend this movie as much as I would some of their previous films.

This movie is available on DVD paired with Lost In A Harem (1944) from Warner Archive Collection, and is one hour, twenty-three minutes in length.

My Rating: 5/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Naughty Nineties (1945) – Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello – Little Giant (1946)

Having Wonderful Time (1938) – Lucille Ball – Mame (1974)

TFTMM 2020 & WOIANRA 2019 on… The Naughty Nineties (1945)

We’re back again today to help the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society continue celebrating the month of July as Clean Movie Month 2020, and we’ll start off today’s double-feature with the classic 1945 Abbott and Costello comedy The Naughty Nineties.

In the 1890s, Captain Sam Jackson (Henry Travers) brings his traveling show boat The River Queen to Ironville along the Mississippi River. He introduces his new cast, which includes his daughter, Caroline Jackson (Lois Collier), and new leading man Dexter Broadhurst (Bud Abbott). At the same time, three gamblers, Bonita Farrow (Rita Johnson), Bailey (Joe Sawyer) and Crawford (Alan Curtis), are told by the sheriff to leave town that night. Before they leave for St. Louis, the three gamblers plan a party for Captain Sam when he arrives there. In St. Louis, Dexter and his buddy Sebastian Dinwiddle (Lou Costello) try (and fail) to stop Captain Sam from gambling at the party. Soon, they find the gamblers now have a share in the River Queen, and decide to make use of Captain Sam’s reputation for honesty in putting in some gambling rooms while Captain Sam tries to earn enough to pay them back. Obviously, Captain Sam doesn’t like this arrangement, and even Crawford finds it distasteful after someone is shot for accusing him of cheating (that, and his growing interest in Caroline). Dexter and Sebastian try to help, but it all comes down to one quick hand of poker to determine who maintains full control of The River Queen.

Ok, let’s get it out of the way. This movie is mainly known for having the complete “Who’s On First?” comedy routine done by Bud and Lou (as compared to the partial routine used in One Night In The Tropics). Reportedly, the director had trouble filming it, as the boys caused the crew to burst into laughter every time they tried to film it, and so that laughter ended up being left in. Now, personally, I can’t claim to have heard it, but for good reason: I’m just as prone to cracking up every time I watch them do it myself, so it’s hard for me to hear anything in the background over my own laughter! “Who’s On First?” was later inducted into the National Baseball Hall Of Fame, and it is this version from The Naughty Nineties that has been playing there on monitors continuously ever since.

But “Who’s On First?” is hardly the only reason to watch this movie. The boys also have a few other routines, including “Higher/Lower” (a.k.a. “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean”) and “Feathers In The Cake.” And I certainly get a kick out of watching them deal with a sleepwalking Bailey (as played by Joe Sawyer), when he constantly attacks Lou and then pauses to say “I Must Tell This To The General” (sure, it’s not exactly politically correct, since he believes he is fighting Indians, but it’s still a fun scene, just the same). And then there’s Lou with the “catfish burgers” (or maybe I should say “cat”)! Just many wonderful moments!

I can’t deny that this movie reminds me of the 1936 Show Boat. And well it should, considering they re-used the river boat from that film as the River Queen in this one. Admittedly, The Naughty Nineties doesn’t compare to that movie. While my ratings are the same between the two, my opinion of Show Boat is reflective of what I think of that movie as a whole, while my rating of The Naughty Nineties is based on the goodwill garnered from watching Bud and Lou, ESPECIALLY with their “Who’s On First?” routine, as the music and romance of this movie are not its strengths.

Still, it’s a good Code movie. All the violence is very comical in nature, whether it be in some of Bud and Lou’s routines, or their fight with the bad guys to end the movie. Obviously, there’s no swearing, with Lou’s line “I don’t give a darn” from “Who’s On First? being as close as it gets. And while we do see the gamblers in charge for a while, it’s obvious that they will be caught by the end of the movie. But I do enjoy this movie a lot! To see Bud and Lou do one of their best-known routines is well worth it, and it’s very easy to recommend this one!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of the 28-film The Complete Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection, and is one hour, sixteen minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Here Come The Co-Eds (1945) – Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello – Abbott And Costello In Hollywood (1945)

Here Come The Co-Eds (1945) – The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection – Little Giant (1946)

Coming Up Shorts! with… We’re On Our Way To Rio (1943)

(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, 50 seconds)

Popeye and Bluto come to Rio, where they run into Olive Oyl as a nightclub singer. Another fun cartoon. While it may be “Popeye Vs. Bluto,” it feels better than the formula would become later on. Of course, this short is a good example of the “Good Neighbor Policy” of the times (and we also get a reference to the rationing of the period, with the points on Popeye’s can of spinach). A lot of fun here, with some fun music, too, so this one is worth 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… Here Come The Co-Eds (1945)

Of course, since it works so well, I figured I would use my second review of the day to help celebrate the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s celebration of Clean Movie Month 2020! And that movie is, of course (in continuing with the Abbott and Costello filmography), their 1945 comedy Here Come The Co-Eds.

Working at the Miramar ballroom as dance escorts, Slats McCarthy (Bud Abbott) doubles as a publicist for his sister and co-worker Molly (Martha O’Driscoll), with the help of his buddy Oliver Quackenbush (Lou Costello). When they get into trouble and are fired, the dean of Bixby College, Larry Benson (Donald Cook), offers Molly a scholarship and jobs for Slats and Oliver due to the publicity he had read. This doesn’t go over well with the more traditional chairman of the board of regents for the college, Jonathan Kirkland (Charles Dingle), but Larry is determined to modernize the college and help bring in more students. Molly does well there, but is unsure of what to do, since Jonathan continues to threaten to stop paying the school’s bills if she does not leave. However, the students, including Jonathan’s daughter, Diane Kirkland (June Vincent), try to raise the money and bet on the upcoming basketball game. But can they win with some dirty double-dealing going on as well?

Here Come The Co-Eds brought Abbott and Costello to the college scene (well, at an all-girls college, anyways). For filming, the studio made use of North Hollywood Park as a stand-in for the Bixby College campus. However, the school’s main building was found on the Universal backlot, and the gymnasium for the basketball game was done on Stage 28, where the original Phantom Of The Opera was filmed (and is apparently rumored to be haunted, no less). And speaking of the basketball game, Lou Costello had been a pretty good basketball player himself when he was younger, and actually did a lot of the special shots for the movie himself!

I admit, going into this movie this last time, I had forgotten how much fun this one is! Obviously, Abbott and Costello have some of their comedy routines here, including “Jonah And The Whale,” “Oyster” and “Wrestling Match,” all of which are fun as always! They also have that basketball game I mentioned (which is ridiculous, but a lot of fun), plus Bud and Lou cleaning up their living space, resulting in Lou getting stuck in a pan of dough and dragging Bud along too! Sure, the music is mostly forgettable and the side romance between Molly and the dean is so under-utilized that you wonder why they bothered (although it was nice to see June Vincent’s Diane Kirkland, who was in a relationship with the dean at the start of the movie, be supportive of her ex’s new relationship instead of making trouble about it). In spite of those issues, I had a lot of fun watching this one again.

Once again, this movie was still made during the Breen era of the Code, and it is certainly reflected here. While most of us would expect a college movie to have a lot of hijinks, including drinking, partying and a lot of bedroom action, but there’s none of that here. Admittedly, that probably does make this movie a little dated (and that assumes it would even have been close to accurate for the time it was made). But it is all still good,clean fun for the whole family, and I consider it well worth recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of the 28-film The Complete Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection, and is one hour, thirty minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Lost In A Harem (1944) – Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello – The Naughty Nineties (1945)

In Society (1944) – The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection – The Naughty Nineties (1945)

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… Lost In A Harem (1944)

Over at The Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, they have been celebrating the month of July as Clean Movie Month 2020, in honor of the beginning of the Breen Code Era (1934-1954), and so, since I have a few movies to work with from that era, I figured I would join in! And to do so, I’ll start in with the first half of today’s Abbott and Costello double-feature, which is their 1944 MGM comedy Lost In A Harem.

In the Arabian city of Port Inferno, a pair of bad magicians, Peter Johnson (Bud Abbott) and Harvey Garvey (Lou Costello), accidentally start a fight in a nightclub that results in the two of them being thrown in jail, along with their blond-haired singer friend Hazel Moon (Marilyn Maxwell). However, they are given the opportunity to escape by Prince Ramo (John Conte), who needs their help (or, more specifically, Hazel’s, but she won’t do it unless Peter and Harvey can go along with her). Once they all get to Ramo’s camp in the desert, he reveals that he needs their help to regain the throne from his evil uncle Nimativ (Douglas Dumbrille), since he is crazy about blondes. However, once Peter, Harvey and Hazel sneak into the palace, Nimativ quickly realizes their purpose and hypnotizes the three of them with his rings. Lucky for them, Ramo sneaks in and sticks them with a pin to break their trance, but he is quickly captured. Peter and Harvey get away, hiding among Nimativ’s harem, but they are soon discovered and captured themselves. They are soon freed (in and out of jail a lot, aren’t they?), but can they manage to stop Nimativ and help Ramo regain the throne?

Even though Lost In A Harem was the second film in Abbott and Costello’s contract with MGM, it had originally been intended to be their first film. However, some of the plot elements from the original script ended up being used in their first film, Rio Rita, and so changes were made to continue on with Lost In A Harem. However, production was delayed nearly a year because of Lou’s bout with rheumatic fever and the death of his son. Between their salaries and the costs of the movie production (although it helped a little that they re-used sets from the 1944 Kismet), the movie proved to be expensive to produce (but it paid off onscreen)!

Of the three films that Bud and Lou made for MGM, I would have to say that I like this one the best. The main reason is that I consider the comedy routines they do here some of my favorites. I love how they interact with actor Murray Leonard as the Derelict, doing the “Slowly I Turned” comedy routine with him near the beginning of the movie, and making it something of a running joke throughout the movie. Makes me laugh every time (just don’t expect me to list the name of the place that shouldn’t be mentioned 😉 )! And it feels just as appropriate when they bring him back for the “Invisible Friend” routine! Between those moments, I just love watching these two! I’ll admit, the music isn’t particularly memorable (for me), but that’s a minor complaint. The hypnosis factor always allows for good comedy (and allows for any acting issues for Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra)!

This movie was indeed made during the Code era, and it works. Admittedly, from what I have read, the censors were originally worried about the costumes for all the harem girls. Personally, I don’t think there is any problem with it, but, then again, opinions may vary. There is very little violence in this movie, and what little there is is generally comically exaggerated. My own opinion is that this movie is just good, clean fun, and it’s one I enjoy watching every now and then! Certainly one I would highly recommend!

This movie is available on DVD paired with Abbott And Costello In Hollywood (1945) from Warner Archive Collection, and is one hour, twenty-nine minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

In Society (1944) – Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello – Here Come The Co-Eds (1945)

Coming Up Shorts! with… Her Honor, The Mare (1943)

(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, 15 seconds)

Popeye’s nephews bring home a horse rejected by the glue factory, but he doesn’t want the horse in the house. A few fun gags as Popeye’s nephews try to get the horse past Popeye. Certainly more fun since it is not as formulaic as some of the later cartoons would be, with no sign of either Olive or Bluto. And certainly, influenced by the times and the Code to keep it clean for everyone. Not one of Popeye’s best, but at least it’s a nice change from the usual “Popeye Vs. Bluto” formula that became a little too prevalent!

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!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Alice In Wonderland (1933)

“‘The time has come,’ the walrus said, ‘to talk of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings and why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings.” If you haven’t guessed already, this time we’re here to talk about Alice In Wonderland. No, not the animated 1951 Disney classic, or the more recent 2010 live action remake, it’s the 1933 black and white live action film featuring Charlotte Henry as Alice.

One night, while watching a snowstorm and petting her cat, Alice finds herself bored. In the process, she lets her imagination get away with her as she imagines things about a white rabbit, chess pieces and the looking glass above the fireplace mantle. She decides to try walking through the looking glass, and finds a different world there. When she spies the white rabbit, she follows him, only to fall down a rabbit hole. While there, she runs into many different characters, from the Caterpillar, to the Cheshire Cat, to the Red and White Queens, to the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, and many others.

Obviously, most will know of the 1951 Disney classic, but not too many know that Walt Disney had, with Mary Pickford, been trying to plan a live action and animation hybrid in the early 1930s. However, Paramount Studios beat them to the punch and got the film rights first (and had an animated segment in their film for “The Walrus And The Carpenter”). Many actresses were auditioned for the title role of Alice, with some sources claiming that Ida Lupino tested for it and was originally intended to get the role, but it ended up going to Charlotte Henry. It ended up being an all-star movie, as Paramount was hoping the film would help keep them from going bankrupt. However, the movie ended up being a flop.

Like many, I can guarantee that the 1951 Disney animated film is probably the most familiar version of the Lewis Carroll story for me. Not having read the actual stories, I can’t really say how accurate this movie is to the book. To a degree, I can understand why the movie originally flopped. In spite of all the big stars in the cast, most are hard to recognize underneath all those costumes. And speaking of costumes, I would certainly say that some of them might border on being too scary for little children, so this is not necessarily a movie for the whole family. As to plot, this movie is very episodic in nature, without much of a thread to pull everything together.

Still, that’s not a terrible thing, as some scenes are a bit of fun. I know I got a chuckle out of Alice’s conversation with the Dodo (played by Polly Moran), as the Dodo talks about history to help dry out Alice’s clothes (hmm, maybe I should try that sometime with my own 😉 ). While the character essentially seems to be a puppet, Humpty Dumpty is still very recognizable as being voiced by famous comedian W. C. Fields, and is one of the better scenes (even if it does feel too short). Edward Everett Horton seems well cast (and easily recognizable) as the Mad Hatter, and is joined by Charles Ruggles as the March Hare (although he’s not as easily recognizable in his costume) for the tea party scene (which is a lot of fun). As you can tell, I can EASILY go on about many of the scenes here, since they are so much fun (and that’s not even mentioning a familiar voice coming from the “wrong” character, since Sterling Holloway, who would later voice the Cheshire Cat in the Disney film, is the voice of the Frog here, with Richard Arlen voicing the Cheshire Cat here). I do think, when it comes down to preference, I would go with the Disney classic for its music, slightly more coherent story and it’s more family-friendly nature, but this one is still a bit of fun, and worth recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. The movie looks pretty good in high definition. There are some scratches here and there, and the picture isn’t perfect, but, given the fact that the movie didn’t even make its home video debut on DVD until 2010 and is therefore not going to be popular enough to warrant a full restoration (I would assume), this release looks good enough for me to recommend it! The movie itself is one hour, sixteen minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Design For Living (1933) – Edward Everett Horton – The Devil Is A Woman (1935)

Blonde Venus (1932) – Cary Grant – The Awful Truth (1937)

Running Wild (1927) – W. C. Fields

Design For Living (1933) – Gary Cooper – Casanova Brown (1944)

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Ant And The Aardvark (1969)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Ant And The Aardvark 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, 15 seconds)

The ant finds a nearby picnic and tries to bring home some food, but is constantly being interrupted by the aardvark. The first cartoon in the series, giving us a typical predator vs. prey cartoon. A bit of fun here, with a few fun gags. Whether any will be remembered as being original, I doubt it, but it’s still a lot of fun, and one of the better cartoons in this set!

And stay tuned for more of Coming Up Shorts! featuring more of the Ant And The Aardvark (and the eventual post on the entire set), along with other shorts!

TFTMM 2020 & WOIANRA 2019 on… In Society (1944)

Finishing out today’s Abbott and Costello double-feature is their 1944 comedy In Society!

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), who come with Albert’s cab driver girlfriend, Elsie Hammerdingle (Marion Hutton). The boys end up causing even more trouble, with the water gushing out of the walls! Meanwhile, Elsie meets playboy Peter Evans (Kirby Grant), who is dressed like a cab driver for his costume, and he takes an immediate liking to her. Afterwards, Mrs. Van Cleve accidentally mails an invitation to another society party being given by Mrs. Roger Winthrop (Margaret Irving) and her daughter, Gloria Winthrop (Ann Gillis), who is interested in Peter. Loan shark Drexel (Thomas Gomez) decides to call in his loan from Eddie and Harrington, or have them steal from their hostess. They refuse, but make their way to the party, hoping to gain new clients. At Peter’s invite, Elsie also comes along. At the party, Mrs. Winthrop unveils her valuable painting, “The Plunger,” but it gets stolen by Drexel and chauffeur Marlow (Murray Leonard), leaving Eddie, Albert and Elsie as suspects, since they are otherwise strangers.

After production had ended on Hit The Ice, Lou Costello came down with rheumatic fever. After a long fight with it, Universal Studios were anxious to have a new film with their big stars. Some of the movie was shot at actual estates in Pasadena and Beverly Hills. to help with its authenticity. In the rush to get the movie in theatres, they even ended up utilizing footage for the fire truck chase scene from the earlier W.C. Fields movie Never Give A Sucker An Even Break (or so I’ve heard, as I haven’t actually seen that movie yet, although it’s one I want to). While the boys had actually filmed Lost In A Harem for MGM first, In Society ended up making it to theatres first, where it was well-received.

Personally, I had a lot of fun coming back to this one. I’ll admit, I had forgotten a lot about it, but it was worth seeing again! Whether with the trouble that the boys got into when trying to fix the leak at the beginning of the movie, or doing some of their routines like “Go Ahead And Sing” or “Lifeguards” (which is a variation on “Mustard”), it was a lot of fun! But I still laughed the hardest when they did their “Bagel Street” (AKA “Susquehanna Hat Company”) routine, which is one of my favorite comedy routines to see them do, with all the people that go crazy at the mention of the “Susquehanna Hat Company!” I’m still not fond of the side romances (nor of the music here, for that matter), and sometimes there is too much craziness, but it was fun seeing this one again, and I still think it’s worth recommending!

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

My Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Hit The Ice (1943) – Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello – Lost In A Harem (1944)

Hit The Ice (1943) – The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection – Here Come The Co-Eds (1945)

TFTMM 2020 & WOIANRA 2019 on… Hit The Ice (1943)

Starting off today’s Abbott and Costello double-feature, we have their 1943 comedy Hit The Ice.

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, and is one hour, twenty-two minutes in length.

My Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

It Ain’t Hay (1943) – Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello – In Society (1944)

It Ain’t Hay (1943) – The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection – In Society (1944)

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)

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, 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 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!