If it shticks
Just try having a Halloween film fest that won’t send someone off to ralph up their candy with what passes for a “scary movie” these days. It’s all about gross-out, with saws and sadism reigning supreme. And if the horror flicks are bad, the comedies are worse, passing off farts and testicle injury as punch lines.
For those tired of gore and bad taste, the gigantic boxed set (28 freakin’ movies!) of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’s work at Universal Pictures arrived just in time. Abbott and Costello were the sort of comedy team that kept it clean and funny, taking verbal comedy to a new level with their famous “Who’s on first?” shtick. But they also delivered some serious physical comedy. The string of funny low-budget movies they put out through the ’40s and ’50s prove it.
The best of the bunch are the ones where they team up with famous movie monsters: Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff, who made a couple of appearances as a bad guy. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is a classic, with appearances by the monster (and any aficionado can tell you that Frankenstein is the scientist, not the monster), Dracula (the only time Lugosi reprised the role) and the Wolf Man. It’s memorable not only for the monster-rama, but also for an extended shtick involving a candle that floats through the air.
Others worth catching this Halloween include Hold That Ghost, Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, and Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, again with Karloff as the bad guy. But these guys and their tongue-twisting high jinks weren’t limited to the monsters. The set also includes fun with the French Foreign Legion, the Army and door-to-door salesmen. These were some silly, silly movies.
That’s movies, not “films.” Not “cinema.” But definitely just the thing for our current times, when we can get all the real horror we need from watching the news.