Archive for Abbot & Costello

PAROXYSM

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2018 by dcairns

Renfield Lane, Glasgow, named after Dwight Frye’s most famous character. And, when the image of Joe Dante appeared on the screen inside The Old Hairdressers, he had a picture of Dwight Frye on the wall behind him. Synchronicity, or just good planning?

To Glasgow, to Scalarama’s presentation of Joe Dante’s THE MOVIE ORGY, in its five-hour form. This is essentially a mash-up/collage of footage from movies, TV shows, commercials, trailers and other ephemera, with appearances by Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Serling, Richard Nixon, Abbot & Costello, Ann-Margret, Elisha Cook Jr, Conway Twitty, and future Dante players Christopher Lee and Peter Graves, among many, many others.

I wouldn’t have attempted photography if I hadn’t sat at the back (near the bar) but sitting at the back meant my photographs were crummy.

This was — maybe — the first time the movie has screened without Dante in attendance — which is the least exciting world’s first I can imagine — except it’s such a rarity it still felt like an EVENT — and the auteurless showing did have a prerecorded intro from the Great Man which set up the circumstances of the film/thing’s original creation and its campus screenings, the sociopolitical circumstances, and the fact that baby boomers got a nostalgic kick out of re-seeing TV commercials and kids’ shows of their youth (in that era, such stuff screened briefly and then vanished into oblivion). The movie plays somewhat differently to a modern audience, who have no history with much of this material, but the extracts are so well-selected that pretty much everything is funny in and of itself AND in the way it’s juxtaposed with the clip before and the clip after…

I was present in my combined role of critic and disease vector, distributing cold germs free of charge to the people of Glasgow. My physical discomfort, developing into a horrible attack of dyspepsia after I had one pint of the beer on tap (nothing wrong with the beer, just my body), did not prevent me enjoying the thing hugely. There are moments in there that resemble my own modest movie trailer mash-ups, but devised by Dante when I was around a year old.

I recognized ATTACK OF THE FIFTY FOOT WOMAN and THE GIANT GILA MONSTER and EARTH VERSUS THE FLYING SAUCERS and THE BEGINNING OF THE END which are dismembered and redistributed throughout the film/experience in serial form, but I’d never seen (or heard of) SPEED CRAZY (William J. Hole Jr), COLLEGE CONFIDENTIAL (Albert Zugsmith) and though I thought I knew what TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE was, I now realize I’d been confusing it with INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN, somehow, and I have to see the whole thing.

SPEED CRAZY is a sort of hot rod crime flick in which the maniac anti-hero snarls “Don’t crowd me, Joe!” in literally every scene. Bigger laughs each time.

That’s probably possible, but getting hold of TV show Andy’s Gang, in which a senescent Andy Devine drones hymns at bored kids, accompanied by a cat and mouse strapped into exoskeletal harness costumes which force them to play musical instruments, may prove trickier.

Oh wait, we have YouTube!

Happy nightmares!

Dante described the film/organism as a kind of Rosetta stone of his future work, and indeed numerous points of connection can be drawn, but the real link is THE MOVIE ORGY’s very postmodernity, its vision of a great ocean of pop culture in which all this stuff floats and intermingles, so that Chuck Jones and Roger Corman are artists, but they’re also sources, pumping out raw material that flows into this great Solaris/Matmos, which surrounds us but also penetrates us, and binds the universe together.

There are also several things in the film which can be enjoyed sort-of unironically, like the above Abbot & Costello routine, from IN SOCIETY. I dimly remember seeing this as a kid and finding it funny but also baffling and disturbing, which is exactly how I responded seeing it again. It’s a variation on the more famous “Slowly I turned” routine, in which someone is crazy but only Lou (the fat one) sees it. Only here, Bud (the thin one), also sees it, but just kind of refuses to acknowledge it. And it’s not one crazy person  the whole population is crazy. It really has the quality of a nightmare and what makes it more upsetting is that it doesn’t have any logic or justification other than using repetition as a structure. It’s really a bad dream, but a funny one.

Also also, more mysteriously, there are some more lewd and scurrilously satirical sketches, in the movie/event, which might be Robert Downey Sr. skits or something, I’m not sure. Like the smoking surgeon in the clip above. And an amazing epic heaven sequence with the camera craning over a limitless cloudscape of harpists — really impressive kitsch visuals, and what the hell is that from, Joe?

“Now it’s time to say good-bye…”

Oh, and one more thing. Don’t crowd me, Joe!

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Costellokinesis

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on September 23, 2015 by dcairns

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But that’s TODAY! I haven’t had a coincidence like this since HOT SATURDAY (which was also the mystic 23rd)

Fiona remembered seeing THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES (1946) as a kid, though she couldn’t remember what it was called. Just that it was a curiously morbid yet charming fantasy with Lou Costello as a ghost. I remembered it too, couldn’t recall the title (which is a little flat), but suspected it came about partly because Abbot and Costello couldn’t stand each other and the story allowed them to star in a film together without sharing so many scenes as usual. Basically, Lou and Marjorie Reynolds are ghosts condemned to haunt an old house until they can prove that they weren’t traitors during the American Revolution. Bud is both the sneaky butler who landed them in trouble (sort of) and a modern descendent, a nervous psychiatrist who becomes the butt of the ghost’s jokes. For some reason, his role is undermined by the addition of three other houseguests, though the only other important player is housekeeper Gale Sondergaard, who’s psychic. As viewers of both THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL and BLITHE SPIRIT know, the lower orders, being closer to the animal kingdom, have a natural sensitivity to spectres denied to their more sophisticated natural superiors.

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The movie is blandly directed by regular A&C helmer Charles Barton — each shot cuts off randomly, as if curtailed purely by how much dialogue the actors could get through. Dialogue introducing a restored mansion is followed, not by a shot of the house, but by an ill-framed automobile, and one awkward composition makes it look like a series of characters are standing atop a harpsichord, an odd position from which to deliver exposition.

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But everything else about the movie is pretty neat. The special effects are elegant and fun, and the script provides lots of opportunities/challenges for the team responsible. At one point, the male and female ghosts run through each other and exchange clothing. In a saucy scene, an invisible Reynolds sheds her visible gown and runs off as nothing but a pair of disembodied stockings. (Sexual confusion reigns: Sondergaard, at a séance, channels a male voice, that of Reynold’s dead betrothed (speaking live from the afterlife). “You were gonna marry her?” asks Lou, then makes an ambiguous gesture with his wrist that seems faux-unconscious enough to escape the censors.

Folding in elements of TOPPER, THE UNINVITED and I MARRIED A WITCH, this is a pretty solid example of the supernatural whimsy that seemed to run rampant after WWII. And Costello is a funny guy — his big-kid act is half schtick and half actual solid performance. I checked off the bits of business as they appeared — the asthmatic wheeze of high emotion; the baby-talk voice of shame; the octave-skipping yelp of alarm. He’s less weird than Jerry Lewis, but more accurate in his mimicry of a five-year-old (Jer is more like a five-year-old space alien anarchist).

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Abbot is a problem here, given not much to do — when he’s not half of a perfectly-timed pair, he kind of disappears. I can’t imagine he was happy with this one, though maybe not having to look at his partner’s pudgy face so much was a compensation.

Another thing about this film — after the Revolutionary War prologue, the first half of the 1946 scenes is the ghosts tormenting the mortals, accidentally at first, by searching for their exonerating evidence after midnight, and then deliberately, by pranking Abbot in punishment for his ancestor’s general shiftiness. But once the mortals figure out what the ghosts want, they immediately set about helping them, with no ill feelings. That’s so sweet it makes me want to cry.

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Girls! Watch this movie and you will also learn the exact amount of time you have to spend trapped with Lou Costello as an immortal wraith before he starts to seem sexually appealing to you. One hundred and sixty-five years exactly. That could be useful information, conceivably.