Thursday, 15 December 2011

Hold That Ghost (1941)

Abbott & Costello star in a film with a well-used premise that will be familiar to many. Sadly, it fails to include any of their better material and so ends up being one of their weaker outings from the first phase of their career.

The boys are a couple of gas station attendants unsuited to anything that has more responsibility (as illustrated at the beginning when they fail to grasps the basic of waiting on diners). They have about as much luck as they do cunning but that's all set to change. When a famous crook, Moose Matson (William Davidson), dies in their presence they are rewarded as the benefactors in his strange will and testament. Moose was so untrusting and paranoid that he simply left his estate to whoever was by his side at his moment of death. But people want to find out where Moose hid his stash of cash, which leads to plenty of scare tactics when the boys are driven out to the run-down building full of secret panels, dark corners and revolving casino furnishings.

Directed by Arthur Lubin, and written by Robert Lees, Fred Rinaldo and John Grant, Hold That Ghost has a number of enjoyable moments here and there but often relies too much on Lou Costello overacting as someone being petrified by events that everyone else seems to miss. His wheezing and muffled panic starts to grate quickly but it's the focus of the fun again and again and again. The sad thing is that the cast around our comedy duo are really quite a good bunch. The Andrews Sisters pop up for a couple of numbers, but are thankfully missing from most of the movie, and Joan Davis and Evelyn Ankers are fantastic actresses and great sports for going along with the fun. Richard Carlson is very enjoyable as the doctor far too busy examining things around him to actually notice the important things and Marc Lawrence and Mischa Auer are both just fine.

If this film was just above average then it would still pale in comparison to films such as The Cat And The Canary (the 1939 version), The Ghost Breakers (1940) and even the daffy Scared Stiff (which, to be fair, came a long time after in 1953). It would also pale in comparison to the later A & C movies that mixed comedy with mystery and/or supernatural elements. But it's not even just above average, it doesn't really satisfy and it just doesn't hold up all that well for fans who want to enjoy some quick-talking, quick-thinking fun and idiocy.


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