Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Abbott And Costello Meet The Invisible Man

Defective Inspector

Abbott And Costello
Meet The Invisible Man

USA 1951
Directed by Charles Lamont
Universal Blu Ray Zone A

This one will be a short one as there’s not all that much to say about this final part of the Invisible Man franchise other than, it’s a not bad Bud and Lou vehicle which mostly works. Abbott And Costello Meet The Invisible Man was originally planned as a another straight entry in the series but, after the success of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and what followed for the comedy duo’s career revival in the wake of it, the straight script was recrafted to fit into their subsequent successes of the Abbott And Costello Meet... films.

Of course, at the end of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (which I reviewed here), the two had already briefly met an iteration of The Invisible Man in the form of Vincent Price, who had already played the character in The Invisible Man Returns (reviewed here). This time, however, it was yet another title character, this time in the form of boxer Tommy Nelson (played by Arthur Franz), who is friends with a doctor who has the invisibility serum. Actually, the mechanics of the plot fit right into the Invisible franchise, as it’s established that it’s the same serum used by Dr. Griffin in the first film. Alas, although the doctor in this film has a portrait of Griffin as played by Claude Rains (in 1933’s The Invisible Man, reviewed here), they say that his name was John Griffin... when the character name of Rains character was actually, of course, Jack Griffin. However, the threat to Griffin’s mental state is exactly the same and I guess nobody can remember the antidote serum used in some of the previous Invisible pictures because, although the formula is once again expected to bring madness on the user within a week or two, the doctor has to start developing a re-agent from scratch here.

Meanwhile, the now invisible Tommy has to clear his name after his manager was murdered for not throwing a fight in a crooked boxing match. So he hires two bumbling detectives fresh from graduating from detective school (played by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello... we see the graduation ceremony as the opening scene) and between the three of them they end up putting Lou undercover as a boxing sensation in order to attract the same crooked offer and so expose the operation and get a confession to clear Tommy’s name. While all the while they work to escape detection from the mostly ineffective police inspector who knows the game is afoot, played by William Frawley (who people may remember from the popular I Love Lucy TV show).

That’s the set up and it’s all pretty much the kind of comedy shenanigans you’d expect from Bud and Lou (they retain their real names for their characters and their middle names for the character’s surnames) while also blending the invisible routines into the plot. And, to be fair, it’s a perfect fit for all kinds of zany antics, culminating in the big boxing match where invisible Tommy throws the punches while Lou tries to look like he’s doing the fighting.

So yeah, nicely comedic with some standout sequences such as a nice ‘money grab’ routine between Bud and Lou as they fight over their retainer money and a good three handed card game with the invisible guy. The scene where the invisible boxer steals Lou’s spaghetti before he notices it and Lou ends up rolling up his own napkin in his fork and stuffing it into his mouth is typical of how these two comics can sell their antics so well. It was an unexpected moment and well executed, like many of their comedy routines.

The special effects are all top rate in terms of the invisibility stuff and, even though some of these sequences are recycled footage from The Invisible Man Returns, the new stuff is equally impressive and really shows how well the studio could knock out these trick shots just 18 years after the first one. To be fair, the majority of the effects work in all of the Invisible Man franchise was pretty good right from the start and Universal were not a poverty row studio who would try and cut corners on this kind of stuff. It all looks pretty convincing although, the recycled footage of an invisible hamster disappearing does contradict the way Tommy transforms in terms of continuity of the process, to be fair.

Of course the jokes are thick and fast and a nice running joke where eye witnesses keep ending up in the office of the police psychiatrist also breaks up the action and gives a quick break here and there. A nice one liner is when the psychiatrist asks Lou if he knows where the subconscious mind comes from? Lou’s answer of “The subway?” does not disappoint.

One thing I noticed was that the humour is a lot gentler than some other comedians in terms of what they were bringing to the table, particular in terms of sexuality. It’s present but it’s not spelled out for the kids. So, for example, a line to Lou from a seductive femme fatale that she has “Two good reasons for wanting to meet you.” is filled with the expected innuendo but Lou just looks away to milk it... rather than follow it up with a line of his own, allowing it to float over the heads of the more innocent audience without making a big production out of it.

At the end of the day, Tommy’s name is cleared, Bud and Lou presumably get paid and the main villain gets his come uppance. Incidentally, eagle eyed viewers might recognise the villain, Morgan, as being played by Sheldon Leonard. Leonard had, of course, played Nick the bartender in a couple of scenes in It’s A Wonderful Life (reviewed by me here...)... “Hey get me, I’m giving out wings!”... so it was a nice surprise seeing him in something else.

And that’s about all I've got in me for Abbott And Costello Meet The Invisible Man. However, it’s not the end of my Abbott and Costello nor Universal franchise reviews because the fifth classic Universal monster was just around the corner in Creature From The Black Lagoon (which I’ve already reviewed for this blog and you can read that here) and also, Abbott and Costello would meet a new incarnation of yet another of the five big Universal horrors too. And, as usual, it’s all coming soon to this blog so... stay tuned.

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