A college professor (Patric Knowles) arrives at the city's radio station to take up a job as the scriptwriter of their top-rated radio show, Murder at Midnight, but is offended when he thinks that the only reason that he has been offered the job is because he was recommended by an old girlfriend (Louise Allbritton) who works as a producer there. Meanwhile, aspiring radio writers Chick (Bud Abbott) and Mervin (Lou Costello) are working as soda jerks, but see a chance to get their work on the air when they get tickets to watch Murder at Midnight broadcast that evening. However, they're going to regret getting involved...
You know what you don't see very often nowadays? A good, old-fashioned, comedy murder-mystery. Who Done It?, written by Stanley Roberts, Edmund Joseph and John Grant from Roberts' story, is one of those in the traditional fashion, and one of Abbott and Costello's most popular films. Unlike many of their comedies, this one didn't have any musical numbers, despite being set mainly in a radio station, and the film is more fast-paced because of it. After the obligatory five minute setting up of plot and suspects, we launch straight into the gags, with no flagging until they reach the finish line.
When Chick and Mervin show up for the radio show, they have a bit of trouble getting in, but when they do they are not treated to the fictional murder they expect, but a real one, instead. The head of the radio station is killed as he is about to address the nation, electrocuted by 10,000 volts travelling through his metal chair to the microphone. Somewhat self-centredly, Chick and Mervin see this as an opportunity for fame, and they make up their minds to solve the mystery themselves by posing as detectives.
When the real detectives arrive, the boys become number one suspects and have to evade capture. Who Done It? is almost two films in one, with the murder plot running independently of Abbott and Costello's non-stop routines. The jokes are corny, with groan-inducing wordplay such as "I ordered an ice cream sundae!" "You did? What day is it today?", and there's a bit of self parody when an unimpressed Mervin turns on a radio set to hear Abbott and Costello performing "Who's on first?". I particularly like the visual gag that sees a terrified Mervin making person-shaped holes in two doors while making his escape, before becoming embedded in the wall.
Costello really throws himself about in this one, he must have endured quite a few bruises, and even gets to contribute to an acrobat act when being chased by the police. Where more could have been made of Chick and Mervin's predicament of being budding writers of fiction caught up in a real murder, nevertheless the story is pretty much a showcase for a long series of jokes, some more elaborate than others: the telephone box with the weird callers and the unobtainable number, for example. There may be as many misses as hits, but this is brisk entertainment, with a good, culturally interesting setting and a first rate supporting cast. Music by Frank Skinner.
American director who made over 100 films in a 50 year career. Worked as a bit-part actor before making his feature debut in 1919, and was best known for directing comedies, including two of Abbott & Costello’s best films – Pardon My Sarong and Who Done It?. Kenton also proved adept in the horror genre, directing the 1933 classic Island of Lost Souls, with Charles Laughton, as well as House of Dracula, Ghost of Frankenstein and The Cat Creeps. Died from Parkinson's disease in 1980.