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  Hold That Ghost Ring For Doom Service
Year: 1941
Director: Arthur Lubin
Stars: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Richard Carlson, Evelyn Ankers, Joan Davis, Marc Lawrence, Mischa Auer, Shemp Howard, Russell Hicks, William B. Davidson, Ted Lewis, The Andrews Sisters
Genre: Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Chuck (Bud Abbott) and Ferdie (Lou Costello) are the new waiters at a swanky nightclub where Ted Lewis and his Orchestra are in residency, but how long will they keep their jobs after the head waiter (Mischa Auer) finds them gambling in the kitchens? He gives them the benefit of the doubt, but as a team they're not so good at the job and soon they are causing minor amounts of havoc with the customers. The head waiter has no choice but to sack them and Chuck and Ferdie are back at their old job of gas station attendants the next day. However, they have a fateful meeting there with gangster Moose Matson (William B. Davidson) which sets them on an adventure they hadn't counted on...

Hold That Ghost, scripted and packed full of jokes by Robert Lees, Federic I. Rinaldo and John Grant, was for a long time thought of as the best Abbott and Costello comedy, but watching it today the stream of vaudeville routines and lines don't run as smoothly as they once did. As The Cat and the Canary remake with Bob Hope had recently been a big hit, there was a revitalised trend in Hollywood to make comedy thrillers and horrors, and this particular team were not immune to the charms of the genre, although for about a third of the running time you'd never know there were thrills coming up, and the title promises ghosts that never appear at all.

Chuck and Ferdie are typical Abbott and Costello characters, with Chuck pushing Ferdie around, slapping him occasionally (which seems a bit unnecessary), although as usual, mainly the only person who listens to the brusque Abbott is the cowardly Costello. The duo somehow find themselves in the back seat of Moose's car while he's being chased by the cops, and in a gunfight to boot, which ends when the gangster is fatally wounded. As no one was mentioned in Moose's will, Chuck and Ferdie rather unbelievably inherit his fortune, which as nobody knows where it is, amounts to a run down hotel in the middle of nowhere.

Costello was adept at acting scared, and this film gives him ample opportunities to do so once they reach the hotel in the middle of the night. As they've hired a bus, there are other people with them along for ther ride: gangster Charlie (Marc Lawrence) who means to kill Chuck and Ferdie, scientist Doc (Richard Carlson with glasses to make him look intellectual), and two women, love interest Norma (Universal horror leading lady Evelyn Ankers) and extra comic relief Camille (the appealing Joan Davis). When the bus driver zooms off with their luggage, they are stranded and forced to spend the night in the hotel.

Well, apart from Charlie, who while in the basement is strangled - I'm still not entirely sure why, after all, he was one of the baddies. Nevertheless, it provides the plot with a corpse to frighten the cast, and the rest of the film consists of various routines with a lot of reliance on that old standby, having Costello see something scary happen, call for Abbott only for the thing to have disappeared or stop happening - hey, if you've got a formula, use it. Interestingly, there's not an obvious leader or manly hero amongst the cast, with Doc more interested in testing the water (literally) and everyone else frequently spooked. As there are so many jokes a fair number hit the mark ("He had a gag in his mouth," "If he did, he didn't have time to tell it!"), and there's a comfortable feeling to its cosy chills and humour. Maybe it wasn't their very best, but Hold That Ghost is the kind of thing fans like to see Abbott and Costello doing, and they do it well.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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