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  Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd Who Do They Think They Arrr?
Year: 1952
Director: Charles Lamont
Stars: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Charles Laughton, Hillary Brooke, Bill Shirley, Leif Erickson, Fran Warren, Harry Wilson
Genre: Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: The pirate ship of Captain Kidd (Charles Laughton) is docked at this port, which can only mean one thing: mayhem. The buccaneers run riot there, fighting, carousing and drinking as much alcohol as they can get their hands on, but for two servants in the local tavern, Rocky Stonebridge (Bud Abbott) and Puddin' Head Feathergill (Lou Costello) it's a time to avoid danger. This proves difficult, but in the midst of the pandemonium they are requested by Lady Jane (Fran Warren) to deliver a letter to her sweetheart Bruce (Bill Shirley): just typical of them to get it mixed up with the treasure map of Captain Kidd (Charles Laughton)...

For much of their careers, Abbott and Costello would be under contract with Universal, but every so often they would go off and make a film independently for their own reasons. The reason for this pirate spoof was down to their wish to make films in colour, but Universal saw them making enough profits for them in black and white so were reluctant to indulge them. Therefore the odd movie like this or their version of Jack and the Beanstalk was created under their personal production companies, in colour photography that may have been cheap but wasn't actually all that good, though this time around they were able to secure the services of a proper star.

Mr Laughton being that star, apparently here in the hope he could let his hair down and show audiences he could play comedy as well as he could play drama. In this case that backfired when the consensus was that he had embarrassed himself by appearing alongside these two comedians, taking part in their routines and even their slapstick, which can't have done his famously uncertain self-esteem too much benefit. Nevertheless, for fans of the boys, seeing them performing alongside a thespian of Laughton's calibre, even if he was often accused of being a ham, contained quite some degree of novelty and has sustained interest in what was really a fairly disposable entry in their careers.

It was a musical too, though the songs were not exactly what you'd imagine the average Abbott and Costello fan would be keen to listen to, nor for that matter what the average pirate would either as Warren and Shirley regaled us with operetta-style trilling which interrupted the flow of the comedy, such as it was. The love interest here was even less interesting than it usually might have been, not the fault of the actors but of a script that plainly wasn't taken with them, which left the main point of attraction witnessing the interplay between the lead trio of stars as Laughton blustered his way through scenes chiefly bothering him with the mix up with the treasure map, which was laborious to say the least.

The best way to describe the plot was chaotic as it was essentially an excuse to string the routines together, some of which were better than others. The writers Howard Dimsdale and John Grant knew what would suit the comics best, but by this stage innovation was never going to be on the agenda, so variations on their seasoned vaudeville business was the order of the day, though with a lot less of the verbal sparring they were so good at, with most of the laughs (or so they hoped) coming from such business as Lou getting a faceful of seawater when he opens a window when Bud does not, or Laughton repeatedly knocked out with a shovel for the denouement. He was evidently enjoying himself, thus proving the maxim that what serious actors yearn to do is make people laugh like their favourite comedians did, though whether he achieved that was a moot point. Mainly this was silly fluff which showed nobody at their best, but was not the disaster some would have judged it. Music by Raoul Kraushaar.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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