Year 8, Day 193 - 7/11/16 - Movie #2,394
BEFORE: This will wrap things up for Abbott & Costello's three films they made for MGM, and I'll hear from Bud and Lou again when October rolls around. Yeah, I hate to split up a chain like this, but I have to follow my linking muse. The chain leads me where the chain leads me, and I have proof that everything happens at the right time, which I will reveal in just a few days. After today it's just 9 films until Comic-Con break, and I'll hit another big century mark in another 6 films. That's 2 from the Marx Brothers and 4 from Cheeck & Chong - then when I get back I'll have to decide on the final 100 films for this year. No, wait, when I get back there will be just 97 slots left, and there will also be 4 films I watched which I haven't posted about yet. (Tonight I'm going to a special advance screening of "Ghostbusters", hey, maybe I should have used Abbott & Costello's "Hold that Ghost" as a lead-in. Oh, well, too late to change the plan now, and the actor linking wasn't there, anyway.)
So I guess when I get back from Comic-Con, I'll have to confirm the final 93 films for this year, and right now my plans only extend to 31 of those, so really, I've only got 62 open slots left, 61 if I save one for "Rogue One". But then with 17 slots reserved for Halloween films and 2 for Christmas, that number drops even further, to 42. OK, when I get back I have to decide on the final 42 films for the year, that doesn't seem so hard. To be determined, as best as I can, in the last week of July.
THE PLOT: Two bumbling magicians help a Middle Eastern prince regain his rightful throne from his despotic uncle.
AFTER: It's rather embarrassing, in retrospect, how much Hollywood did NOT know about Arab or Muslim countries in the 1940's. This film is set in the fictional Middle Eastern kingdom of Barabeeha (supposed to sound a bit like "Arabia"?) and from this you'd think that time had been standing still there, ever since the 1400's or so. Compare this to a film like, say, "Raiders of the Lost Ark", which was set in Egypt in 1938 and depicted a society with cars, modern weapons, etc. and not the same Egyptians that you would see in "The Ten Commandments" or "Exodus: Gods and Kings". But in "Lost in a Harem", you can see the same Arabic stereotypes and costumes as seen in films like "Aladdin".
It also proves that the only things that screenwriters knew about Arab countries was that there are harems, where the sultan or prince keeps his many wives, and that some Arabs have mystical powers, like the tyrannical leader with magical hypnotic rings. (Is the power within the rings, or within the man wearing them? We're never really sure.)
Speaking of magic, Bud and Lou play two amateur magicians who perform in a road show traveling through the Middle East, and Lou's character can't quite figure out how the props are supposed to work. Perhaps that's a good thing, because if the Arabs saw magic they didn't understand, they'd probably just behead them, right? Anyway, this part of the story ends with a brawl at the nightclub - if the "Thin Man" movies proved anything, it's that a brawl is the quickest way to get out of a restaurant or club scene, and on to the next bit.
But they're thrown into jail, where they meet a derelict who's been locked up so long that he's gone quite crazy, and hearing a particular phrase ("Pokomoko") reminds him of his crime and sends him into a violent rage. This is a variation on the old "Slowly I turned...step by step" routine, when the Three Stooges did it, the trigger phrase was "Niagara Falls". Apparently it all goes back to a recurring vaudeville routine, most commonly called "Slowly I Turned", and of course, once they establish what the trigger is, you just know that phrase is going to come up in conversation, again and again. (Other variations on this include the "Susquehanna Hat" routine and the "Cleaning Woman" phrase from "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid".)
After getting out of jail, our heroes hook up with a band of desert riders and concoct a plan to get into the palace and steal the hypnotic rings, but the plan goes awry, they get hypnotized into thinking they're termites, and their singer Hazel is forcibly engaged to marry the Sultan. And that's just a wee bit rapey, hypnotizing a woman to join a harem. But thankfully the Sultan is easy to fool, if he can't recognize that one of his wives is really Costello in drag. Which is weird for a man who can hypnotize an entire orchestra and make them perform.
Also starring Marilyn Maxwell, John Conte (last seen in "The Man With the Golden Arm"), Douglass Dumbrille (last seen in "Julius Caesar"), Lottie Harrison, Lock Martin, Murray Leonard (last seen in "White Heat"), and Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra.
RATING: 4 out of 10 camels