Year 8, Day 290 - 10/16/16 - Movie #2,468
BEFORE: While I spent last weekend in the crowded Javits Center, working at Comic-Con while surrounded by crowds, this weekend I was more of a shut-in. I'm still getting over this cold, so yesterday I just watched TV and slept, and today was more of the same - I only left the house today to buy a sunday newspaper and to trim back the grapevine in the backyard, since over the summer it sends out tendrils into the neighbors' yard that go climbing up their tree. Turns out it was expanding in all directions this time, and I had to trace down those rogue branches and try to keep the vine contained on our property.
This linking couldn't have worked out much better, by dropping in those last two terrible vampire films, I ended up making things much easier on myself - instead of making an indirect connection from Adam Sandler, I can make one from Jennifer Beals, who was in the film "Four Rooms" with Marc Lawrence, who also has a part in this Abbott & Costello film, which was made 54 years earlier. Now that's a long career in Hollywood.
THE PLOT: Two bumbling service station attendants are left as the sole beneficiaries in a gangster's will. Their trip to claim their fortune is sidetracked when they are stranded in a haunted house.
AFTER: I tabled the Abbott & Costello films in early July, because two seemed like they were more appropriate Halloween fare, so I just hoped I could find my way back to them in October. I had just seen the new "Ghostbusters", and I figured that this one could go nicely with that, if not through linked actors then at least they would connect thematically.
However, this one really belongs here, next to "Vampire's Kiss", not next to "Ghostbusters", which had people fighting "real" ghosts, or next to "The Haunted Mansion", for the same reason. Last night's film featured a man who only THOUGHT he was turning into a vampire, and this film has our heroes inheriting a property they only THINK is haunted. Look closely at that image in the film's poster - you can see it's just a guy in a suit underneath a sheet, trying to look like a ghost.
So the spookiness factor is really low in this one, it turns out some mobsters want to scare everyone away from this property because they believe it's where "Moose" Matson stashed all of his crime-boss money. In addition to furthering the career of young(ish) comedians Bud and Lou, this film also inspired about 75% of all the "Scooby-Doo" storylines. You know, when the whole gang of teen detectives would visit one of their relatives (or have some similarly thin reason to drive to the next city) only to find a creepy-looking property that's supposedly haunted by some ugly legendary monster who, I swear, this time is not going to just be the groundskeeper in a rubber mask again.
In fact there's something vaguely "Scooby-Doo"-like about the group of people that gets stranded overnight with Abbott & Costello in this rural tavern, because there's the smart guy, his (eventual) beautiful waitress, and a more sensibly-dressed radio actress. All that's missing is a stoner and his dog...
I wasn't around during the 1940's (I'm old, but not THAT old...) so for all I know, if you were present when a gangster died holding his will, you became his inheritors. Maybe that would have stood up in court back in 1941, I don't know. But really it's just a contrivance to get Bud and Lou from being gas-station attendants to property owners, and they could really turn this tavern into a vacation hot spot again, if they could just figure out how to get the candles to stop moving around.
That's about the scariest thing that happens in the house, candles moving by themselves. Though they never explain how the candles were made to move, so maybe the place was haunted. As I mentioned, the ghost is just a guy under a sheet, and the dead body that keeps turning up? Oh, see that's just a real dead body, easily explained. But all of these things give Lou Costello a chance to do that "gasping for air" bit when he's really scared.
Also starring Bud Abbott, Lou Costello (both last seen in "Lost in a Harem"), Richard Carlson (last seen in "The Day the Earth Stood Still"), Joan Davis, Evelyn Ankers (last seen in "The Wolf Man"), Mischa Auer (last seen in "You Can't Take It With You"), William B. Davidson (last seen in "In the Navy"), Russell Hicks (last seen in "The Big Store"), Shemp Howard (last seen in "Another Thin Man"), Ted Lewis and the Andrews Sisters (also last seen in "In the Navy").
RATING: 5 out of 10 bowls of soup