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  Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff Suspicious Characters
Year: 1949
Director: Charles Barton
Stars: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Boris Karloff, Lenore Aubert, Gar Moore, Donna Martell, Alan Mowbray, James Flavin, Roland Winters, Nicholas Joy, Mikel Conrad, Morgan Farley, Victoria Horne, Percy Helton, Claire Du Brey, Harry Hayden, Vincent Renno
Genre: Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: A successful lawyer, Strickland (Nicholas Joy), has arrived at this swanky hotel and the press are around to greet him, although the resident detective Casey Edwards (Bud Abbott) wonders what the fuss is all about. When Strickland goes up to the front desk to check in, the bellboy, Freddy Phillips (Lou Costello) accidentally hits him with his golfing bag, drops it on his foot and allows the clubs to fall out. The lawyer is outraged and demands to see the manager, with the result that Freddy is sacked; incensed, the bellboy gives him a piece of his mind and tells him he will get his own back, which doesn't sound too helpful after Strickland is found murdered...

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was such a huge hit for Universal that a similar thrill comedy was ordered, and this was the hastily assembled result. Apparently they gave away the ending in the title by collaring co-star Boris Karloff as the killer, but either this was an example of misdirection or they were simply being sensational with an attention-grabbing name as it's not a big revelation to say that he does not play that role, and really only has one setpiece where he could possibly live up to it. This is the scene that many find to be the best in the picture, where Karloff's Swami tries to hypnotise Freddy into committing suicide.

"You're going to commit suicide if it's the last thing you do!" is the memorable line from that bit of business, but apart from that Karloff is in this for about five minutes, if that, which is a letdown for his fans who may have been expecting more. Not that there is not an abundance of shifty characters who the culprit could really have been, and the only thing we're certain of is that Abbott and Costello (and the actors playing the police, I suppose) are not the guilty party. Not that the cops think that way, and the script contrives to put Freddy especially into sticky situations that may be perfectly innocent to him, but to everyone else makes him look deeply suspicious.

All in the name of getting that next laugh, of course, and if there was one team adept at the comedy thriller it was this duo. It would be nice for someone to update their style of crosstalk banter and slapstick to the descendants of such movies, as this kind of thing died out too soon: imagine a slasher movie that employed the conventions of a forties humorous suspense flick. It might be way to refresh the genre, as not even the comedy horror of the eighties could have been said to owe that much to efforts like this. As it is, Meet the Killer is borderline horror at best, and there is much mileage gained from the old missing body routine, so much so that there seems to be quite a few missing bodies for our heroes to contend with.

Nevertheless, the formula is pretty much as you would expect, so much so that this was judged a misfire after the genuinely well made Meet Frankenstein (the leading lady of that, Lenore Aubert, makes a return here as one of the suspects). But time has been kinder to this, as where your expectations are lowered Bud and Lou can surprise you with a witty line or item of silliness that generates a laugh or two. It is a little laboured in other respects, but seeing as how about a billion of these types of movies were made in this decade, which was drawing to a close anyway, Meet the Killer could be viewed as one of the last gasps of a venerable comic tradition. One odd thing, though, seasoned character actor Alan Mowbray appears in this as someone called Melton, which makes one wonder if the scriptwriters were fans of pork pies? Music by Milton Schwarzwald.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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