Abbott & CostellomummiesLou CostelloMarie Windsor
Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy
Medium: film
Year: 1955
Director: Charles Lamont
Writer: Lee Loeb, John Grant
Keywords: comedy, horror-comedy, Universal, mummies, rubbish
Country: USA
Actor: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Marie Windsor, Michael Ansara, Dan Seymour, Richard Deacon, Kurt Katch, Richard Karlan, Mel Welles, George Khoury, Eddie Parker
Format: 79 minutes
Series: << Universal Mummy, << Abbott & Costello
Website category: Comedy
Review date: 2 May 2008
Not so good. I loved Abbott & Costello meet Frankenstein, but this is a weaker offering at the rag end of their career. After this they'd only do one more film together. More relevantly though, this one isn't very funny. The first half's better than the second half, before it stops properly sustaining its own reality. Instead too often it's working to some Looney Tunes laws of physics, which turns into an extended exercise in "come off it". Comedy doesn't have to be intellectual, but some of this is stupid. I balked particularly at the scene where Costello eats a medallion the size of his hand under the impression that it's a hamburger. Or something. Either he's had his brain wiped and forgotten all the preceding scene or he's simply decided he fancies chewing up and swallowing chunks of metal. Take your pick. Oh, and it seems he can take bites out of metal without even realising what he's doing.
Then we have the fake snakes, bats and giant lizards. After all that, it seems churlish to complain about the special effects on the mummy itself.
I didn't like this film's Egypt. On the plus side, they cast lots of authentically Egyptian-looking actors and avoid comedy ethnic stereotypes which could have instantly made this film unwatchable. However there are one or two blacked-up Caucasians in key roles, while the film also stars a troupe of dancers performing Indian routines. You can't fool me. I've seen Bollywood films. I had the same problem with Disney's Aladdin, incidentally, which chose to set itself in a mish-mash of India, Egypt, Arabia and so on. You'd think the world was only divided into two countries: "America" and "Far-Off Places". In fairness the Abbott & Costello version is mostly admirable, feeling authentic to the point where you could believe they flew out and filmed on location. Maybe they did? It's the blacking-up which got to me.
In fact we're so unaccustomed to that these days that I spent the whole film wondering if my mind was playing tricks. Was Richard Deacon's character really meant to be Egyptian, or was he some European professor who happened to have spent his life studying obscure mythology and eventually went cuckoo? It would be nice to be able to believe the latter. Unfortunately they settle things with a line of dialogue ("for my people") at the end. Bugger.
Mind you, I enjoyed the first half. This may be one of Abbott & Costello's monster movies, but the threat for most of this film is actually an organisation of extremely big Egyptian killers who want the mummy Klaris and his medallion. Shouldn't that have been Kharis? Naturally we're soon playing "pass the cadaver" and watching our comedy duo jump through amazing hoops of idiocy to land themselves ever deeper in trouble. They are magnificently stupid. Not even Laurel and Hardy could have outdone their chuckle-headedness. Had I been interrupted halfway through, I'd have thought this was great.
Unfortunately that's when the film's reality pretty much curls up and dies, after which nothing ever really recovers. The gags aren't great either. I was left bemused by the "pick vs. shovel" wordplay, which I just didn't find funny. The climax is a laugh, though. Lots of people wandering around in Full Mummy Jacket. It's a simple idea, but one I've never seen done before. The nearest example I can think of is Tom Baker in Pyramids of Mars and that wasn't being played for comedy. However soon we're back to the Looney Tunes, as is symbolised by a stick of dynamite that explodes when dramatically convenient instead of, say, when its fuse burns out.
Even the plot is a head-scratcher. Why is everyone chasing the cursed medallion? Klaris doesn't need it, being immortal and perfectly capable of getting up and wandering around without it. I remember some mention of treasure or artefacts or something being lost forever, but I'll be buggered if I can give you any more details. This film ain't good. Abbott & Costello meet Frankenstein left me wanting to go off and buy more of their DVDs immediately, but after this I'll be thinking twice. There's good stuff here, but the second half will overwrite it in your memory and leave you slightly annoyed at the idea that you were expected to find this funny.