War Babies

A one-reel satire of Flagg and Quirt, doughboys in diapers at a milk bar somewhere in France, where the chanteuse is Temple similarly attired.


What’s to Do?

Rich kid has his father send an employee and family to a distant branch office, thus disposing of a high school rival.

The latter feigns sick in bed, but owing to a previous engagement, has to leap out his bedroom window to knock a homer for his team and round the bases at top speed, then all in one motion dive back in again.

Two schoolchums pile up in an overcoat to doctor him. A cake goes awry in all this.

A perfect comedy.


The Gold Ghost

The new sheriff of Vulture County, Nevada (county seat Vulture City, where “the boom is busted” since 1898, as Robert Frost told John F. Kennedy), a Boston man.

“Bugs” Kelly drops in, the notorious “gangster pilot”.

Keaton washing out a few things on Main Street goes into Peckinpah’s The Ballad of Cable Hogue, the general situation mirrors Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller.


Allez Oop

Ye Oldee Clockee Shoppee.

Apollo The Wonderful out, Keaton in.

The Jungle King in The Love Call averted.


Restless Knights

Queen Anne of Anesthesia presides at a royal wrestling match and is abducted by her prime minister, who wants the throne.

An obscure political allegory (cp. Jules White’s Three Dark Horses).


One Run Elmer

Between New York and Los Angeles, in the vicinity of Tombstone, Keaton and Lamont invent Peckinpah’s The Ballad of Cable Hogue and Meyer’s Supervixens.

Bearcats and Rattlers settle it on the desert diamond.


Tars and Stripes

Charles Lamont is the author of this story that turns the tables on the dreaded Chief at a Naval Training Station (this one’s San Diego). Even a recruit “as bright as a Marine” deserves a medal for getting naval officers out of the briny, that and more.

Buster Keaton, Vernon Dent, Dorothea Kent. That hole in the ground dug by practicing about-face goes into Rosenberg’s Cool Hand Luke.


The E-Flat Man

A twenty-minute poem on the theme, “we were just eloping, we was.”


Grand Slam Opera

The brush in Gopher City, Ariz. Arrival in New York, fuss with a girl, debut on Colonel Crow’s Amateur Night (Anvil Chorus). Return.

A Keaton extravaganza, a delay on film.


Below the Deadline

Canal St., above the Financial and Diamond districts (Lamont moves out of a freeze-frame behind the elegant credits onto Wall St.). An Irish cop wants to make detective and marry the girl. Plush mobsters ride roughshod over him, rob the firm she works for, and set him up as the fall guy.

Lamont controls the dialogue characteristically in the first half, then lets the apparatus take over. The cop is arrested, train-wrecked, plastic-surgeried, triumphant, married and promoted.

The makeup for his appearance on the beat anticipates the inspector in Mankiewicz’ Sleuth. His girl queries him from the police manual as they sit together in her mother’s parlor. Extraordinary touches abound, like the passenger who questions his presence on the train, and vexed walks away.


Playing the Ponies

Flounder Inn (Stooges, prop.) is flounderin’, they buy a swayback named Thunderbolt.

Everything ridin’ on a horse full of hot peppers, to make him drink (cf. Rydell’s The Reivers).


International Crime

The whirligig of crime is the stuff of The Shadow’s 8 P.M. radio broadcast by linkup from Lamont Cranston’s office at the Daily Classic. Phoebe Lane the owner’s niece wants action and is made his assistant. “Young lady, you’re impossible.”

“Not if the right man comes along,” which is why the radio theme is Saint-Saëns’ Le Rouet d’Omphale, Op. 31. A false tip, “a merry-go-robbery”, Commissioner Weston calls it. “Oh Mr. Cranston, wait for Phoebe!The murder suspect, a safecracker called Honest John, “is just as innocent as a new-laid cornerstone.Weston locks up Cranston in “a hicktown hoosegow” to stop his column “unless he changes his tune and lines up on our side,” his editor pleads, “the news is public property!"

Cranston out on a “hab’as corpus” sizes up the situation, “he’s been sticking a knife in me with one hand and patting himself on the back with the other, and you fell for it.”

“Take a general order,” says the Commissioner. What to do next? “You mean,” Phoebe inquires of Cranston, “you don’t know?” He replies, having poured himself a belt from his office bottle after a tête-à-tête at the “microscope” with gun-wielding Honest John anxious to clear his name of amateurishness in the murder by exploding safe of “a good man, a charitable and benevolent man” in his own home, “that’s right, the Shadow doesn’t know.All news is cut off to the Classic. Phoebe is “a gentleman and a lady.Where’s the tipster, a Viennese evidently? “When you want to find an American, you go where he works. When you want to find a foreigner, you go where he dines.The Bubble Over Club and every other nightclub, with Phoebe. “America is a land of women so beautiful, they all look alike.”

Question of apologies, “let’s not go overboard in our enthusiasm for whitewashing ourselves.Question of bond issues, debentures, “if the fifty million is spent to build up the army as intended, the exiled aristocrats will never succeed with their threatened revolution.Cf. Neame & Owen’s A Man Could Get Killed.

“After all,” says the Commissioner, “we’re professionals... take a general order.The Daily Classic goes to press, The Shadow prepares to broadcast “a big surprise to the police... to keep the confidence of our readers, to prove that we try to expose stupidity wherever it exists. For years we’ve been trying to educate them and their children to obey the law.”

Cf. Werker’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Pollock’s Murder Ahoy.

Leonard Maltin, “breezy, entertaining quickie is graced with snappy dialogue... witty, urbane”.


Salome, Where She Danced

One of the most powerful works of analysis ever put on film, a vision of the postwar world antedating Diego Rivera’s by a few years, and a major influence on Ken Russell (The Devils, The Boy Friend, Lisztomania and Salome’s Last Dance are all visible).

The sheer dazzle of this jaw-dropping masterpiece is in every detail, as when the heroine is abducted by a Western bandit and taken to his camp. The camera pans across bandits singing around bivouac fires under the stars in a scene lifted lock, stock and barrel from a Romantic opera, and when the lady refuses the bandit’s advances, he says, “why not, isn’t this romantic enough for you?”

If you don’t choke and splutter like Shemp Howard nonplussed, watch it till you do.


Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man

He is, get this, a prizefighter who don’t take a dive for the Syndicate.

On the one joke, Lamont takes over the franchise from Whale and May et al. Every resource in the panoply comes into play, a three-handed poker game especially.

“Not that a story line means anything to A & C,” observed the New York Times with habitual gall.


Abbott and Costello Go to Mars

The film is in three parts of increasing complexity, a fact known to more than one reviewer who has found his task made irritatingly difficult thereby, and resented it.

Before the launch, a straightforward comedy, very funny.

The accidental liftoff carries Lester and Orville to New York City, where they whiz around buildings and through the Lincoln Tunnel, then to a landing outside New Orleans, which they take to be Mars. Everyone in town is wearing an outsized papier-mâché head for Mardi Gras. Two escaped convicts (Horace McMahon, Jack Kruschen) find the spaceship, borrow spacesuits for a bank robbery and plan an escape to Mars.

Lester and Orville, now wanted by the New Orleans police, return to the spaceship and are forced to take off again. They land on Venus, which at first they take to be Los Angeles on account of the atmosphere. Men were banished four hundred years ago, the long-lived beauties of the Queen’s court make Orville their King. The Queen (Mari Blanchard) subjects Orville to the control of a truth-telling device (three gold balloons, like a pawnbroker’s symbol, that burst if he admires a girl), then torture. She disenchants the Venusians by showing them pictures of the he-man King and Ministers she banished. The four men return to Earth via the Lincoln Tunnel.

The private venture that has built the spaceship closely resembles the one in Pichel’s Destination Moon.


Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Dr. Jekyll, the female Zampano, dreams of an ideal world without bloodshed and war, achieved by medicine. The dual nature of man will benefit by halving, the Good must remain, the Evil be expunged.

In the opening scene, he has injected himself with the experimental formula that turns him into Mr. Hyde, so as to strangle a colleague who laughed at his theory.

His jealously-protected ward Vicky is the star of the Jubilee Music Hall and by day a leading suffragette. She and the chorus girls clamor for equal rights with a song and high kicks in Hyde Park. Crime reporter Bruce Adams signs her petition.

Slim and Tubby are American policemen serving as bobbies in an exchange program. They are pummeled and plowed under by the women during a battle between the sexes in the park, the Inspector fires them. To win reinstatement, they seek the monster.

The next act after the girls at the music hall is a Chinese dancer and her monstrous paramour. Hyde is pursuing the newspaperman, who is pursuing Vicky. Slim and Tubby follow the monster backstage, the delicate intricacies of the entire film are stated rapidly among the dressing rooms, where Tubby looks for clues “in the clues closet” and sees the monster in a mirror, while Slim finds Hyde wearing the Chinese demon mask and costume.

Tubby is turned into a white mouse at Dr. Jekyll’s lab, he scares away the clientele at a pub. Something he drank, Slim concludes. The basement lab is now a wine cellar, he selects a bottle of Moselle (pronounced “Mousel”), Tubby soon sees Slim as a mouse.

Jekyll loves Vicky, proposes to inject her. Hyde reappears by accident, Tubby is made to sit on the needle repeatedly, two monsters are reported all over London. An elderly suffragette is hectoring the crowd in Hyde Park, “we shall show the world that we are the stronger sex, I will be your leader!” Tubby the monster upends her and hides in a pram. Hyde dies in a fall, restored to Jekyll.

Four bobbies bring in Tubby, he has bitten them all and now bites the Inspector, whose wall map of the city is full of new pins. Tubby is subdued and restrained but, unnoticed, returns to his usual self. Slim proclaims a triumph, the five bitten police officers, suddenly monstrous, chase the pair away, right through doors that are shut fast.

The best analysis is by Ken Russell in Savage Messiah. Slim tells Tubby, “if doctors didn’t experiment, they’d never find new cures for you.”


Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops

The drama director Sergei Toumanoff is a con man named Gorman whose stunt men are his victims, they have the last laugh when his pictures turn out comedies.

Mack Sennett’s Police Patrol catch him absconding with the budget for the next one, a picture very much up in the air.