Director: Charles T. Barton
Writers: Hugh Wedlock Jr., Howard Snyder, and John Grant
Cast: 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, and Vincent Renno
Composer: Milton Schwarzwald
Release Date: 9/18/1949
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
When criminal attorney Amos Strickland (Nicholas Joy) is murdered at the Lost Caverns Resort Hotel, former clients Swami Talpur (Boris Karloff), Angela Gordon (Lenore Aubert), T. Hanley Brooks (Ronald Winters), Lawrence Crandall (Harry Hayden), Mrs. Hargreave (Victoria Horne), Mrs. Grimsby (Claire Du Brey), and Mike Relia (Vincent Renno) decide to frame a moronic bellboy named Freddie Phillips (Lou Costello). In spite of the invaluable assistance offered by Detective Casey Edwards (Bud Abbott), Freddie continues to incriminate himself as a result of his own stupidity.
An exceptional parody of the murder mystery genre, Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff will appeal to fans of the eponymous comedic duo. Nevertheless, those hoping for a “confrontation” between Boris Karloff—the ostensible main antagonist—and his bumbling co-stars would be wise to avoid high expectations prior to viewing this feature.
In a classic misunderstanding scenario, Freddie’s maid disguise elicits an amorous reaction from Percy Helton’s remarkably oblivious character. When considering the cheap costume and falsetto voice by which Freddie masquerades as a woman, audiences will find amusing the fact that Abernathy not only accepts such an idiotic ruse at face value; but also that he feels an instant and compelling attraction to Lou Costello in drag.
Despite a limited screen presence, Boris Karloff becomes a highly effective straight man to Lou Costello during any scenes featuring both actors. Especially hilarious are the creative ways in which Swami Talpur’s efforts to hypnotize Freddie into committing suicide often backfire; highlights include Freddie jumping off a windowsill (and back into his hotel room), obeying Talpur’s instructions to kill “the man in the mirror,” and yanking a noose rope from the ceiling with his enormous body weight while attempting to hang himself.
Though initially humorous, Freddie’s uncovering of dead bodies in the most random and awkward places imaginable grows somewhat repetitious over time—a possible consequence of the insufferable pace at which the latter half of Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff tends to progress. The cave sequence in particular is too slow moving to build a requisite level of tension leading into the film’s climax; however, an assortment of intentionally awful special effects do, on occasion, provide satisfactory comic relief during Freddie’s otherwise boring adventure inside a cavernous location.
As evidenced by the antics of Abbott and Costello, various movie clichés can in fact be parodied without resorting to copious amounts of mind-numbing slapstick—a concept that many present-day directors of comedy films would be wise to consider.
Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff combines a thrilling and suspenseful atmosphere with plenty of good, clean fun for the whole family to enjoy. In addition to employing numerous trademarks (e.g. wordplay) of the Abbott and Costello comedy act, this production should be commended for poking fun at the solemn demeanor frequently exemplified by Karloff.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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