Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Invisible Man

08/13/2015 19:08

Film: Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Invisible Man

Year: 1951

Director: Charles Lamont

Writer: Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo and John Grant

Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello and Nancy Guild



This film I didn’t really know much about until I got the encyclopedia of horror movies that I’ve been working through. It lumped all of these together so when I started really diving into my horror movie research to round out my viewings, this is one of the first that I sought out. Coming in, I had already seen some of the Abbott and Costello films. I am now giving it a second viewing as part of my Odyssey through the Ones. The synopsis here is two bumbling private eyes help a man wrongly accused of murder that has become invisible to help clear his name.

We start at a detective school graduation. We meet our stars of Bud Alexander (Bud Abbott) and Lou Francis (Lou Costello). Bud has graduated and there is a joke cracked that Lou is graduating, because the school was paid off to get him out. Through graduating, they’re given a job with one of the better private investigative firms in the city as well.

They get the nightshift and their first job comes through their door. The man is Tommy Nelson (Arthur Franz). There is a news bulletin about a man escaping from jail and the description matches him. He is accused of killing his manager after a boxing match. Lou catches on that this is the guy, but Bud sees that he could make some money. Tommy asks them to drive to an address with him.

Once there, Tommy goes upstairs, while Bud and Lou wait in a study downstairs. We then meet his girlfriend of Helen Gray (Nancy Guild) and a friend of Dr. Philip Gray (Gavin Muir). At this point it brings up the original The Invisible Man where they claim that Dr. Gray was given the serum which made that man invisible. We even see a picture of Claude Rains. A demonstration is made on a guinea pig and Tommy asks him to inject him with it. His reasoning is to hide from the police while he goes about clearing his name of the murder. Dr. Gray doesn’t think this is a good idea as there is no reagent to return him to being seen and the serum drives those that use it crazy.

While they are talking upstairs, another bulletin comes over the television and Bud realizes that it really is Tommy. He wants to turn him in for the reward and as they are talking, the police arrive. They are led Detective Roberts (William Frawley). Helen and Dr. Gray leave Tommy alone to deal with the police. While they’re gone, he injects himself with the serum.

He goes downstairs and spooks the two guys. He also enlists their aid in clearing his name. Bud semi-agrees, as he is greedy and the worst case would be to turn him in for the reward. No one believes the duo that Tommy is invisible, including the police psychiatrist. Helping out Tommy leads them to the criminal underworld, where Tommy was supposed to take a dive and didn’t. At gym where they train, Lou ends up being scheduled into a bout with Rocky Hanlon (John Daheim). A local gangster of Morgan (Sheldon Leonard) along with his girlfriend of Boots Marsden (Adele Jergens) sees an opportunity to make money. With Tommy’s help, Lou and Bud might be able to reveal the truth and clear his name in the process.

That’s where I’m going to leave my recap as that gets you up to speed. At the time of writing this, I’ve seen quite a few of these Abbott and Costello films where they meet different people or groups and not all of them horror. This one though doesn’t work as well for me as some of the others. I do want to lead off stating that.

What I am a fan of though is Abbott and Costello’s chemistry. I’m more of a fan when Lou is using wordplay that gets under Bud’s skin. That is the stuff that makes me laugh. I’m not the biggest fan when they go slap-stick though. It is just comedy that doesn’t necessarily work for me personally. I can see the draw from it though. I think what my issue becomes from it is that we lose some of the realism for the movie there.

Another thing that I really liked about this movie and it is less than a minute. It is the continuity with The Invisible Man. Now this one seems to be ignoring all other films that fall in that series, but I loved that get the name of Dr. Jack Griffin and even see a picture of Rains. Even though this is quick, this is some times all you need from me to get behind what they’re doing. I also like that they’re exploring the idea of going crazy if you stay invisible for too long. We also get to see this playing out with Tommy.

To shift back over to a negative, I don’t like the boxing stuff we get in the movie. I do like that some people notice something is off, but I’m just not a fan. This falls back into that slap-stick portion of it. It is being played for laughs and I get that. This is really where I’m getting at that it takes out some of the realism for me. I also do not like the ending as it doesn’t make any sense to me.

Moving away from the story, I’ll go to the acting. I’ve already said I like their chemistry, but Abbott and Costello are just great together. I don’t know a lot about them outside of the movies they made together, but it does feel like they were really good friends. If not, they play off each other beautifully. Franz is interesting here as we’re just getting his voice for the most part. I do like how maniacal he sounds the longer he stays invisible. Aside from that, I’d say that the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.

Then really the last thing that I wanted to go into would be the effects. This movie being that it is from 1951 does some really good things with effects. They really should be able to since it is 18 years after the original and that one did as well. There is a scene that I read was recycled, but I won’t hold it against the movie too much there. It really only has 1 scene in a car that I noticed didn’t necessarily work. Overall I’m positive on this especially since they had to go practical with what they did. The cinematography also works for what they needed.

In conclusion here, this isn’t my favorite of the Abbott and Costello films that I’ve seen, but that doesn’t mean it is bad. I think that the acting is good across the board. The effects outside of a couple things are solid. Not all of the comedy works for me and it really is just the slap-stick nature of some of it. Aside from that, the soundtrack fit for what they needed. Overall I say this is just over average. I’ve come up after my last viewing, but not sure I’ll ever go much higher here. If you like Abbott and Costello, I think there’s a lot to enjoy here for sure. Be warned though, this is from 1951 and is in black and white. If that is a problem, I would avoid this movie then.


My Rating: 6 out of 10