Hold That Ghost

03/14/2020 14:14

Film: Hold That Ghost

Year: 1941

Director: Arthur Lubin

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

Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello and Richard Carlson



This was a movie that I really didn’t know existed. I’ve seen most of the Abbott and Costello cross-over horror movies to my knowledge. The Gateway Film Center is doing something for the month of March where they’re featuring this duo’s comedy films. Saturday morning had a showing so I decided to give it a go. The synopsis is after inheriting a fortune from a gangster, two dim-witted service station attendants find themselves stranded in a haunted house.

We start this at a fancy restaurant. They’re understaffed so a staffing agency has sent over Chuck Murray (Bud Abbott) and Ferdinand Jones (Lou Costello). They of course are bumbling and making the manger upset. The important part here is that Charlie Smith (Marc Lawrence) attempts to blackmail Moose Matson (William B. Davidson) about some money he’s moving. Chuck and Ferdy are fired by the end of the night.

They go back to their job at a service station where Moose shows up. Ferdy accidentally draws the attention of the police and the trio end up in the car with Moose who takes them on a high speed chase. Moose is shot while Ferdy is driving and he pulls out his last will and testament. It turns out that according to the document, since Chuck and Ferdy were there at the time of his death, they inherit his money and hotel that is out of town. Charlie sets up to take them out to it.

Also joining them on their ride are Camille Brewster (Joan Davis), a radio voice actress, Dr. Jackson (Richard Carlson), who is a bit oblivious, and Norma Lind (Evelyn Ankers). Charlie is there too. They’re stranded at the place when their ride takes their fare and drives off, stealing their luggage in the process. The place is kind of scary and through some bumbling things, secret rooms are found and there’s a casino upstairs. Charlie is killed by hands that appear from other secret compartments and two ‘cops’ show up later in the night. Can this group find where Moose hid his money and survive the nefarious individuals that are after it too?

Now as I’ve said previously, I’ve seen quite a few Abbott and Costello films so I had an idea of what I was getting into. I’m not the biggest comedy/horror fan, which this movie is, but I do have a soft spot for this duo. I think they work well off each other with Abbott being slightly more intelligent where Costello is definitely the one that carries more of the comedy.

What I have an issue with in this movie is the title is misleading. We don’t hear the word ghost until about an hour into this. The horror comes from how creepy the place that they’re staying and that there’s a killer hiding inside. If this comes as a spoiler for something that came out almost 80 years ago, I do apologize, but I feel that you should know.

I didn’t care for this one as I do some of the other ones though if I’m going to be honest. I will admit that I did laugh at quite a few jokes, but I really prefer the pun jokes we get over the slap-stick comedy. There’s some investigation into the mystery of this place, but I like that these people aren’t there for the money. The dynamic of the group is good to an extent. I don’t really know why Norma is in this movie aside from needing to give Dr. Jackson a love interest. Camille and Ferdy play off each other so well though.

I hate to say this, but I did find this slightly boring. I knew coming in that this was a comedy. It still hurts the pacing by not really building tension. I get that this movie isn’t that type, but it really just kind of plays through a bunch of gags which don’t necessarily work for me. I do like how it ends up and it really is coming full circle to things that are said at the beginning. The happy endings work since I really want to see this duo have good things happen.

Something I have to give credit is to the acting. I just really love how this duo knows their role and play off each other. I also think that Davis does well in hers. She adds a different dynamic and I thought it worked well. It is interesting to see how smart Carlson’s character is and how dumb he is to social norms with Norma throwing herself at him. I did think that the rest of the cast was fine in support even though I don’t think Ankers is really needed here.

Being that this movie is from the 1940’s, there’s not a lot in the way of effects. It also didn’t really need them. The hidden parts of the house are cool. I like that the setting is spooky, but the hidden prohibition bar and casino upstairs are interesting. I also like that we have hidden person who is attacking them and the different places they come from. The cinematography is fine. It doesn’t really stand out either.

The last thing to cover would be the music. I think that it fits for the era, even though I don’t care for it. What I didn’t like was the music numbers we get. There’s Ted Lewis who plays himself as well as the Andrews Sisters. It makes more sense when this was released for people to enjoy this music that I’m assuming was possible. I thought those numbers were boring watching it today and it didn’t hold my interest.

Now with that said, I still thought this movie was fun. It isn’t my favorite from the ones I’ve seen from this duo, but it did hold my interest. The title is misleading and I think that there are some parts of it that don’t work. I did think that main duo is great and that Camille fits in well there. There’s not a lot in the way of effects, but they don’t really need them. The soundtrack fits for the era and I’ll just say I didn’t care for the musical numbers. It is slightly boring for me as well. I would rate this as just above average for me.


My Rating: 6.5 out of 10