|"Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd" (1952).|
If you think that serious British actors were all stuffed shirts without a sense of humor, you need to see director Charles Lamont's "Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd" (1952). Charles Laughton was arguably the best actor (not movie star - actor) of the 20th Century, and here he shows a real feel for comedy. Playing violently against type, he alone makes this into something worth watching. I watched this film because I wanted to get another dose of Laughton after viewing the original "Captain Kidd." Well, I got a lot more than I bargained for. "Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd" is one of those films that you sit through, dumbfounded, as you see some very strange antics. However, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are hilarious as usual if you give them a chance.
|They always go for the short, fat ones.|
All of the sets in "Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd" look like they belong down in Orlando at Disney World. Everything is dumbed down for the young crowd, with cute little hand-drawn treasure maps and yo-ho-ho pirate outfits. The boys bring along the goddess from their TV show of the time, Hillary Brooke, who as usual intimidates but beguiles Lou as lady pirate "Captain Bonney" (real pirate Anne Bonny). Brooke is fitted out to look like she should be slinging drinks down on the Disney World pirate boat ride. She stands a good half-foot taller than Lou due to her high heels despite the fact that in reality she was only an inch taller, which plays into the sight gags, of course.
|Charles Laughton and Hillary Brooke in "Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd."|
Naturally, Hillary plays into the usual Abbott and Costello TVshow riff (on which she was appearing at the time) where the pretty girl develops a huge jealous crush on Lou. She's the prettiest thing in the film - no, make that the ONLY pretty thing - and that counts for an awful lot. Brooke is quite fetching in a lady pirate way, and, if it weren't for the awesomely hammy Charles Laughton, she would have stolen this picture right out from under Abbott & Costello's feet.
|Lady Jane, spreading her legs confidently in "Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd."|
Make no mistake, "Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd" isn't the absolute best Abbott and Costello comedy. The film print that you usually find online is absolutely horrendous, and the gags are even lamer than usual. But Laughton is a riot if you don't take him at all seriously, which requires some serious switching of gears if you are a Laughton fan. He mugs unmercifully every chance he gets and makes asides to the audience commenting on the proceedings. In fact, half the film seems to consist of his reaction shots to the boys' routines. The other half is him bellowing every chance he gets. This, along with his other Kidd performance and his work as Captain Bligh, inspired countless imitators over the years, in which characters clearly patterned after Laughton do nothing but strut around and speak in hammy pirate-ese ("Argh, me matey, if you disobey me it would be a shame to have to RUN YOU THROUGH. AH HAHAHAHAHA."). Like that. So, this film did have influence because Laughton goes way, way over the top, and I'm sure intentionally so.
|Charles Laughton was quite a good sport about things in "Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd."|
I could do without the musical numbers in "Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd," but they do contribute to the whole Disney feel of the film. They also give Abbott and Costello a chance to mug for the camera while half-heartedly making fun of the serious singing (and strange accordion playing). Being at all serious in an Abbott and Costello film is like turning yourself into a clay pigeon and throwing yourself into the air in front of a row of skeet shooters.
|This is up there for best Lobby Card in film history.|
Did I mention that most copies of "Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd" are terrible? Oh yes, I did. Well, it bears repeating. Find a good copy and don't be dissuaded by copies with dim lighting and the like. But even with poor copies, you should get a laugh now and then if you aren't too demanding. And Hilary Brooke really is blazingly attractive.
|"Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd."|