I’m sorry, but I find this one a rather sad little film.
After working together for almost thirty years, the legendary partnership of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello had broken up a year earlier. While Bud more or less retired, Lou got his first — and only — solo starring role in this…ummmmmmm…”comedy.”
He would die five months before its release.
Bud and Lou’s comedy was incredibly dependent on good writing. Like a lot of vaudeville and burlesque comics who moved to the movies, they’d spent years developing their act — and used up all that material in their first few films.
And, after nearly twenty years of movies, there’s hardly a joke to be found here.
Mind you, you know you’re in trouble when the story was provided by Jack Rabin and Irving Block. Now, for those of you who don’t recognize the names, they and their third partner, Louis DeWitt, provided the special effects for countless cheap Fifties SF films and even created a few projects on their own, such deathless classics as Atomic Submarine, Kronos, Unknown World, War of the Satellites, and Cat-Women on the Moon.
Now it isn’t too hard to see what they had in mind here: after all, Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman had come out in 1958 and there were quite a few other people blown up to incredible size running around in the movies, with 1957 alone giving us The Amazing Colossal Man, The Cyclops, and one film that went the opposite direction, The Incredible Shrinking Man.
The end result is pretty much what you’d expect when a team of special effects guys try to write a lighthearted comedy film: lots of effects but not a lot of comedy.
Lou plays Artie Pinsetter, a small town garbage man and inventor who is a sort of idiot scientific savant, who has created his own talking computer — a collection of gauges, switches, dials, moving bits and antennae — which pretty much looks like someone tried to build Robbie the Robot with the parts he could buy at the local Radio Shack. He is also the only man in town who dares to date the local big shot’s daughter.
It does help that the big shot is played by the one and only Gale Gordon, a marvelous comic actor who is probably best remembered as Mr. Mooney on The Lucy Show, although he had an incredible career on radio, TV and the movies. His gifts particularly suited him to the role he’s playing here, as the ruthless man who runs everything in town but is trying very hard to play a friend of the people for the TV host who’s there to do a show about him (perhaps the only time I’ve seen radio comic Stan Freberg’s long time collaborator, Peter Leeds, in a movie). Unfortunately, Dorothy Provine, who plays the girl, Emmy Lou, just seems sort of nasal and whiny to me.
But that may just be because there isn’t much to her character.
Some sort of mysterious mist envelops her as she and Lou investigate Dinosaur Canyon — where he plans to harness a tremendous energy from the depths of the earth — and what we’ve been expecting to happen since we learned the title of the film finally happens some twenty minutes into this seventy minute film. This leads to some particularly inept attempts on Lou’s part to get help, and even more inept attempts to hide her.
We’ve all seen Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman, so we all know that sooner or later Emmy Lou is going to get jealous and go on a rampage in town. As all this is taking place on the very day that the Army is holding war games nearby, the next thing we know they’re attacking her with missiles and bazookas.
It is at this moment that the film goes entirely off the rails. Not only don’t we ever see the missiles or bazooka shells exploding anywhere near Lou, but he finally gets his computer Max (voiced by Lou himself) working and ends up moving things backwards and forwards through time, controlling those missiles, and flying through the air. It’s an ending that reminds me a lot of Pardon my Sarong, one of Bud and Lou’s best films: in it, the boys are going strong until the ending refuses to stop when it should have and just keeps piling one absurdity on top of another, and another, and another and another…
For all that this film was built around those giant girl effects they really aren’t all that good. Most of the time it is far too obvious that she is playing against miniature props in tiny sets (and considering how tight some of those shots are, rather small sets at that!) I can only remember one shot where she actually interacts with anyone, but it is Lou, flying around in the air, and looks suspiciously like simple cut out animation of a single picture of Lou.
And we all know what’s going to happen to the top of that water tower.
The strange thing is that Lou himself looks a lot better than I expected him to, considering that he was months away from a fatal heart attack. In fact, he looks younger than he did in some of these late films.
Which is rather sad, really.
But then, the whole film is.
One just wishes they’d found someone who could write good jokes — and maybe a better director than Sidney Miller, who made only two or three other movies and instead directed dozens of episodes of one TV series or another (which, come to think of it, is exactly what this movie looks like — an episode of a TV show!). Lou deserved a better send off than this.
But he didn’t get it.
What a sad little film!