Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)

*. This was basically the end of the road for Abbott and Costello: their last picture for Universal and second last overall. In Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein they were on their way up, at the top of their game. Not even ten years later they seem utterly played out. Even the classic comic disjunction between the tall thin guy and the short fat one is upset because Bud looks almost as stout as Lou. Dressed in the same costumes they are almost indistinguishable.
*. One way to tell they’re played out is the reliance on so much physical humour. The opening dance sequence sets the tone, with lots of prat falls and people being knocked down. That’s the way the rest of the movie is going to be. There’s little verbal dexterity and what there is seems laboured (for example, the punning on “mummy” and “pick”). The gags are all familiar and you can see them coming a long way in advance. Bud and Lou always had the same shtick and stuck to it, but now even they seem tired of the routine.
*. It’s a sign of just how tired and slapdash a production it is that their characters’ names are only revealed in the end credits (Pete Patterson and Freddie Franklin). Until then, they call each other by their real names. It’s like nobody cared. And perhaps nobody did.
*. Joe Dante, in his Trailers from Hell appreciation, admits it’s not the duo’s best work but says he’ll always have fond memories of having snuck in to see it as part of a double bill. He winds up his commentary by saying it likely still appeals to nine-year-olds. I think maybe it does, but that really is the level they’re aiming at. Not that a lot of today’s comedy aims much higher.
*. Well, it’s a bit of fun, tired as a lot of it may be. It’s not a movie to get angry at. Just one to feel nostalgic over. Abbot and Costello’s time, like the time of Universal’s run of classic monsters, was past.

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