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Abbott and Costello Meet Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1953)

REVIEW

!!SPOILER WARNING!!

"Now look, you can't make two persons out of one. If there's a monster, there's a monster. If there's a Dr Jekyll, there's a Dr Jekyll. But one can't be the other!"

Stephenson's tale of the duality of human nature has been given many varied readings in the cinema, but none quite as idiotic as this ridiculous farce. In a fairy tale London where the streets are perpetually foggy and the streets are lined with pubs and fish and chip shops (though buildings have American style fire escapes bolted to them!), a psychotic serial killer is on the loose and - preposterously - Abbott and Costello are on the case.

People fall over a lot, Costello pull faces, rattles his bowler hat and makes lots of silly noises, and appalling jokes abound:

Tubby: I know where we can look for clues.
Slim: Oh yeah?
Tubby: In the clues box.

Like most of the Abbott and Costello Meet... series, Dr Jekyll and Mister Hyde strikes up an uneasy blend of slapstick comedy, music hall burlesque (interminable footage of on-stage antics at the theatre where most of the action takes place is necessary to pad out the running time) and straight, Universal style horror. A rooftop chase across the streets of this never-was London is impressive enough to begin with as Slim, Tubby and Adams pursue the monstrous Hyde (Karloff in a poor, rubbery make up job), but soon degenerates into a childish string of knockabout gags that simply aren't funny.

The inevitable 'comic highlight' of this sorry fiasco comes when Tubby is accidentally injected with Jekyll's monster making serum, leading to much mistaken identity business as everyone (including the now obligatory crowd of angry, Universal-patented 'villagers') chases everyone else around the streets and rooftops of London.

Women have had to endure an awful lot of nonsense in the history of the cinema, everything from the irritating to the offensive. But here, the cause of women's' rights was dealt a particularly cruel blow by the sight of high kicking suffragettes leaping around Hyde Park singing, dancing and making merry with passing American lotharios. Equally damaging was the blow dealt to Karloff's reputation - perhaps he just needed the rent money, or was simply under contract to make another film with Universal, and sadly this was it. Either way, the sight of Universal's most distinguished horror film star reduced to this kind of thing is saddening in the extreme.

It's difficult to know who is the most difficult to accept - Costello as the growling, hirsute monster or Abbott as the resourceful leader of the pack, directing police and vigilante operations to catch the monster in the extended climax. And would the British police really refer to American civilians like Adams and Slim as "Guvnor", or is it just obligatory that all London police refer to anyone they meet in this manner?

All in all, then, a pretty poor show and really no more than one might expect from this hideous and untalented duo. If the sight of grown men falling over, the spectacle of Boris Karloff reduced to playing second fiddle to these two idiots (sadly, this was his second such encounter with them, having already appeared in the equally dreadful Abbott and Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff (1949) or simply if you have less than two brain cells to rub together this childish farrago may appeal. Otherwise, be advised to steer well clear.
KEVIN LYONS

 


Last Updated: 1 January, 2009

 


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