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Flash Fulton (Bud Abbott) and Weejie McCoy (Lou Costello) take pictures of a bank robbery. Lured to the mountain resort hideout of the robbers and accompanied by Dr. Bill Elliott (Patric Knowles) and Peggy Osborn (Elyse Knox), they also meet old friend Johnny Long (Johnny Long) and his band and singer Marcia Manning (Ginny Simms). Dr. Elliott and Peggy are being held in a remote cabin by the robbers, but Weejie rescues them by turning himself into a human snowball that becomes an avalanche that engulfs the crooks. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The snowball that was Bud Abbott and Lou Costello was only getting bigger by the time they made this mistaken-identity farce in 1943, even if their variety-show-with-slapstick formula was beginning to wear thin.
Tubby (Lou) and Flash (Bud) are enterprising city photographers who somehow get mistaken for hoods from Detroit by a trio of bank robbers faking a hospital stay for a post-heist alibi. The five of them all wind up at a ski resort in Sun Valley, where Tubby and Flash try to stay alive and one step ahead of discovery. It's a daunting task for any duo, especially these two.
The weaknesses of "Hit The Ice" are immediately apparent, and make for some tedious moments, particularly in the first half. Whether it's getting stuck on a fire ladder or falling out of a speeding ambulance, the need to give their audience what they wanted pushes the envelope of believability early and often. As a caper comedy, "Hit The Ice" is neither as clever nor as intriguing as the Boys' prior efforts.
At least the bad guys are fun. As played by Sheldon Leonard (Silky), Marc Lawrence (Phil), and Joe Sawyer (Buster), they make for worthy foils. Leonard was the prince of hoods in movies for a long time, and Lawrence even longer, as he made a mark in "Key Largo" and "The Man With The Golden Gun" almost 30 years apart. Sawyer has a nice bit with Lou where he is challenged to stand on a handkerchief and hit Tubby, which he does, even with a door between them.
The mistaken-identity angle at least is good fun. Mistaken for hit men, the pair talk airily about "shooting" several people already that day. "We got to make a living, don't we?" Flash says. Somehow, the hoods buy this.
To pad out the movie, there are several musical interludes, which prove real loyalty tests for A&C fans today. To be fair, the pair are only a little better even doing their routines, like the "Pack/Unpack" sequence and a bit where Lou pretends to play the piano to impress Ginny Simms as the band singer Marcia. These are fitfully amusing, but too obviously shoehorned in.
Silky is being looked after by a doctor played by Yorkshireman Patric Knowles, who it turns out grew up on 18th Street with Tubby and Flash. Bandleader Johnny Long also grew up there, which is how Tubby and Flash find work in Sun Valley. Given Long's strong Southern accent, 18th Street must have been very long.
The whole film has a slapdash quality to it. When it's on, it's okay, but it never rises to the level of A&C's best material. Knowles' character (Dr. Burns in the movie, Dr. Elliot in the end credits) has a chippy relationship with Elyse Knox's nurse character, who somehow puts up with his insulting demeanor long enough to fall in love with him. Everyone gets a girl by the end except Tubby, which is supposed to be funny somehow.
At least the finale, a ski chase sequence, delivers some of the movie's best moments, incorporating sled dogs, a skunk, a rabbit, a bear, a mining hat, a bag with the stolen goods, and the aforementioned handkerchief trick.
"Hit The Ice" was the last A&C movie made before the pair began to lose their stature as top box-office draws and personal tragedy began rocking their boat. One wishes it could have been better under the circumstances, instead of a by-the-numbers assembly-line project, but it still amuses enough in places to keep you watching, if not as happily as in the halcyon days of "Buck Privates" or "Hold That Ghost."
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