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Charles Laughton did a badly edited biographical film of Captain Kidd
in 1945 although his performance as the cockney captain with
aspirations to class is memorable. We don't often get a second crack at
roles when they don't become mega-hits, but Laughton got it and made
the most of it.
Laughton got one here although he had to take on Abbott and Costello as co-stars. But I will say that the distinguished Mr. Laughton more than held his own with those two burlesque comics. Especially when you consider that his co-stars names were in the title of the film.
Of course it was fans of A&C who went to see the film, but you get your audiences from where they come. Check Laughton's deadpan face when he's doing the old handcuff gag where Costello thinks he's got Captain Kidd cuffed behind his back and helpless. They did the same routine on their television show with Gordon Jones as Mike the Cop and the results are just as hilarious.
Speaking of the television show, Hillary Brooke from the cast of their show is also on hand as Laughton's rival, Captain Bonnie. Fran Warren and Bill Shirley have a great pair of voices, too bad the songs that they got to sing in the film aren't worthy of them.
Abbott and Costello were on a downward slide of their careers, but this film does hearken back to their early days at Universal when they were grinding out a whole bunch of comedy gems.
But the thing that has always gotten me about this film is the way Charles Laughton just dove right in to the slapstick spirit of this movie. Costello was known for not getting along with several of his co-stars, many of them had less than kind things to say. But according to observers, Laughton got along just fine with the boys.
You can tell by the side splitting results.
I don't mind that the movie has no plot or that it's so noisy my 90-year old grandmother complained or that Charles Laughton thinks he's the one who should supply the laughs and not the menace. What I do mind is that A&C have so little to do. They manage a few bits, but these are crowded out by the chaotic knock-about. It's like someone said we don't have a script or any routines, so let's just run around, make noise, and maybe no one will notice. Maybe the best thing is the really great special effects. The masted ships and sea battle look like they come from an A-production, which they may have. But even the explosions on the sea-shore sets are well done. Too bad the rest of the movie doesn't rise to that level. And pity the poor regally composed Hillary Brooke who looks like she's missing all the mayhem, at the same time Laughton manages more mugs per minute than a race car generates RPM's. In my little book, this is one of the least of the 5 or 6 entries in the A&C Meets... series.
I taped this off UK TV in 1988 the washed out condition of the print
even then made it look as if it could be from 300 years ago, but
recently seeing the even more degraded copy TCM US is showing made me
think it really was! How did this get into such a state the wobbly
cheap colour and choppy copies from multiple TV dupes haven't helped to
be sure, but it all makes it a bit of an ordeal to sit through without
rose-tinted glasses on.
At the cutely named Death's Head Tavern Bud & Lou unwittingly join forces with Charles Laughton playing Captain Kidd on the track of a treasure island much fun is made of the map of Skull Island continually getting mixed up with Lou's supposed My Darling Darling Darling love letter. Add a deliberately devilish Leif Erickson as a sidekick for Laughton and elegant Hilary Brook as a pantomime Captain Bonney for something good to look at and you have the main crew. There's plenty of lusty non-pc songs, maybe too many but some not too bad and all well sung, my favourite being the romantic Speak To Me sung by the corny romantic leads on the pirate ship. It was the 2nd of the two films A&C did for Warners in 1952 (this was Bud's choice, Jack was Lou's), and was amazingly successful noisy slapstick at the time; the reason given by Laughton as to why he accepted the role was to learn how to do double takes from Costello. He generally hammed it up nicely and he and the boys in particular seemed to enjoy themselves, but it all seemed a bit too laboured at times.
For anyone new who might be interested in A&C this is not the film to start with, unless you're under 10 years old. And yet I still end up watching this jolly nonsense every five years or so, never mind the grotty condition.
I am an admirer of Charles Laughton,who I regard as the finest ever British
screen actor.This is often viewed as the nadir of his movie career but it
did seem to me he entered into the spirit of proceedings admirably,mugging
energetically and taking pratfalls with the best of them
Bud and Lou will satisfy their fans but win no new devotees in a movie
slowed down by stultifyingly bad musical interludes and the colour is
Laughton,seemingly relishing the chance to play a variant on the pantomime villains he doubtless enjoyed watching in the theatre as a child,is the main reason to give this the time of day
Considering that Abbott and Costello had done "Meet The Invisible Man" the previous year, this film was a big comedown for them. But then again, considering that around the same period they also did "Comin' Round The Mountain" and "Lost In Alaska", maybe "Meet Captain Kidd" was par for the course. The saddest part here (apart maybe from all the singing that at times makes you feel as if you're watching a second-rate musical) is to observe how few verbal elements have remained in A&C's comedy; instead, their humor has been reduced to the lowbrow, unsophisticated slapstick of mugging, dumb misunderstandings, and people falling down or getting hit with shovels. But sometimes A&C's talent still comes through and the film can make you laugh in spite of yourself. Charles Laughton is loud, bombastic and takes a lot of bumps, to generally unfunny effect; Hillary Brooke is downright sexy as a female captain, and is without a doubt the brightest spot of this movie. (**)
An underwhelming later entry for the comedy team, this is of interest only because it's a color film which provides a chance to see Charles Laughton yucking it up as the title baddie. But there's very little meat to chew on while watching Bud and Lou act as hapless waiters sailing aboard the ship of the mean old Captain Kidd (Laughton). Of course there are many recycled older gags ... two of them include: Lou accidentally dropping a bar of soap into Kidd's soup and producing bubbles from everyone's mouthes (just how exhausted was that routine by this time?), and also Lou having a chance to rough Kidd up a bit while the pirate's hands are chained behind his back. (This latter bit was so much better performed when it was William Bendix as the recipient back in 1943's WHO DONE IT?). Hillary Brooke is on hand as a tough-acting blonde, easier on the eyes than a crew full of obnoxious men. ** out of ****
Rocky and Oliver `Puddin' are happy go-luck folk in a port town. When they
try to deliver a love letter from Lady Jane to sailor Bruce they get trapped
on the ship of Captain Kidd. Kidd's treasure map gets mixed with Bruce's
love letter and Oliver finds himself in a whole heap of hot
The story doesn't really matter every A&C film has a silly setup for them to do their stuff, what does matter is the comedy. Here fans (of whom I'm one) will be happy that A&C are their usual selves despite looking older and fuller around the waist. Their routines are good and Captain Kidd gets involved well.
The problem with the film is that it moves away from the values of their older films. The Technicolour is pretty horrible and actually takes away from the film making it feel like a gaudy matinee C-movie instead of a comedy classic. What is worse is the tonne of poor musical numbers they really slow down the comedy, in fact they seem to take up most of the film. The romance element is also dull. However fans will be happy with both A&C's performances and Charles Laughton, who could easily have looked done hi nose at this, joins in really well and hams it up.
Overall this is not one of their best, but Abbot and Costello fans will enjoy their antics, but feel free to fast forward all the songs.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Murky, bad color and in really bad shape. Scratches and splices abound, "matey"! Argh! A throwback to "Africa Screams" which is also public domain and a far funnier movie. Like "Jack and the Beanstalk" you wish a better copy existed. The routines seem tired; you've seen them all before. Instead of buckshot in the eggs, there's soap bubbles in the soup! Here's the plot in one sentence: Lou has the treasure map and they all sail off to Skull Island to dig up the bounty. Too much bad stock footage and poor "color-timing" (matching) in the ship-to-ship battles. Clumsily staged action scenes and the worst songs ever. Charles Laughton has a great time. He outshines "the boys" in an otherwise predictable movie with the old "it's the wrong box" gimmick. (The treasure map and love note are in identical wooden tubes.) The tall, blonde, tomboyish pirate falls in love with Lou. Costello plays Capt. Kidd surprisingly well; he strips poor Kidd down to his underwear and impersonates him, in full uniform. Lou becomes the new pirate captain, and poor Capt. Kidd gets hung upside down from the yard-arm. They all sail away, happily singing, into the sunset. This is one of those "it should have been better" movies. WB distributed both "Capt. Kidd" and "Jack and the Beanstalk" at the theaters. Too bad they can't find better copies and re-release them on Blu-Ray. The public domain copies are "junk."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Abbott and Costello got to skewer a lot of different film genres like
Westerns, horror, high society and the military branches, so I guess it
was time to turn their attention to pirates on the high seas. Quite
honestly, I don't know how Charles Laughton got maneuvered into
appearing here, although if you keep an eye on his facials, he seems to
be having a good time in a bunch of spots. Even so far as to descending
into slapstick and breaking the fourth wall once to address the viewer
directly. Maybe he needed a break in between serious roles.
Laughton also portrayed the infamous sea pirate in 1945's "Captain Kidd", but this time he wasn't going up against Randolph Scott. With the comedy duo you're bound to get caught up in all manner of dubious circumstances, and it was no different here. The story is loosely built around the misplacement of a treasure map, with a supporting cast of characters jostling their way through one pratfall after another on the way to Skull Island. Speaking of which, I had to wonder if maybe King Kong might have been right around the corner. Say, that might have been another film for the boys, "Abbott and Costello meet King Kong".
If the idea wasn't so far fetched, one might consider this picture to be a musical, there were certainly enough songs in it. I counted six myself, but when all is said and done, none of them were noteworthy or even all that memorable. A couple of them were performed by supporting players Fran Warren (as Lady Jane), and Bill Shirley as her paramour Bruce Martingale, but if you think about it, the pair didn't really seem to be involved in any romance to speak of.
Rounding out the cast was a mainstay from the Abbott and Costello TV series, Hillary Brooke, looking fetching as ever as a rival pirate captain. Given her name in the story, I'm surprised the film makers missed a huge opportunity by not referring to her character Bonney as one who lies over the ocean.
While Abbott & Costello don't make much swash buckling in this story,
the color in this color feature is horrible, & the musical numbers even
worse, they did one thing right.
Charles Laughton as Captain Kidd is easily the films greatest asset. The way he plays off Costello is great. Too bad there is not enough of it to save the film. There is way too little of the boys, & way too much horrible music in a short 70 minute film.
Sad thing is the idea could have been so much more. This is one film where the tickets were sold on the title, but the viewers were disappointed. While it is not their worst because of Laughton, it is no where near the teams best film.
At least it is the boys in color. Besides Jack & The Beanstalk which also has terrible music & color, this is the only other color film they did. Color me blue that a great idea gets wasted.
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