In the gay '90s, cardsharps take over a Mississippi riverboat from a kindly captain. Their first act is to change the showboat into a floating gambling house. A ham actor and his bumbling sidekick try to devise a way to help the captain regain ownership of the vessel.Written by
Bud Abbott's character's name, "Dexter Broadhurst", was an homage to the Broadhurst Theatre on Broadway, where Abbott and Lou Costello starred in the hit revue "The Streets of Paris" in 1939, which is generally considered to be the show that put Abbott and Costello on the map. See more »
Sebastian asks Dexter to be introduced to members of the city's baseball team "when we get to St. Louis." At this point the River Queen had already arrived in St. Louis. See more »
In many of Abbott and Costello's films, their faces are visible through the "O"'s in their names. In this one, only Costello's face is seen at first; then he silently calls, "Hey, Abb-bott!," and Abbott's face appears. See more »
Abbott and Costello had either run out of routines by this point or they had such fondness for their already classic ones that they reckoned it was reasonable to rehash them. They even draw their trophy chestnut Who's On First, which by the time this movie came out was so completely ancient it's amazing they don't go red. Indeed, it's acknowledged film trivia that one can hear camera operators struggling to stifle their laughter during the scene. I think there was an audience back then that was far less disdained during the studio era, moviegoers who go to laugh, jump or cry not so much at surprises or fresh revelations but at fulfilled expectations, expectations so particular that they could literally be duplicated from what they'd seen many times before.
But regardless, each time I've put myself through this emergency outing, I've laughed hard and frequently. Above and beyond the arbitrary Who's on First? centerpiece, The Naughty Nineties features the too-funny schtick where Costello sings during an audition while Abbott is hollering instructions to the crew to adjust the backdrop curtain. Costello thinks the directions are for him and he follows them, by singing higher or lower, or on one foot. It all relies on Costello's inimitable gift for physical comedy. There's also the scene where one of the wicked gambler's accomplices slips poison into his wine. He catches on, distracts her and swaps their glasses. But she does the same to him, and then they get into bluffing the swap. There is also the sketch where Costello inadvertently bakes feathers into a cake and the pieces are fed to everyone in the tavern. When they all take a bite, they end up coughing up the feathers until the entire bar is overflowing with them. Then there's the old routine where Costello and the villain mirror each other's actions, which can also be seen in the Marx Bros. classic Duck Soup. The scene where Costello tussles with a real bear, thinking that he's wrestling Abbott in a bear suit. Bears were frequently deployed in Abbott and Costello routines.
Universal was so eager to keep them in the theaters that they didn't have any principles about what class of material they played. And the one in this case is an emphatic case of floating shipwrecked debris. There are wicked gamblers and a sweet old showboat captain. They are so much superfluous baggage. This is, as usual, just an Abbott & Costello romp, with the boys giving a routine imitation of themselves in their golden days.
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