Abbott and Costello are two window washers who are mistaken by Nick Craig, a bookie, as the messengers that he sent for to pick up $50,000. The person that he sent them to, has sent two of his men to get the money back , but they found out. They try to mail the money to Craig but a mix up has occurred and the money is sent somewhere else, and the woman who received the funds spent it. Now, unless they pay him back.Written by
Walter Schumann's score for this film features a recurring, five-note "Dum-da-DUM-Dum, DAAAAAH" motif, often used to punctuate moments when Ted and Tommy are in danger, that starting in 1949 would be immortalized as the theme for the "Dragnet" radio show and, later, both television series (Dragnet (1951), Dragnet 1967 (1967)). See more »
THE NOOSE HANGS HIGH (Eagle-Lion, 1948) stars the comedy team of Abbott and Costello in their only independent venture outside their home base of Universal-International. Taking a western-sounding title as "The Noose Hangs High," that might have turned out as a spoof taken out of context from THE OX-BOW INCIDENT (20th-Fox, 1943), but rather than placing the comedic pair as cowboys in a western town with character types, they play a couple of window washers in an unnamed city providing enough material to a slight story, guaranteeing hearty laughs in true Abbott and Costello fashion.
Previously filmed by Universal as FOR LOVE OR MONEY (1939), this remake revolves around Theodore "Ted" Higgins (Bud Abbott) and Tommy Hinchcliffe (Lou Costello), employees for the Speedy Service Window Washing Company. Upon completing their day of work by hanging up their uniforms in the hallway closet, Nick Craig (Joseph Calleia), a bookie, mistaking their uniforms for Speedy Messenger Service, hires the unwitting dual to go and collect $50,000 from a Mr. Stewart (Ben Weldon), return it to him, and get $50 a piece for the job. After getting the money, Ted and Tommy notice they're being followed by Sewart's two henchmen hired get back the money. Clever thinking finds Tommy entering the Plaza Mailing Service where face powder samples are mailed out. As he places the money into the envelope, addressing it to Nick Craig, Tommy rushes it into the mailing chute before the thugs catch up with him. Ted and Tommy return to Craig (who by then has realized his error after meeting with the real messengers) telling him of the circumstances, and are soon forced to spend the night under the careful watch of Nick's thugs (Mike Mazurki and Jack Overman) until the envelope arrives. The next day, the letter does arrive, but without the money Craig owes to a J.C. McBride. The angry mobster gives the window washers 24 hours to locate the money. With the use of the company's mailing list, Ted and Tommy eventually track down Carol Blair (Cathy Downs) as the one who received the money. Having only $2,000 of the $50,000, the trio, followed by Nick's men, set out to raise the money by betting on the horses. Along the way they are soon accompanied by an eccentric character calling himself Julius Caesar (Leon Errol), adding more to their troubles.
Devotees of Abbott and Costello will generally be please with THE NOOSE HANGS HIGH, considering how they practically have 78 minutes to themselves, never slowing down for an instant. Aside from a generous amount of tried and true Abbott and Costello burlesque routines, they are supported by gangster-types, an odd-ball character and a pretty girl, all simply adding to the situations at hand. Interestingly, some of the most famous Abbott and Costello routines are shared with others. For instance, Abbott performs the "you're not here" routine with Mike Mazurki while the "Mudder and Fodder" routine goes to Costello and Leon Errol. One of my funniest and least performed is the dentist sequence where poor Lou, suffering from a toothache, finds himself at the mercy of Doctor H.G. Richards (Murray Leonard), with thick glasses and belting out a hideous laugh, as he is to try and yank out his bad tooth. This sequence was reworked again in one of the episodes of the TV series, "The Abbott and Costello Show." (1951-52). Fritz Feld is captured in a hilarious bit as a psychiatrist. A true highlight occurs where Abbott and Costello re-enact several of their routines on one scene while dining at the Copper Club. This six minutes alone shows them at their finest. There will never be another team like them again.
While the Nick Craig role could have been enacted by Sheldon Leonard, Joseph Calleia shows he's the ideal choice, especially when playing it straight and getting laughs in the process. Cathy Downs makes a likable heroine while Leon Errol, a former headliner in the 1920s and "The Ziegfeld Follies," forgotten by today's standards, demonstrating how his sort of comedy hasn't gone out of style.
Formerly displayed on video, THE NOOSE HANGS HIGH can be found on either DVD or occasional broadcasts on Turner Classic Movies. While not as better known of the Abbott and Costello comedies, it's certainly one worth considering. (***)
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