Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949)


In this follow up to “Meet Frankenstein,” Abbott and Costello don’t so much meet Boris Karloff, as they do a character Karloff plays named Swami Talpur. I still think the potential for Abbott and Costello meeting Karloff is potential never realized, and that’s pretty sad. Karloff only plays a side character, and appears for a few scenes, including an extended bit with character Freddie Phillips (Lou Costello) that’s still hilarious, at least. You don’t often see someone’s sheer idiocy save their lives, but you have to love how Freddie avoids all forms of vicious death by his slow wittedness.

Lou Costello plays Freddie, a workaday bellboy for an upscale hotel who gets in to a tiff with a local millionaire when he engages him in a series of hilarious accidents. When Freddie is fired, he swears revenge on the man. Later when he arrives to his room to apologize, he discovers the millionaire has died, and he’s the main culprit. It also doesn’t help that he garners all the key evidence for some reason, including a gun and a blood stained handkerchief. It turns out all of the suspects in the murder have their own shifty pasts with the millionaire, so in order to get the spotlight off of them, they seek out to either pin the murder on Freddie, or kill him trying. Bud Abbott plays Casey Edwards, the hotel’s detective who makes it his mission to clear Freddie’s name, when he realizes that someone is out to kill him.

It’s likely one of the suspects, or the actual killer, and Freddie constantly has to watch for his own life, or else suffer a cruel fate. There are some great comedy bits here that Lou Costello dominates the film with, including a gag involving forcing him to drink various antidotes when police suspect he’s been poisoned, and an attempted assassination in a sauna. While the segment is funny, his reaction by sucking the water out of a local water cooler is a pure cartoon sight gag that he delivers beautifully. While Bud Abbott and Karloff share the title, Lou Costello steals the film from every cast member and dominates as this inadvertent target of murder and violence, and its fun watching him evade danger with a quip or two. I’d love to have seen more of Karloff, but Costello more than makes up for that flaw.