‘Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man’ or — Un-Sight Gag?
It had been so long since I’d seen an Abbott and Costello movie I couldn’t remember if I ever found them funny or not. I had a vague recollection of sometimes enjoying them but sometimes finding them grating, Bud Abbott seeming to have a shifty uneasiness about him like a man constantly moving from state to state to avoid bigamy charges. They must have made some good films to have the reputation they do but would ‘Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man’ (1951) be one of their funny ones?
The answer is emphatically yes, as ‘Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man’ isn’t just good but actually pretty great and very, very funny indeed.
It’s the usual set-up with Bud and Lou, as two private detectives, getting caught up in a case involving a man who has turned invisible thus allowing for these two idiots to play about in the Universal monster world. Yet what starts off in typical horror fashion then morphs into… a boxing movie? How’s that going to work with an invisible man premise?
Turns out it not only works but is positively inspired. Think about it — imagine how handy an invisible man would be in a boxing match. When the penny drops as to what the plan is going to be it’s funny as hell and comes about through one of the funniest scenes in the movie, when Lou is ‘sparring’ with the punching bag. I must’ve disturbed my neighbours I was laughing so hard.
A lot of the success of this movie is because the concept works brilliantly for Bud and Lou’s comedy. We don’t see the invisible man so it leaves the spotlight free for Abbott and Costello free to engage in various types of physical comedy between themselves. There’s an unencumbrance about it all as well as limitless potential for pratfalls, sight gags, unsight gags, social mayhem and madness. How much comedy mileage can you get from a Mummy? Not much, but an invisible man has boundless potential and Abbott and Costello run with it big time.
The movie contains so many funny moments such as Lou sending everyone to sleep with a psychiatrists watch, the climatic boxing match, the restaurant scene where Bud Abbott mimics a very nice drunk and I especially loved the dialogue when Lou first sees the invisible man disappear and is questioned by the police about it — “How did he get outta here?” “In installments.”
‘Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible’ was a delightful surprise and I laughed more, a lot more, than I expected. The gags are strong and perfectly timed, Charles Lamont’s directing is full of pep and zing (and some surprising style) meaning the entire proceedings barrel at a extraordinarily playful clip. There’s also quite a decent amount of some rather nifty effects work that’s fun to watch.
I had a blast with this film and, like a right hook from an invisible fist, it was certainly something I didn’t see coming.