GHOST CATCHERS (1944)
Article #490 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 7-18-2002
Posting date: 12-11-2002
Two nightclub entertainers come to the aid of two southern belles who find themselves staying in a haunted house.
Years ago I remember watching a documentary on the history of movies. In the section about comedies, they took a few minutes to talk about some of the lesser known comedy teams, including one that was thought of as second-rate Abbott and Costello wannabes, so much so that they made the comparison a gag in the clip they showed. I didn’t remember the names of the duo, but as this is my first full-length encounter with Olsen and Johnson, I suspect that these may be the ones I saw way back then. (NOTE: I have since had a confirmation that these indeed were the comedians in that clip.)
So how are they? On the down side, they really don’t have strongly delineated characters (which I think actually does make a difference in a comedy team; compare the Marxes with the Ritzes some time to see what I mean), and the percentage of really good individual gags is probably pretty low, but neither characters or individual gags seem to be the point here. Their strong point was an escalating frenzy of absurdity combined with a certain high energy presentation, and instead of the movie becoming hard to watch, it becomes hard to tear your eyes away, because you find it hard to believe what you’re seeing. And they do mention Abbott and Costello; they offer a comic critique on that duo’s HOLD THAT GHOST (which gives away the end of that movie and incidentally, hints at the ending of this one) that seems to be flaunting the idea that this movie was inspired by that one (compare the titles). This kind of gag takes a certain kind of chutzpah that I find delicious.
So what can I say? Despite the fact that there’s a tad too much music added to the mix, the movie won me over. Considering the movie is sitting with an 8.2 rating on IMDB at the moment, I know I’m not the only one. All in all, this one was one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had in a long while.