AFRICA SCREAMS (1949)
Article 2821 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-27-2009
Posting Date: 5-4-2009
Directed by Charles Barton
Featuring Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Clyde Beatty
Two book store clerks pass themselves off as big game hunters in order to get themselves added to a safari. The safari is purportedly in pursuit of a giant ape, but in reality, it is searching for a fortune in diamonds.
This was one of the few Abbott and Costello films made outside of Universal or MGM, and the low budget shows; it opens with Costello in a jungle set in a bookstore that looks about as convincing as the jungle sets that pass for the real jungle. It’s not one of their best comedies, but it is fun to see them take on the jungle genre. Furthermore, it has a great array of other duos to play off. To begin with, we have a pair of real-life lion-tamers turned movie stars, Clyde Beatty and Frank Buck. We also have two heavyweight fighters who happen to be brothers with Max and Buddy Baer; one of the highlights has them engaging in a spirited fistfight with each other near the end of the movie (“I’ll hit you harder that Louis ever did!”). Then, to top it off, we have two third Stooges; Joe Besser plays a butler, and Shemp Howard plays a near-sighted hunter; other than in retrospectives about the Stooges that use archive footage, this is the only time these two men appeared together in a movie. Furthermore, we get Charley Gemora in a dual role (as a gorilla and a gorilla, and yes, they are two different characters); personally, I’ve always thought Gemora was the man-in-a-gorilla-suit who had the best knack for comedy. For the most part, the movie remains in the marginal category as far as fantastic content goes (like many jungle movies), but it does deliver a clear qualifying moment towards the end. And for anyone who ever wanted to see the greedy, self-serving Bud Abbott character really get his comeuppance, this is one that really delivers. All in all, this one is good fun.