Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Snack-sized Film Reviews: "Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick" and "Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy"

Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick (1952). This Paramount Pictures musical was a last attempt to turn popular singer Dinah Shore into a movie star. She had appeared previously in films with Danny Kaye (Up in Arms) and Randolph Scott (Belle of the Yukon). This one pairs her with Alan Young, who was then being groomed for film stardom. Young plays Aaron Slick, a smarter-than-he-looks farmer in love with his neighbor Josie (Shore). His inability to express his feelings leaves an opening for traveling actor Bill Merridew (Robert Merrill), who is actually a con artist. Merridew and his "sister" (Adele Jergens) buy Josie's farm, thinking it's rich with oil. Josie uses the money to move to Chicago, leaving a heartbroken Aaron behind. The first half of Aaron Slick is a pleasant small-town musical with some lively songs by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans (the best being "Saturday Night in Punkin Creek"). However, the second half deflates when Josie heads to the big city and Shore and Young aren't on the screen together. The end result is a musical that's agreeable enough, but also quickly forgotten. Dinah Shore and Alan Young both achieved their biggest successes on television. She hosted a successful variety series from 1956-63 and two popular talk shows from 1970-80. Alan Young, of course, gained fame as Wilbur Post on Mister Ed (1961-66). Livingston and Evans wrote the famous title song to that sitcom. (In the clip below, Dinah and Alan duet on the opening number "Chores." If your browser doesn't support embedded YouTube links, then click here to view the video.)


Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955). The comedy duo's last film for Universal Studios returned to one of their most successful formulas: teaming them with a classic monster. This outing is nowhere near as good as A&C Meet Frankenstein (1948) nor even A&C Meet the Invisible Man (1951). However, it's better than its reputation and includes some genuinely funny (if recycled) routines. The thin plot has Abbott accused of murdering an archaeologist who was searching for the tomb of Klaris, the guardian of a hidden royal treasure. When the boys find a medallion that contains the location of the treasure, they are pursued by greedy villains as well as those want to protect the tomb at all costs. The three best scenes borrow liberally from previous A&C films: Lou has to cope with a moving corpse; confusion reigns when two fake mummies and one real one clash; and Bud and Lou each try to slip the other one the dangerous medallion. The last scene is the film's highlight with Lou eating the medallion on his hamburger and later undergoing a fluoroscope examination. Following Meet the Mummy, Bud and Lou made one final film together, Dance With Me, Henry (1956), which was released by United Artists. It tried for a slightly more serious tone, casting Lou as an amusement park owner who cares for two orphans. Costello followed it with a solo outing called The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959) before he died of a heart attack at age 52 later that year.

7 comments:

  1. I love Dinah (exclamation point optional) and it is no shame that her movie career didn't pan out because everything else she did was golden.

    "...Mummy" better than its reputation. I agree with you on that. The formula was getting tired, but the effort didn't lag.

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  2. "Mummy" does have some bright spots, and Costello's panicky reactions to moving objects that shouldn't be moving never stales. Somehow, in all their monster meetings, the boys never did get to meet the Creature from the Black Lagoon, though.

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  3. I remember Dinah poking fun at Aaron Slick all the time on her eponymous show which peaked my curiosity all these years. Last year I finally caught up with it and while it was harmless enough she was right to make fun. It's completely flyaway.

    Watching it's apparent why performers like Dinah, Alan Young (Perry Como too for that matter) didn't make it in films. Their brand of pleasant relatability didn't project through the big screen. It was a warm homey vibe that suited the intimacy of the small scene not the oversized silver one.

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    1. Joel, I think your assessment is spot on. Some performers excel on the small screen and that's no mean feat either. I recently watched a movie starring Tom Poston and thought the same thing. He couldn't carry the film, but, hey, he had an outstanding TV career.

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    2. 'Course they were often shoehorned into "straight" roles, the part written first for whomever took it. Both Poston and Sid Caesar starred in William Castle coedies, wirh little trace left of their own personalities.

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  4. This was a fun, and unusual, pairing!

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  5. Belatedly ...

    There's a backstory to the making of Aaron Slick.

    Apparently, there was a series of books about this character that was quite popular in the Southern States.
    One of the Slick books's biggest fans was Y. Frank Freeman, a son of the South all the way. When Mr. Freeman became president of Paramount Pictures, he was determined to bring his favorite childhood stories to the Big Screen; he actually believed that the Aaron Slick books were popular everywhere, and that was his pitch to Alan Young to do this picture (this comes from Young's memoir).
    Young, being Canadian, had never heard of Aaron Slick; neither had Dinah Shore, who came from a different part of the South than Freeman.
    But a pet project is a pet project, and Y. Frank Freeman's word was Paramount Law, and so Aaron Slick From Punkin Crick became one of Hollywood's great running jokes.

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