When the president of a radio station is murdered, soda jerks* Bud and Lou play detective, with hopes of getting on the air if they solve the murder. As expected, events take a turn for the worse when the police suspect the boys of the crime, culminating in a wild chase throughout the station.
Abbott and Costello’s first comedy without musical intrusions–sorry folks, no Andrew Sisters–is one of their all-time best, second to some fans (including this one) after only ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948). Produced at the peak of their popularity during the war years, this lightning paced gem is probably the teams most gag filled vehicle, with manic Lou having all sorts of hilarious run-ins with a set of props that seem to have minds of their own. Battles with a face spitting drinking fountain, a turntable that actually talks back to you and an out of control elevator offer up big laughs during the film’s lean 77 minute running time. Fans of the duo’s verbal sparring need not worry, as the film features their “volts and watts” routine, a hilarious exchange supposedly improvised on set.
The finale enters Harold Lloyd territory, with the pair struggling with the killer on the roof of the high-rise where most of the action takes place, complete with Lou dangling from a flagpole and some high-tension wires. Notable character actors Mary Wickes and William Bendix head up an excellent supporting cast, which for once includes a pair of romantic leads that help move the plot along, not screech it to a halt.
Interestingly enough, George Lucas based the plot of his 1994 comedy, RADIOLAND MURDERS, on WHO DONE IT’S basic storyline. If only he’d had Abbott and Costello around to star in it.
*For those unfamiliar with the term soda jerk, it pertains to a worker who operates a soda fountain in a drugstore, not a jerk who drinks soda.
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