DATELINE: Unexpected Slapstick
Laughton & Costello!
Almost ten years after his low-budget pirate on the bounding sea as Captain Kidd and 20 years after Bligh’s Mutiny on the Bounty, Charles Laughton jumped at the chance to reprise Captain Kidd. He had also the opportunity to reprise Henry VIII in a movie with Bette Davis as his daughter, Queen Elizabeth. They famously greeted each other as “Father,” and “Daughter,” off screen too.
Now, the irascible Laughton would poke fun at himself and his performance as Captain Kidd confronting scene-stealer emeritus Lou Costello. Perhaps that was the true challenge for Laughton and his Oscar-level talent. He was about to show he could play vaudeville with the best of them.
Abbott & Costello Meet Captain Kidd was another in a long series of features in which the comic duo came across monsters of cinema, historical figures, and pratfalls of comedy.
Dignity knows nothing of being a performer with an audience eating out of their backhand of talent. Laughton was a comedian at heart and could steal a scene before Costello could roll an eye.
We were surprised at how many pratfalls Lou Costello gave. Any barrel he hid within was blown up. The big surprise was Laughton: he took the falls without a stuntman. Chairs were pulled out from under him and he plopped onto the floor, and he fell face first into sand in another. It was noteworthy.
If ever there was something unseemly, it was that this comic version of 1953 was in Technicolor, which was never the case for the earlier Laughton masterpieces. If there was a silver lining on the silver screen of the 1950s, it was that garish color fit the bill. There were plenty of explosions among the song and dance routines.
If ever there was a chance to make a side-trip to Oak Island and bury a treasure, this little pirate satire gave us a vision of outright lunacy. A map in the opening credits could be Oak Island.
You start off with a musical introduction to Laughton as the crew sings and dances on their ship, and Kidd sneers at the mention of women. Yup, Laughton had to love this.
We were mostly appalled.