Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer: Boris Karloff (1949)

84 mins | Mystery, Comedy | August 1949

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HISTORY

The film's working title was Abbott and Costello Meet the Killers . According to modern sources, Universal changed the title from "Killers" to "Killer" because it feared a lawsuit from the estate of Mark Hellinger, who had authored the popular 1946 film, The Killers (See Entry). The film's title card actually reads: "Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Killer/Boris Karloff." All print sources, including the copyright entry, however, list the title as Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer: Boris Karloff . Portions of the opening credits are animated. The picture was banned in Denmark because censors did not approve of the scene in which Abbott and Costello play bridge with two corpses, according to a Nov 1949 HR item.
       Modern sources add the following information about the production: The screen story, which was titled "Easy Does It," was originally written as a vehicle for Bob Hope. Oscar Brodney contributed to the screenplay, and in the final shooting script, Boris Karloff's character was a woman named "Madame Switzer." During filming, Costello suffered a serious relapse of rheumatic fever, which left him bedridden for several months. Mikel Conrad, who plays "Inspector Wellman's" assistant, "Sgt. Stone," in the picture, was himself wanted by police for assault during production. The film, which had a final budget of $744,245, made $1,850,000 at the box office. It was re-released on 23 Mar ... More Less

The film's working title was Abbott and Costello Meet the Killers . According to modern sources, Universal changed the title from "Killers" to "Killer" because it feared a lawsuit from the estate of Mark Hellinger, who had authored the popular 1946 film, The Killers (See Entry). The film's title card actually reads: "Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Killer/Boris Karloff." All print sources, including the copyright entry, however, list the title as Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer: Boris Karloff . Portions of the opening credits are animated. The picture was banned in Denmark because censors did not approve of the scene in which Abbott and Costello play bridge with two corpses, according to a Nov 1949 HR item.
       Modern sources add the following information about the production: The screen story, which was titled "Easy Does It," was originally written as a vehicle for Bob Hope. Oscar Brodney contributed to the screenplay, and in the final shooting script, Boris Karloff's character was a woman named "Madame Switzer." During filming, Costello suffered a serious relapse of rheumatic fever, which left him bedridden for several months. Mikel Conrad, who plays "Inspector Wellman's" assistant, "Sgt. Stone," in the picture, was himself wanted by police for assault during production. The film, which had a final budget of $744,245, made $1,850,000 at the box office. It was re-released on 23 Mar 1956. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
13 Aug 1949.
---
Daily Variety
3 Aug 49
p. 3.
Film Daily
5 Aug 49
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 49
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 49
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 49
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Aug 49
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 1949.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
6 Aug 49
pp. 4706-07.
New York Times
19 Sep 49
p. 18.
Variety
3 Aug 49
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Gaffer
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Makeup
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
DETAILS
Release Date:
August 1949
Production Date:
10 February--late March 1949
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., inc.
Copyright Date:
8 September 1949
Copyright Number:
LP2561
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
84
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
PCA No:
13808
SYNOPSIS

One rainy night, renowned defense lawyer Amos Strickland checks into Crandall's Lost Cavern Hotel and is greeted by house detective Casey Edwards and bellboy Freddie Phillips. When the bumbling Freddie manhandles Strickland and breaks his glasses, Melton, the hotel manager, fires him. Upset, Freddie threatens Strickland, but later goes to his room to apologize. To his shock, he finds Strickland's body with a bullet hole in it. Unaware that somone is hiding behind the curtains and is trying to grab a handkerchief that is lying next to Strickland, Freddie pockets the handkerchief and runs for help. After Casey calls Inspector Wellman to the scene, guest Mike Relia informs the detective that his gun was recently stolen. Aware of Freddie's threat against Strickland, Wellman accuses him of the crime, noting that with his bellboy's passkey, he could have broken into both Relia's and Strickland's rooms. Freddie nervously denies the charges, but then finds a gun hidden in his dirty laundry. Assuming the gun belongs to Relia, Freddie and Casey sneak into his room to return it, and there, Casey finds a telegram from Strickland. In the telegram, the lawyer alerts Relia, a former client, that he is writing his memoirs and wants to meet with him. Casey gives the telegram to Wellman, who tells Freddie that he must stay at the hotel as a guest of the state. While Freddie indulges himself at the state's expense, Wellman pursues his investigation and questions Gregory Milford, Strickland's longtime secretary. When Milford reveals that Strickland's memoirs would have damaged his former clients' reputations, Wellman questions the six other guests who received the same telegram as Relia's, including ... +


One rainy night, renowned defense lawyer Amos Strickland checks into Crandall's Lost Cavern Hotel and is greeted by house detective Casey Edwards and bellboy Freddie Phillips. When the bumbling Freddie manhandles Strickland and breaks his glasses, Melton, the hotel manager, fires him. Upset, Freddie threatens Strickland, but later goes to his room to apologize. To his shock, he finds Strickland's body with a bullet hole in it. Unaware that somone is hiding behind the curtains and is trying to grab a handkerchief that is lying next to Strickland, Freddie pockets the handkerchief and runs for help. After Casey calls Inspector Wellman to the scene, guest Mike Relia informs the detective that his gun was recently stolen. Aware of Freddie's threat against Strickland, Wellman accuses him of the crime, noting that with his bellboy's passkey, he could have broken into both Relia's and Strickland's rooms. Freddie nervously denies the charges, but then finds a gun hidden in his dirty laundry. Assuming the gun belongs to Relia, Freddie and Casey sneak into his room to return it, and there, Casey finds a telegram from Strickland. In the telegram, the lawyer alerts Relia, a former client, that he is writing his memoirs and wants to meet with him. Casey gives the telegram to Wellman, who tells Freddie that he must stay at the hotel as a guest of the state. While Freddie indulges himself at the state's expense, Wellman pursues his investigation and questions Gregory Milford, Strickland's longtime secretary. When Milford reveals that Strickland's memoirs would have damaged his former clients' reputations, Wellman questions the six other guests who received the same telegram as Relia's, including the sinister-looking Swami Talpur, the seductive Angela Gordon, Mrs. Gerald Hargreave, T. Hanley Brooks, Mrs. Grimsby and Lawrence Crandall, the hotel's owner. Unknown to Wellman, the guests have agreed in private to pin the murder on Freddie to protect themselves. In Freddie's room, Angela, who was once accused of poisoning her husband, tries to cajole Freddie into drinking a champagne cocktail laced with drugs. As soon as Wellman informs him about Angela's past, Casey rushes to Freddie's room and plies him with antedotes, unaware that he did not drink the cocktail. Later, during a poker game, Swami Talpur offers to hynoptise Freddie and make him commit suicide. Despite repeated attempts, the swami cannot get Freddie to kill himself and is forced to flee his room when Casey arrives. After Freddie discovers Relia's body in his closet, he dons a maid's uniform and, with Casey, smuggles the corpse back to Relia's room in a laundry cart. No sooner do they dispose of Relia, however, than Milford's corpse appears in Freddie's closet. Freddie retrieves the laundry cart, but to his dismay, finds Relia there again. Casey and Freddie try to sneak past Wellman with both corpses and end up playing bridge with them to avoid detection. A suspicious Wellman demands to see Freddie, who has since hidden the bodies in an elevator and changed clothes. When Freddie admits to Wellman that he burned the killer's handkerchief, Wellman accuses him of being in cahoots with Relia. To clear himself, Freddie agrees to help Wellman trap the killer by telling all of Strickland's clients that he has a handkerchief for sale. Although no one appears interested in the handkerchief, someone tries to kill Freddie by turning up the heat on his steam bath. Freddie is rescued, but cannot convince anyone of foul play. With the handkerchief unclaimed, Wellman informs Casey that he is going to charge Freddie with murder that night. Freddie's situation grows worse when Wellman finally discovers Relia's and Milford's bodies, which have been moved by Crandall, in Freddie's room. After Freddie further harms himself by revealing that he had first moved the bodies into Crandall's room, a mysterious voice, speaking through a vent in his booby-trapped room, orders him to bring the handkerchief to the nearby Lost Cavern. There, Freddie becomes separated from Casey and Wellman and is stalked by a masked attacker. Trapped near a bottomless pit, Freddie narrowly escapes death several times but is finally saved by Wellman. Later, at the hotel, Wellman gathers Strickland's clients together again. Wellman reveals that Milford had been blackmailing Crandall with the phony memoir story, and when Strickland found out about it, he came to the hotel to see Crandall. Wellman speculates that Milford, who was planning to blackmail the others as well, was working with someone at the hotel, who killed both Strickland and Relia, and later, Milford. Noting that whoever tried to kill Freddie in the cavern would now have minerals on his shoes, Wellman then produces manager Melton's muddy shoes as evidence of his guilt. Melton tries to flee, but is quickly subdued, and Freddie is finally vindicated. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.