Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer: Boris Karloff


1h 34m 1949

Brief Synopsis

Lost Caverns Hotel bellhop Freddie Phillips is suspected of murder. Swami Talpur tries to hypnotize Freddie into confessing, but Freddie is too stupid for the plot to work. Inspector Wellman uses Freddie to get the killer (and it isn't the Swami).

Film Details

Release Date
Aug 1949
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Company, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 34m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

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 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.

Film Details

Release Date
Aug 1949
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Company, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 34m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Quotes

Perhaps you should choose the manner of your death. How would you like to die?
- Swami Talpur
Old age.
- Freddie Phillips
Freddie, where did you that gun?
- Casey Edwards
I don't know.
- Freddie Phillips
Freddie! I am going to ask you for the last time. Where did you get that gun?
- Casey Edwards
I don't know.
- Freddie Phillips
Where did you get that gun?
- Casey Edwards
Hey, that's not fair. You said "for the last time". I answered it.
- Freddie Phillips

Trivia

This was originally intended as a vehicle for Bob Hope. After the huge success of _Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)_ , Universal-International wanted another thrill comedy with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello so the script was rewritten for them.

Universal-International wanted to ride on the success of ...Meet Frankenstein by pairing Bud and Lou with the actor who had played the original Frankenstein's monster, Boris Karloff. The role played by Karloff was originally written for a woman.

Notes

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 . 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 November 1949 Hollywood Reporter 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 March 23, 1956.