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Monday, September 16, 2013

Silly Scares From Warners' "B" Side


Invisibility Done For Laughs in The Body Disappears (1941)

Warners scored a B-comic bulls-eye with this sci-fi plus chase frolic revolved around invisibility tests gone haywire. Dotty scientist Edward Everett Horton is cause of that: this is really his and Willie Best's vehicle, and what pleasure seeing these two knockabouts in firm control of happenings. I looked for evidence of The Body Disappears achieving sleeper class, but drew blanks, and to that add a loss of $32K, despite negative costs at modest $245,000. Could it be fact of release on literal eve of Pearl Harbor? (as in 12/6/41) Variety reported at least one engagement "dented by war and Christmas." If that was the wider case, then folks missed some joy, The Body Disappears being cheerier than most WB attempts at yok-making (by grim comparison, there's Affectionately Yours of the same year). The invisibility gag always suited comedy better in any case --- James Whale's initial go at a see-through man was maybe more memorable for laffs than thrills, and certainly by 1941, the topic was ripe for ridicule. I'm sorry, though, for Shock Theatre-era youth encountering this foolery rather than straight chills sleep was bartered for. Certainly The Body Disappears sounds like serious business: I went years thinking it was frightful after The Corpse Vanishes fashion (and consider similarity to The Vanishing Body, Realart's reissue title for 1934's The Black Cat). Well, sometimes it pays to be wrong, but you'll not go that way for unexpected fun this is.

7 Comments:

Blogger Paul Castiglia said...

Thanks for pointing this one out to me, John! With help from folks like you, I'm always discovering films of which I wasn't previously aware to include in my "Scared Silly" blog-to-book project (interested readers can visit the project site at scaredsillybypaulcastiglia.blogspot.com) - with Horton and Best at it this sounds like one I need to at least mention, if not do a full-blown review. Thanks again!

1:14 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

So was Willie Best still going by "Sleep 'n' Eat" by this time? I notice his name is not on the poster or lobby card that you feature.

I doubt even "The Body Disappears" would have cheered up poor Bud Abbott at the time of this morning's header. I sure wish he could have gotten work as a character actor on television in the 1960s. I would have loved seeing him--and have yet to see his solo turn on GE Theater. Is that available anywhere? Best wishes, Mark

2:21 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

I think Willie Best was billed by that name in feature credits for "The Vanishing Body."

There were so many good character actors working in the 60's ... a very capable Bud was maybe like them all ... competing in a crowded marketplace.

2:27 PM  
Blogger rnigma said...

I notice that Herbert Anderson (best remembered as Henry Mitchell, father of "Dennis the Menace") is also in this.
"Dross" Lederman (along with "Breezy" Eason) directed a lot of these WB B's. I remember seeing "Spy Ship," "Busses Roar" and others on a local station that was the first 24-hour TV station in our area; they ran old WB films and cartoons late at night in the '70s and I stayed up just to see them.

9:20 PM  
Blogger reprobates said...

For Mr. Unknown who wanted to see Bud Abbott in his supporting role in THE JOKES ON ME (1961), there was a thread on this on silentcomedymafia.com awhile back, and someone posted most of Bud's scenes from the show. They can be seen here:

http://www.silentcomedymafia.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=720


RICHARD M ROBERTS

2:10 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Many thanks for the link to that thread and Bud's GE Theater performance, Mr. Roberts! That confirms my notion that audiences, including myself, really missed out seeing a lot more of Bud solo.

Your hypothesis of Bud's being camera shy In the 1960s because of his tax situation seems credible.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Linwood said...

I never understood Jane Wyman's appeal until I caught this one on TCM. She was gorgeous back in '41.

3:45 AM  

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