Friday, April 13, 2018

OUTER SPACE ON FILM BLOGATHON: Abbott and Costello Go To Mars (1953)

Debbie Vega of Moon in Gemini is hosting the Outer Space Blogathon from April 13th to 15th. You can go out of this world by clicking HERE.

Bud Abbott, Robert Paige, Lou Costello

Dr. Wilson played by Robert Paige (Son of Dracula) runs an experimental facility where his rocket ship has been given the go-ahead for a journey to Mars. His secretary Janie played by Martha Hyer (The Sons of Katie Elder) is concerned for her boss's safety, but she needn't be.

Longtime facility handyman Lester played by Bud Abbott has inadvertently brought dimwitted Orville played by Lou Costello past the guarded gates as a stowaway in his delivery van. Dr. Wilson decides Orville would be a liability were he to leave the grounds prior to take-off and let the news out. Orville is assigned to help Lester prepare the rocket for launch.

Martian (?) cutie and Lou Costello

The blustery Lester and the vague Orville start pushing buttons they shouldn't and before you know it they are airborne. Dr. Wilson is tracking the hijackers and knows when and where they land - somewhere outside of New Orleans. Lester and Orville, knowing the rocket was going to Mars, assume that they have landed on that distant planet. They don protective spacesuits and head out to explore. What Lester and Orville believe to be Mars is New Orleans at Mardis Gras.

Jack Kruschen, Horace McMahon

My favourite part of the movie is now coming up; the appearance of escaped convicts Mugsy played by Horace McMahon (Detective Story) and Harry played by Jack Kruschen (McLintock!). The comedy team that never was but should have been are a riot in Abbott and Costello Go To Mars. Mugsy is the brains of the outfit. He has a large vocabulary and he talks a lot, but he doesn't make a great deal of sense. Harry is willing to go along with an obvious brainiac. His catchphrase is "I'm witchu".

Mugsy, having read his share of comic books, lets Harry know that they have found a rocket ship from Mars. They don spacesuits provided therein as disguises and avail themselves of the ray guns contained in the ship. Ray guns?! Really, Dr. Wilson? Mugsy and Harry will use the ray guns in a bank robbery. They then intend to hop on the ship with the Martians. Really, Mugsy? Of what use do you assume your ill-gotten gain will be on Mars?

Mistaken for the bank robbers, due to their spacesuits, Lester and Orville are chased by the police, but elude them to return to the rocket. A battle of wits and wills the likes of which never seen in cinematic history ensues between the convicts and the "rocket scientists". The result is that the rocket once again leaves the ground and this time actually makes it to outer space. They land on Venus.

Mari Blanchard, Jean Willes

This is the Venusian court of Queen Allura played by Mari Blanchard (Destry). The palace and caves of Venus were created by legendary art directors Robert Boyle (North by Northwest) and  Alexander Golitzen (Thoroughly Modern Millie). You will notice that the planet appears to be populated by females alone. Beauty queens appear as the girls of Venus which I think is a very good gimmick. Apparently, a 22-year-old Anita Ekberg (La Dolce Vita) appears as one of the guards, but I couldn't place her. No trouble recognizing Jean Willes (The King and Four Queens) as a Captain. Four hundred years ago, Queen Allura caught her man cheating so she banished all of them from the planet. Since then everything has been hunky and dory. They have developed pills for everything.

Lou Costello, Mari Blanchard

The arrival of the four men into this garden spot has created tension among the population. The girls think it would be nice to have a king again and Allura anoints Orville. She demands his complete devotion, but he can't keep his mind on one girl when there are so many. Mugsy leads one section of Venusians in revolt while Lester tries to keep Orville on the up and up.

In danger of losing her power, Queen Allura screens pictures of the men who used to live on Venus. They are of the body-building, Adonis type, and when Queen Allura asks her subjects if they should settle for what showed up on their doorstep, the vote is unanimous to refuel the rocket and send these poor excuses for the male of the species back to whence they came.

Horace McMahon, Jack Kruschen

Bud Abbott, Lou Costello

Director Charles Lamont's career began in the silent era and he first worked with Abbott and Costello in 1943s Hit the Ice. Nine films later, their last was Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. Howard Christie, the team's longtime producer wrote the script for this sci-fi comedy, which is light on the sci and heavy on the fi.

The well had begun to run dry for Bud and Lou's movie schtick by this time as evidenced the movie being easily stolen by McMahon and Kruschen. Nonetheless, everyone was looking to the skies in this era and it is only right that the fellows have their crack at space. It may only prove slightly amusing when compared to their great movies of the 1940s, but remember, they did make great movies, and we don't have to go to Mars to see them.


  1. So... even though it's called ABBOTT & COSTELLO GO TO MARS, they actually go to Venus...? Okaaaaaaay.

    I remember watching an A&C animated series as a kid. I think I was aware they were real people, not just cartoons, but of course, I had thought they were from like, a million years ago. I could imagine a movie like this as a cartoon.

    1. Well, they thought they were going to Mars, but ... yeah. I don't get it.

      I'd forgotten about that cartoon show. I think you're right about "Go to Mars" working in animation. It plays like an SNL skit that went on for too long. Bright colours would help.

  2. Why is it the would-be geniuses in Hollywood thought that every planet not inhabited by BEMs (Bug-Eyed Monsters) would be somehow be inhabited by a race of Amazonian women? "Cat Women of the Moon", "Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women", "Queen of Outer Space",even "Fire Maidens from Outer Space"? Hmm. sounds like the beginning of another post... Liked reading this one though.

    1. And they're never short, zaftig gals. H'm. I'll be expecting your post before the year is out. Thanks for reading.

  3. This is a lesser entry in Abbott and Costello's oeuvre, but it is still fun. I do have to agree that the title seems a bit odd, but maybe they thought Mars would sell more tickets than Venus! I do love McMahon and Kruschen in this movie. It's a shame someone at the head office didn't think to team them up in a series of movies!

    1. Exactly! How could they miss what a treat McMahon and Kruschen were? I really like the poster for this one. It's a shame when the movie doesn't live up to the artwork.

  4. Used to watch Abbott and Costello movies with my dad when I was a kid, and we loved them all, even the not-so-great ones. Thanks for bringing this one to the blogathon, even though it isn't their best work. Brought back some nice memories.

    1. It is very true that a movie doesn't have to be the best of the best to win a spot in our hearts. I don't regret watching any Abbott and Costello movie. I just get a little tinge thinking about how a tweak here or there could have made it better.

      Thanks for hosting another very interesting blogathon.

  5. I could never really get into A & C movies, maybe slapstick isn't quite my thing. But somehow those two are very endearing.

    One of their movies I like best is Who Done It?, simply because it's very Noirish. I know, that's weird.

    1. Not weird at all. I hear you loud and clear. Who Done It? works for me precisely for its noirish aspects. Another I really like is The Time of Their Lives. It has ghosts and Gale Sondergaard giving a seance.

  6. This A&C film has somehow eluded me and, even though it doesn't seem to generate rave reviews, it looks worth a look, if only to see McMahon and Kruschen in action. Besides, how often do you get to see a movie with "Mars" in the title that is actually set on Venus?

  7. McMahon and Kruschen are marvelous. I hope when you see them you are as impressed as I was. It will be easy enough to get my A&C love back by watching an old fave or two.

    Yeah. How much trouble would it have been to rename it Abbott and Costello Go to Venus When They Thought They Were Going to Mars. No. I'll work on it.



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