Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion, 1950
At the opening of Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion, Bud is a wrestling manager in New York in the beginning, running two wrestlers through the script for their next fight, bringing Lou in to be their punching bag pretty quickly. This whole sequence is fun, having both the beat-on-Lou physical comedy, and the fun of Bud orchestrating a really authentic ((Note: that’s sarcasm. )) wrestling match from a script.
But then one of the wrestlers bugs out for his home in Tangier, taking Bud’s (borrowed from the mob) money with him, and getting Bud and Lou on the mob’s shortlist. So they follow the wrestler to try to convince him to go back, and eventually end up getting suckered into a five year stretch in the French Foreign Legion. But not before Lou has inadvertently won the bidding on six beautiful girls in a slave auction, of course. And being wholly unable to pay for them, naturally.
Once in the Legion, they get involved in intrigue — the Legion has been losing battles with local arab tribes lately, and there’s a mole. Bud and Lou deal with a very cute member of French intelligence (Patricia Medina, very easy on the eyes and Joseph Cotten’s future wife, the lucky dog) to try to ferret out the mole.
The two bumblers get lost in the desert, of course, and there are some quite wonderful mirage and oasis gags, and the whole thing leads to a rather spectacular climax at a Legion fort in the desert. ((It blowed up. It blowed up real good! ))
There’s an actual story here, not just a setup as in so many of Abbott and Costello’s lesser and later movies. Once the boys are put in hot water, things actually escalate, and even if there are extended digressions, they at least focus on the stars of the show.
The really impressive thing here, though, is not something you’d notice just watching it. According to the production notes on the DVD, which are backed up by the movie’s entry on WikiPedia, production began on 28 April 1950, and the movie was released on 24 July 1950. From the first day of lensing to release was only three months. And there were, as noted, some special effects in this film, it wasn’t just a shot, chop, and release job. That’s just an amazing timeframe for a feature film, even for a comedy.
(Okay, guess I had more to say than yesterday. Still, feels thin.)
All in all, another excellent reason to get this set, especially now that it’s out of print. Lots of laughs, lots of fun.