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Bonus Reviews: Last Night in Soho (2021) and Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Hold That Ghost (1941)
Horror Bulletin Bonus for Week 185
For this week’s bonus films, we’ll look yet another Abbott and Costello collaboration in "Hold That Ghost" from 1941. I think that's the end of the A&C monster films.
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Hold That Ghost (1941)
Directed by Arthur Lubin
Written by Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo, John Grant
Stars Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Richard Carlson, Joan Davis
Run Time: 1 Hour, 26 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is some earlier work by the duo. They look a bit younger and have more physical humor in this one. Some of the humor is dependent on some elaborate and impressive sets. There are some musical numbers as well. And some racially loaded nightclub entertainment that probably wouldn’t fly with today’s audiences - it was a different time in 1941. Overall, it’s silly and fun, with “scares” but not really scary or much horror.
We open with Ted Lewis and his band, along with the Andrews Sisters doing a musical number on stage. The new relief waiters have arrived, Chuck and Ferdinand, and they aren’t going to be good at the job. Ted Lewis and a black man sing and dance to “Me and My Shadow,” which isn’t at all racist by today’s standards, no, not at all. Even without that, the style of music tells us that it was a different time. The Andrews Sisters are up next, and they sing something that didn’t make it to classic status.
Charlie comes in to talk to Moose Matson about the big payroll job. Bannister takes Charlie’s threat to Moose, who refuses to give Charlie anything unless he can find the money he’s hidden. It takes exactly one customer before Chuck and Ferdinand get fired and go back to the gas station. Ferdy talks about their sign (eight gallons for a dollar!) and says that one day, he’s going to own his own nightclub.
Ferdy finds guns in Moose’s car when he stops for gas, and soon, there’s a shootout with the police and a car chase. Moose gets shot, and drops his will as he dies. He bequeaths all his possessions to whoever was with him at the time of his death. The only asset that they know of is an old hotel. Bannister, the lawyer, sends Charlie Smith to take them to their new place. Camille Brester, a radio personality, as well as Norma Lind, are going to the same place.
There’s a storm, and the whole car full ends up staying at Ferdy and Chuck’s new hotel. The place is abandoned and looks like a haunted house. The driver goes off with everyone’s baggage. As it turns out, Charlie only wanted to bring everyone to this old house so he could search for Moose’s hidden money. Someone in the dark kills Charlie.
During dinner, Ferdy and Camille dance, and she’s much better than he is. They accidentally find a secret room from the days of prohibition. When they all finally go looking for Charlie, haunted house and secret door hijinks ensue. The boys literally stumble upon Charlie’s body. Dr. Jackson examines Charlie and says he’s been strangled. A couple of cops arrive, but by that point, the body is gone. The cops are also there to search for hidden money.
They all get ready for bed, and when Ferdy hangs his pants on a hook, a bunch of secret doors and things appear in his room. It’s like a whole hidden casino shows up. Naturally, when Chuck comes in, it’s all gone. Camille plays “Me and My Shadow” with a man dressed as a ghost.
The ghost sneaks in behind Ferdy and Camille. Chuck explains that everyone knows that Moose “kept all his money in his head,” but no one knows what that means. Turns out, the money is hidden in an actual moose head. A gangster walks in, gun drawn, and he wants the money. They beat him, but then four more show up.
Ferdy grabs the money and runs upstairs to hide. There’s an extended chase through the haunted house. They eventually chase off the gangsters. Dr. Jackson says the water here has healing properties, and they can make a fortune selling it.
Dr. Jackson and Norma get married. Ferdy finally gets his wish to own a nightclub, so Ted Lewis and the Andrew Sisters get the final word.
This one was seven years before Abbott & Costello meet Frankenstein or any of the other sequels. They both looked quite a bit younger here, and they were both a lot more physically active. Most of the humor and misunderstandings here are the type that could be avoided if someone simply turned their head and looked a different way.
It’s got a lot of the usual haunted house tropes, but there’s not anything at all scary about this one. The very generic ghost is obviously (to everyone but Ferdy, anyway) just a man in a thin sheet.
Last Night in Soho (2021)
Directed by Edgar Wright
Written by Edgar Wright, Krysty Wilson-Cairnes
Stars Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith
Run Time: 1 Hour, 56 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is a stylish big-budget movie with great special effects. It’s a nice, slow build, letting us get to know the characters. And the tension and horror nicely builds.
Credits roll as Eloise dances to “A World Without Love” in a dress that looks like newspaper. She wants to be a big-time fashion designer. She talks to a girl in her mirror who isn’t really there. She gets a letter in the mail; she’s going to get to go to London, which is very exciting for her.
As she packs, we see that Eloise is really big into music from the 60s. Her grandmother warns her that London isn’t what she thinks. There are a lot of bad apples over there, and it was too much for Eloise’s mother. Grandma fears that the way Eloise sees things, she might get overwhelmed. We learn that the girl she saw upstairs was her own dead mother, who killed herself when Ellie was seven.
Almost immediately, she gets weirded out by the taxi driver in London, who says she should be a model instead of a designer. Ellie’s new roommate is Jocasta. Ellie’s from Cornwall, which may as well be a different country as far as Jocasta thinks.
Ellie and her new friends all go out for a night on the town, but she’s not much of a partier. She hides in the restroom stall and overhears them making fun of her. There’s a party at her place later, but no one told her. She meets John, who seems nice. She’s_ almost_ late for her first day at class.
She looks for a room to rent to get away from Jocasta. Ms. Collins is her new landlady, and she’s lived there forever. She moves in immediately. She plays her 60’s music and imagines she’s in London in the 1960s. Suddenly, she is in the 60s. The theater advertises the premiere of “Thunderball.” She looks into the mirror and sees someone else.
Sandie, the mirror-girl, is here in the nightclub to meet the owner. She ends up talking to Jack instead; “He manages a lot of girls,” says the bartender. Sandie wants to be a big star, but she wants it right now. As Jack and Sandie dance, sometimes Sandie shifts and becomes Ellie, but not really. Another customer insults Sandie, and Jack decks the man. Sandie is impressed. We soon learn that Sandie had the same apartment as Ellie does today. Ellie wakes up; just a dream. Maybe.
At school the next day, Jocasta starts picking on Ellie, who now has a hickey that wasn’t there last night. John says he likes her work, and he seems to like her as well. He asks her out, but Ellie can’t wait to get to sleep and have another special dream.
Jack and Sandie go to the Rialto, but the place is closed. “Not for you,” Jack smiles. This is her audition, so she gets up on stage and sings. The manager there likes her. Jack agrees to be her manager, and the two start to make out; then Ellie’s alarm clock goes off.
Ellie buys some vintage clothes and dyes her hair to look more like Sandie. She designs an outfit from the period as well. To pay for all of it, she gets a job as a bartender, and Carol is her new boss. There’s an old man there whom she had seen previously, and he looks creepy. He says she looks familiar; “Who’s your mother?” When she goes home, Ms. Collins, the old landlady, doesn’t even recognize her anymore at first.
Dream time again. It’s the “Rialto Review,” a kind of burlesque show. Ellie sees Sandie doing the chorus-girl thing, but she’s not the star of the show, just chorus. Ellie is embarrassed by it all, and sees that Sandie isn’t really thrilled either. Jack comes to the dressing room, and this time, Ellie takes Sandie’s place as Jack introduces her to Mr. Pointer, a wealthy patron who asks her out. Jack says she needs to keep that kind of man happy, and they argue. Later, Ellie sees money on Sandie’s nightstand– she did it.
All these dreams start taking a toll on Ellie at work and at school. John says he’s available to talk if she wants. Grandma calls and asks, “did you see her again?” Ellie apparently has a history of seeing things. The old man at the bar knows her name now. His name is Hannity, and “He was a ladies’ man back in the day.”
More dreaming, and now Sandie flirts with all the men as part of her job. Ellie tries to get Sandie’s attention, but it doesn’t work. Ellie starts seeing horrible conglomerations of faceless men all taking their pants off; she’s terrified.
In the real world, Ellie and Jack go to a Halloween party. Jocasta gives Ellie a drink, and just maybe there’s something in it. She starts hallucinating all those creepy men from her nightmares. Her dreams start encroaching on reality. John helps her out, so she takes him back to her apartment. As they begin to have sex, Ellie watches Sandie being beaten and threatened at knifepoint. Then she’s murdered. Ellie freaks out, John freaks out, and Ms. Collins freaks out all at the same time. As Sandie dies, she looks right at Ellie.
Ellie asks Ms. Collins about Sandie, and was she murdered in her room. Her response makes London sound like a fun place to visit. The next day at school, Ellie freaks out again when she sees Sandie in her classroom. She starts seeing ghostly ”Johns” everywhere as she runs through the town. She goes to the police station and tells them about her vision. They ask if she’s ever had hallucinations before. She thinks the old gray-haired man is Jack, still alive as an old man now.
Ellie starts researching murders from that time period, trying to find Sandie. Turns out, a lot of people get murdered in London. She runs into John at the library, who is surprisingly still speaking to her, and tells him the story. The ghosts all show up in the library as well, and Ellie nearly stabs Jocasta in her confusion.
Ellie goes to the bar where she works and finds the old man there waiting for her. She turns on her audio recorder on her phone before talking to him. He says he knew Sandie. “She was special; she didn’t belong. At the end of the day, they all look the same on the slab.” He adds that “Alex killed Sandie.” Then the old man walks in front of a car and is killed. Carol says that the old man’s name was Lindsay, and he used to be a policeman. He’s definitely not Jack.
Ellie calls Grandma, who tells her to come home. She goes to John instead. He offers to drive her home to Cornwall. She goes back to her apartment to hopefully get her deposit back and while Ms. Collins makes some tea, Ellie notices that the old woman’s first name is Alexandra. She knows that Ellie went to the police about that old murder. She mentions that someone did die up there, the younger version of herself. She says she was Sandie. She eventually learned to blank out the men’s faces when she had sex with them. “She died in that room a hundred times.” Eventually, Jack tried to kill her, but she stabbed him instead– a hundred times. “It felt right, Ellie.” Then she started killing the men who came to her for sex; dozens of them.
“I know you’re not going to tell anyone else,” the old woman says as Ellie drops her teacup. John comes to the door, and Ms. Collins gets ready to kill him too. Ellie accidentally knocks over the old lady’s ashtray into a box of records and starts a fire as she struggles to get up. Meanwhile, Ms. Collins stabs John. As Ellie crawls to the phone to call for help, hundreds of handy ghosts attack. No– they want help. “Kill her!” they start chanting. “Help us!”
Ms. Collins/Sandie breaks in the door, and now she also sees Jack and the many other ghosts. She tries to cut her own throat, but Ellie stops her. And she’s young Sandie again. She tells Ellie to leave. Save herself and the boy, she says. Ellie grabs John as the firemen rush in. Sandie Collins burns with the house.
Later, we see that Ellie has a whole fashion show of her retro-60s fashion design. She’s given up the blonde bangs for what she had before. She still sees her mother in mirrors– and Sandie too.
This looks like it had a huge budget with all the old cars and classic sets. It’s very stylish and looks great; the period music works really well here too. Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy look nothing alike in the beginning of the film, but after a while, it gets harder and harder to tell them apart. Diana Rigg and Terence Stamp have fair roles, and they’re always fun to see.
When Grandma talks about Ellie seeing things, I immediately wondered if she wasn’t simply schizophrenic. I was thrilled when the detective asked her about that; it was the simplest theory. That wasn’t really the case here, but at least the writers thought of it.
I was having doubts as to whether this was horror or not until the screaming crowds of ghosts showed up. It’s a really slow build-up with lots of character building and scene-setting, but once it gets going, it’s really good.
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