Africa Screams (1949) starring Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Hillary Brooke, Joe Besser, Shemp Howard
Abbott and Costello’s movie, Africa Screams, is at best a mixed bag. The basic plot has Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, working as book sellers, conniving their way onto a trip to Africa, where Hillary Brooke is looking for diamonds — and is willing to sell Lou to a hungry witchdoctor.
The good news is, there are lots of familiar cast members, such as Hillary Brooke (regular on their TV series, as well as Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd), Joe Besser (“Stinky” from their TV series, as well as one of the Three Stooges), Shemp Howard (of the Three Stooges, as well as Buck Privates and Hold That Ghost), Frank Buck and Clyde Beatty, as well as boxers Max and Buddy Baer.
The bad news is, both Bud and Lou act totally out of character at different times. Bud actively tries to sell his buddy Lou to the cannibalistic witch doctor for a meal. Bud often tries to fleece Lou in other movies, but there’s a bond of friendship between them that’s missing in this film. Likewise, Lou tries to put on airs and impersonate famous big game hunter Frank Buck — in front of Frank Buck; and later do the same routine in front of Clyde Beatty. It’s totally out of character for Lou — although it would have worked for Bud.
There are individual moments and scenes that are funny, but on the whole the film falls flat.
Editorial review of Africa Screams courtesy of Amazon.com
Abbott and Costello try to pass themselves off as some of the world’s leading African safari hunters, when in reality they’d be lucky to find Africa on a globe. Their tales of bravado are overheard by diamond thieves who take them as their guides on a secret expedition into the heart of Africa. Their only hope is that Africa is no match for their comedic timing. Expertly restored and in color for the first time, this wonderful family romp of a movie goes through jungles filled with lions, monkeys and even a giant ape!
Funny movie quotes from Africa Screams
Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott): I can’t understand why you have this terrible fear of animals in you. What is it?
Stanley Livington (Lou Costello): When I was a little baby I was scared by my piggy bank.
Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott): That’s nonsense. [walks away]
Stanley Livington (Lou Costello): [Grabs Buzz] You wanna hear something worse?
Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott): What?
Stanley Livington (Lou Costello): I was 15 years old before I ate my first animal cracker.
Stanley Livington (Lou Costello): That’s the kind of girl I dream about. But you should see the ones I get.
Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott): [sees Harry with a glass of water] Where’re you going with the water?
Harry (Joe Besser): Oh my tent’s on fire!
Stanley Livington (Lou Costello): [while in Africa] So if I draw the map I can go home?
Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott): What do you want to go home for?
Stanley Livington (Lou Costello): I forgot something.
Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott): What did you forget?
Stanley Livington (Lou Costello): I forgot to stay there.
[first lines] Stanley Livington (Lou Costello): Stay right where you are. Don’t move, stay there now. Steady. Now sit up. Sit up. Sit up you. Up you fool. Up. Sit up I said. Sit up. Up.
Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott): [to Diana] Allow me to introduce Stanley Livington, one of the world’s greatest wild game hunters.
Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott): You mean, you intend to take a trip to Africa?
Diana Emerson (Hillary Brooke): Very differently, I’m planning a safari.
Stanley Livington (Lou Costello): Listen boss, I’m not going along. You’ve got no right to put me in a thing like that. You’re always putting me right in the middle
Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott): Don’t tell me that. Don’t you give me that. No arguments.
Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott): Say Mr. Buck, is there really such an animal as the Orangutang Gargantua?
Frank Buck: Of course there is.
Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott): There is?
Frank Buck: It went right around this district now.
Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott): [to Stanley] Stanley’s a coward, Stanley’s a coward. Afraid of a little teeny weeny alligator like that.
Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott): [to Stanley] I’m going to make a hero out of you whether you like it or not.
Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott): [to Stanley] I’m going into the cage and you behave yourself. I can’t understand why he gets so scared.
Stanley Livington (Lou Costello): I’m not afraid of nothing . Not even you. I’m a pretty brave kid. I don’t care about kittens. I don’t care how big the kittens are.
Stanley Livington (Lou Costello): I thought that you were… Buzz, I’m paralysed.
Interpreter: [to Diana] The chief has a sweet tooth for the little fat man.
Diana Emerson (Hillary Brooke): Have you seen a short fat man and a tall thin man running through the jungle?
Frank Buck: No. I don’t want to either.
Diana Emerson (Hillary Brooke): Now I’ll never catch up to them!
Stanley Livington (Lou Costello): Now that I’m alone, what’s going to happen to me now?
Boots Wilson: [to Grappler] I’ll hit you harder than Louis ever did.
[last lines] Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott): Mr Livington, what about that raise I’ve been asking for?
Stanley Livington (Lou Costello): I’ll talk to my partner if he’s in.
Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott): Thank you, Sir.
Stanley Livington (Lou Costello): [sees that his partner, the gorilla, is in the office] He’s in.
Trivia for Africa Screams
- There is a scene where Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are talking in their tent and Joe Besser dashes into the tent, grabs a glass of water and dashes out again. He repeats this several times until Abbott stops him and asks why he’s so thirsty. Besser replies that he’s not thirsty, it’s that his tent is on fire. That was based on an incident in Lou Costello’s childhood, when he accidentally set some clothes in his bedroom on fire. His father was in the living room, which was between the kitchen and Lou’s bedroom. Lou Costello, not wanting to let his father know that he had set his room on fire, dashed back and forth between the kitchen and his bedroom with glasses of water until his father finally asked what was going on, whereupon Costello was forced to tell what he had done.
- Features the only on-screen pairing of Joe Besser and Shemp Howard, who were respectively considered the 4th and 5th members of The Three Stooges.
- The comment by Boots (Buddy Baer) to Grappler (Max Baer), “I’ll hit you harder than Louis ever did”, is a reference to boxer Joe Louis who battled both Baers in the 1930s.
- The gorilla was originally meant to be a female simian pursuing Lou Costello. However, the Breen Office censors that enforced the Production Code in Hollywood demanded the gorilla’s gender be changed as they felt a female gorilla’s pursuit of a man would be on par with bestiality.