15 September 2002 | mark.waltz
Frivilous little comedy.
Don't let the title fool you; This is not a comedy in the tradition of "The Ghost Breakers" or "Hold That Ghost"; It is the story of a bumbling cop out to improve his reputation by finding a payroll robber he accidently let get away. Joe E. Brown, best known to today's audiences as Captain Andy in the 1951 revival of "Show Boat" and as the suave millionaire who provides the punchline at the end of "Some Like It Hot", plays the less-than-capable police officer who has been transfered so many times that there is nowhere else to send him. Determined to restore his reputation, Brown and his young wife, Mary Carlisle, begin investigating on their own, and trace the crooks to an amusement park where there is a slapstick finale inside a fun house.
By the late 1930's, film comics popular in the early days of talkies were starting to run out of steam, and Brown was one of them. He had made several dozen low-budget comedys for Warner Brothers in the early-mid 30's, and by this time, was reduced to even lower-budgeted comedys at studios such as RKO and Columbia (where this came from). They were more likely to be seen on the lower half of a double bill and thus get lower attention than the slapstick films then being made by such "newer" folks as Bob Hope and The Ritz Brothers. By the time of the arrival of Abbott and Costello the following year, comics such as Brown swung down the ladder even further, Brown reduced to working at Republic.
"Beware Spooks!" is entertaining thanks to its short running time and fast paced slapstick action. Brown does his best to enliven the show which goes into full-force two-reeler like speed at the end when the crook (Marc Lawrence) and Brown go head-to-head in a fun house. The comedy which comes before that is dull in comparrison, but there are moments within the finale which are masterpieces of slapstick comedy. Mary Carlisle, one of those non-descript leading ladies of the 30's, is secondary, and it is understandable why she is basically forgotten today. She was given these types of parts based upon beauty alone, which didn't require much skill other than to look worried or pretty. Clarence Kolb, as the boss, is an entertaining character actor, and does his best to make his part of the buffoon boss interesting.