Thursday, January 31, 2019

I'm not sure you want these particular detectives on the case.

Who Done It? (1942) is a fun vehicle for Bud and Lou. They are soda jerks working at a counter in the lobby of a building that includes a radio studio. That studio's most popular show is Murder at Midnight and the boys want nothing more than to sell their own mystery scripts.

By the way, a real show titled Murder at Midnight was syndicated four years after Who Done It? was released. Using the same name was probably a coincidence, but the possibility the producers of the real-life show lifted the title from an Abbott and Costello movie is an entertaining notion.

When Lou isn't getting swindled out of nickles and dimes by a fast-talking bellboy, the boys are able to get into the studio one evening to watch while the show airs. But the fake radio murder is interrupted by a real-life murder.

Well, if you want to break into radio as mystery writers, what's the best way to go about it? Obviously, its to impersonate real detectives and solve a actual murder. What could possibly go wrong?

This is Bud's idea. Gee whiz, people consider Lou to be the dumb one.

As is the case with many of their films, there are a man and woman side characters who are available to fall in love with one another and, in this case, actually figure out who the murderer actually is. Patric Knowles is a writer and Louise Allbritton is the show's producer. While the cops spend most of their time chasing Bud and Lou around the building, these two do some real investigating and come up with a plan that invovles recreating the radio broadcast to flush out the real killer. This, in turn, leads to a wonderful slapstick scene in which the boys and the killer stalk one another on the roof of the building.

Bud and Lou get great support from Mary Wickes, playing her usual acerbic character with her usual skill, and William Bendix as the world's dumbest cop. Later Bud and Lou films would combine the Universal Monsters with comedy and do this brilliantly. Who Done It? is one of several films in which they show themselves to be equally skilled in combining comedy with murder.

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