When you compare the early Abbott and Costello films like WHO DONE IT? to a late Marx Brothers film like THE BIG STORE or a late Laurel and Hardy film like AIR RAID WARDENS, it is easy to see why Abbott and Costello were so popular in the early '40s. They had youth, they had vitality, they had several trunkfuls of tried and true burlesque routines guaranteed to rock the house. Even the best scenes in the later films of the Marxes and L&H could not match the energy of Abbott and Costello.
In WHO DONE IT?, soda jerks Chick Larkin and Mervin Q. Milgrim (Bud and Lou), attempting to sell one of their radio scripts, wind up pretending to be detectives in order to solve the on-air murder of the studio head. For an hour and a half, they run around the radio studio like maniacs, bother and pester everybody they see, stop in the middle of everything to shoehorn in the famous phone routine "Alexander 2-2-2-2", and are so certain of their own real life fame by this point, they twice make self-referential in-jokes about "Who's on First?". It's one of the most rapid-fire films they ever made, and it was the first one to prove that they didn't need The Andrews Sisters or other musical groups to support them.
Aside from the Boys themselves, what makes WHO DONE IT a most entertaining film is the top-notch cast, which features Thomas Gomez as the doomed studio head, Mary Wickes as the object of Lou's attempted affection, Jerome Cowan as a writer under suspicion, and William Bendix as a detective almost as bumbling and dim-witted as Lou Costello himself. Erle C. Kenton, who has just directed the terrific little b-picture GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN as well as the fun PARDON MY SARONG for A&C, provides a beautifully shadowy atmosphere for the boys to play their boisterous comedy against. The seriousness of the mystery (two people are killed) sometimes clashes with the comedy, but that's more of a problem with the story itself, not Kenton's direction.
Packed with fun and laughs from beginning to end,
WHO DONE IT? is easily one of Abbott and Costello's five best films. - JB