‘SLOWLY I TURN’…(and see Errol Flynn?)

My dogged pursuit of the increasingly obnoxious vaudeville routine known as ‘Niagra Falls’ or ‘Slowly I Turn’ continues with a Colgate Comedy Hour version starring Abbott and Costello featuring Errol Flynn. This is the worst version thus far of the routine–Flynn is miscast, unable to convincingly be broad and over the top which is required to make the crude Vaudeville caricature work. (This is something of a back-handed compliment since it merely means that Flynn was too good and sincere an actor for the role). Anything approaching normal behavior deprives the skit of its dopey humor. Then again, the routine isn’t truly funny at all, is it? It’s the repetition and the victim’s inability to control their own fate (constantly saying the trigger word by accident) that creates some sort of suspense and release for the audience—will he or won’t he screw up and set the madman off again? I’m sure there’s some theory-of-comedy name for this sort of thing. The thing that’s getting really funny to me are the inexplicable rewrites and variations that don’t really change a thing—did they sit down and intentionally rewrite it or were they just  sloppily remembering it? God knows who else did the routine and what will pop up next on my YouTube feed. Perhaps a long-lost version of the skit starring Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre. Now that I’d pay to see.


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