Friday, November 15, 2019

Blu-ray gift for Bud Abbott & Lou Costello fans: all 28 of their movies in ABBOTT & COSTELLO: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection

TrustMovies has never been sure quite why the antics of comedy team Abbott & Costello have not been enshrined into the certified canon of movie greatness, as has the work of so many other comedians and comedy teams. Was it because the pair was too mainstream?

Well, so were Martin & Lewis, yet Lou Costello's comedy is one hell of a lot subtler than that of Jerry Lewis. But, then, I guess the French critics -- followed by some of the American variety -- didn't take Costello (below, right, with Bela Lugosi) quite to heart the way they did our Jerry.

Bud Abbott (below, left) was a terrific "straight man" for Costello's antics, and an excellent stand-in for us in the audience, making the comedy all that much funnier. But it was the chubby, endearing, frightened and foolish Costello who always made us laugh -- and love him all the more for his many foibles.

This new collection -- so far as I know, the first time their 28 films have been gathered into an entire collection (and certainly the first time they've appeared in high-def, in these glowing, delicious, black-and-white transfers that look better than any A&C movie I've yet seen) -- is a must for fans of the duo. Though the Blu-ray edition is a pricey $136, that's still under $5 per movie, while the copious Bonus Features alone should keep you busy for the remainder of the year -- if not the rest of your lifetime. (Which might amount to the same thing for those of us in the 70s/80s category, who grew up laughing at the antics of this pair.)

The films themselves range in release date from 1940 to 1955, during which the duo made on average a couple of movie per year. The first of these is ONE NIGHT IN THE TROPICS (above), in which A&C get billing below stars of the time like Allan Jones and Nancy Kelly (later Oscar nominated for The Bad Seed), but above that of co-star Robert Cummings. This movie, another of so many that demonstrates how much better was the screenwriting for even throw-away comedies back in the day, is an entertaining little lark, complete with songs (by Jerome Kern) and a musical-number finale that's a glorious hoot.

The team of A&C made nothing but comedies, of course, yet within that framework they inhabited an enormous number of genres -- from westerns (The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap, a delight that co-stars the great Marjorie Main, above) to war films (Buck Privates, In the Navy, Keep 'Em Flying), horror (A&C Meet Frankenstein) to sci-fi (A&C Go to Mars below), among others. What's more, their comedy routines lend themselves so easily to all these genres -- for genres, over time of course, are ever more easily parodied.

The famous routines -- of which Who's on First? is probably most known (and seen in its entirety via One Night in the Tropics) -- are still great fun, and so are these two sterling comedians. Kids today who have never seen Abbott & Costello will have some delight in store, should their parents see fit to grace them with a look at these funny, fun-filled movies.

As of now, I've seen only a half dozen of the 28 included in the three discs in this collection -- Hold that Ghost, co-starring the wonderful Joan Davis (above, center) is another "must" -- but I won't be sharing it with even my very best friends until I've viewed the whole collection, which constitutes an absolute treasure for A&C fans.

From SHOUT! FACTORY, Abbott & Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection hits the street on Blu-ray this coming Tuesday, November 19. The transfers are wonderful and, as earlier noted, the Bonus Features assembled here are themselves worth the collection's asking price. (Still, I do hope these discs will turn up somewhere for rental, as well.) 

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