The Best of Bud Abbott & Lou Costello - Volume 4 (DVD, 2005, 2-Disc Set) Reviews

The Best of Bud Abbott & Lou Costello - Volume 4 (DVD, 2005, 2-Disc Set)

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Abbott & Costello Lackluster last 3 Universal Features on dissapointing DVD Set

Sep 8, 2011
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Some Abott and Costello laughs

Cons:Weaker movies, lack of extras

The Bottom Line: Dissapointing DVD set with last 3 Abbott and Costello features and 3 minor programs. 


Best of Abbott Costello Volume 4 includes the last 3 features A & C made for Universal, a clip compilation movie from 1965, a T.V, special memorial with Jerry Seinfeld, and a 34 minute featurette about the making of A & C Meet Frankenstein.   Pretty big let-down in terms of bang for your buck when compared to the earlier sets  in this series( which included 8 features in each set). 

A & C  fans will surely wish their very last movie; 1956's Dance with Me Henry which they made for United Artists was here-but it isn't.
 
In 1953 Abbott and Costello got to work again with Boris Karloff (previously they did Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff in 1949) and do another ‘monster comedy'.  This time its Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Bud and Lou play Slim (Abbott) and Tubby (Costello), American cops in London studying police tactics.  They wind up helping their  reporter friend Bruce Adams (Craig Stevens) impress a girl Vicky Edwards (Helen Westcott) who is a rabble rousing suffragette.  Eventually Slim and Tubby are kicked off the force and wind up in jail, helped out by Vicky's  guardian/Uncle , a very nice older gentlemen named Dr. Jekyll (Boris Karloff). 

 Tubby and Slim eventually realize that kind old Dr. Jekyll is conducting  experiments and becoming a monstrous  Mr. Hyde (played by  un-credited stuntman Eddie Parker).  Jekyll /Hyde has killed another doctor and might be trying to kill Bruce.    Slim and Tubby aren't successful in convincing the police at first.  There's a sequence where Tubby is trapped in a wax museum when the figures of Dracula and Frankenstein suddenly come to life which remind us that the re-hashed material we are watching was much better in  Hold That Ghost and  A&C Meet Frankenstein.   It's overly familiar, but a somewhat entertaining feature for Boris Karloff and A & C fans.  Just don't expect much.

COMMENT:  It should be noted that Abbott and Costello did not like to do brand new material.  They became famous as burlesque nightclub comedians and then on radio programs where they refined some of their classic word-play routines (like Baseball  aka Who's on First).  They became film stars in the 1940s and recycled/revived lots of routines originally made famous by Laurel and Hardy, Wheeler and Woolsey and others.  Abbott and Costello quickly became very popular at the box-office, only falling below the top 10 in 1952. In 1952, their syndicated television show began and was very popular.  They did 2 years of the program (it was plagued with production, writing, cast problems).   By the early 1950s, their  older movies were being shown on television, they had made many appearances on The Colgate Hour television show and they made two years' worth of  TV sit-coms that were all constantly being shown.   All of these featured the team doing their routines and slapstick.   So by 1953 audiences had seen A & C do their stuff many, many times before.  They really didn't need to go to the movies to see them do yet another version of their tried and true routines.

They did two more movies for Universal before being released from their contract (fired).  They were: 

A&C MEET THE KEYSTONE COPS (1955) this 78 minute film opens with a funny bit which has Lou demonstrating with manic energy a scene from a silent movie he just saw known within the film as Eliza and the Bloodhounds (but actually was a scene from the 1927 version of Uncle Tom's Cabin).  Unfortunately we are then bogged down with a very far-fetched plot with lots of recycled funny bits until we get to the too little, too late homage to the Keystone Cops chase scene that was dated in 1955 and is even more so now.  We do see people like Joe Besser, Fred Clark and former aging Keystone Cops, Hank Mann, Herold Goodwin, Heinie Conklin and even Mack Sennett himself.   The plot involves Harry (Abbott) and Willie (Costello) thinking they are investing $5,000 in a motion picture studio.

  Naturally they have been conned by Joe Gorman (Fred Clark) who leaves town with their money and his girlfriend Leota Van Cleef (Lynn Bari).  Gorman pretends to be a European director named Sergei Toumanoff.   Harry and Willie wind up on the set of a Western movie, that Toumanoff/Gorman is directing.  They of course disrupt things, but are hired by studio boss Mr. Snavely (Frank Wilcox) as stunt men.  Toumanoff/Gorman decides to try and rig some stunts to kill Harry and Willie but instead, Snavely decides they Harry and Willie should be a comedy team and tells Toumanoff to begin working on a comedy movie with Harry and Willie.    Harry and Willie decide to go to the cops to tell them about Toumanoff /Gorman but they think the fake Keystone Cops are real cops, and the Keystone Cops think it's a gag and they play along leading to a crazy chase across town.  Some of the comedy bits fall flat, others are overly familiar, but for die-hard A & C fans, it's entertaining.

 A&C MEET THE MUMMY, (1955), was the last of the team's Universal features.  Filming was completed in November of 1954, and it was released June 23rd in 1955.  It's a very silly 79 minute feature that A & C fans should really enjoy.  It's also a very sloppily made medium budgeted ($738,000) film.  Bud and Lou use their real names in the film (though the script called them Peter Patterson (Abbott) and  Freddie Franklin (Costello).  There are a few forgettable musical numbers that grind the otherwise fast paced film to a complete halt.  The plot has Bud and Lou stranded in Cairo.  They hear Dr. Gustav Zoomer talking about the mummy Klaris (in previous Mummy movies his name is Kharis NOT Klaris)) who guards the tomb of the Princess Ara.  There's a sacred medallion that also shows the location of the treasure.  Also hearing this discussion is Semu (Richard Deacon) the leader of the followers of Klaris and a lady named Madame Rontru (Marie Windsor) who would like to steal the treasure.  Bud and Lou wind up with the medallion and want to sell it. 

They rush to the doctor's house but two of Semu's men, Iben (played by Mel (Little Shop of Horrors) Welles and Hetsut (Richard Karlan) murder the doctor and steal the mummy.  When  Bud and Lou are told that whoever has the medallion is cursed, they try to get rid of it (in comic style that recycles a famous bit from The Naughty Nineties).  Lou winds up swallowing it.  

Semu pretending to be an archeologist, offers to guide Rontru , Bud and Lou to the tomb.  Semu's followers have meanwhile revived Klaris.  Rontru realizes Semu plans to kill everyone and captures Semu and then has one of her men, Charlie (Michael Ansara) dress up as the Mummy Klaris. Bud also winds up dressing up as the mummy and the real mummy Klaris (played by Eddie Parker) is also around, leading to some very silly, but surprisingly funny slapstick comedy.  Yep it is very stupid, not original but everyone goes through the paces with a lot of energy and you'll probably find it very entertaining and funny.

THE WORLD OF ABBOTT & COSTELLO is a quickly made 75 minute compilation movie featuring clips from 18 A & C movies.  It begins with a long clip from their worst movie A & C Go to Mars and is narrated by Jack E. Leonard who makes lame jokes and wisecracks.  The movie was release on April 8, 1965 to be the second feature accompanying McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force a quickly made feature film that cashed in on the popular  McHale's Navy TV show.   Some of the clips are funny, but several do not represent the best of the team's work and it is a very disappointing compilation.  A & C certainly deserved better than this.   Clips featured are from    Abbott and Costello Go to Mars,  Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion,  Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein,    Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops,    Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy,  Buck Privates, Buck Privates Come Home,  Comin' Round The Mountain, Hit The Ice,  In Society',  In The Navy, The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap,  Little Giant,  Lost in Alaska,    Mexican Hayride,  The Naughty Nineties,   Ride 'Em Cowboy,  and Who Done It?

Abbot and Costello Meet Jerry Seinfeld is a one hour 1994 TV special hosted and narrated by Jerry Seinfeld that contains some of Abbott and Costello's classic bits, some rarely seen out-takes, color home movie footage, live T.V. clips from the Colgate Comedy Hour and a few scenes from their sit-com: The Abbot and Costello Show.  In an effort to pack the program with lots of clips, we get snippets of several funny routines rather than the whole routine.  It feels rushed and will leave most unsatisfied.

A & C Meet the Monsters is mainly a mini 34 minute documentary about the making of A & C Meet Frankenstein.  We also see trailers for A&C Meet Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Meet the Mummy.

DVD
The films and programs look and sound better than the movies on the other discs.  There's 3 Movies on the first disk and the 3 documentaries on the 2nd Disc. 
 
This DVD set was originally released in October of 2005.

NOTES
Abbott and Costello made 36 movies together from 1940 to 1956.  28 for Universal, 3 for MGM (Rio Rita in 1942, Lost in a Harem in 1944, and Abbott and Costello in Hollywood in 1945), 2 for United Artists (Africa Screams in 1949, and Dance With Me Henry in 1956) , and 2 for Warner Brothers Jack and the Beanstalk in 1952 and  Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd in 1953) and 1 for Eagle-Lion (1948's The Noose Hangs High) which was distributed by MGM.  Lou Costello appeared without Bud Abbott in 1959's The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock for Columbia Pictures. (the film was finished in 1958, Costello died of a heart attack 5 months before the movie was released in August of 1959).

The only Universal Studio Abbott and Costello film not included on the 4 sets was  1943's It Ain't Hay because legal issues with the Damon Runyon  Estate (who own the original story it was based on) were not yet settled when the sets were release in  2004/2005 .  Since that time It Ain't Hay was released as part of a larger collectors set that came out in 2008 (and included some feature length commentary tracks).

BOTTOM LINE:
This is a disappointing 4th set  DVD  package that contains only the last 3 A & C  Universal features and no extras to speak of.  (You got 8 full length features in each of the first 3 sets-here if I fudge and call World a feature you  get 4).  The 3 additional programs are a poor 1965 compilation film, a mediocre T.V. special, and a short 34 minute featurette that was previously released on the Meet Frankenstein DVD.   If you are a big fan of A&C and don't have any of their DVD sets, get  the 2008 Abbott and Costello The Complete Universal  Pictures Collection which present all of the Universal Studio movies (including It Ain't Hay which was never released on DVD before) and with just 2 features per disc (rather than 3 or 4 per disc) the quality is better too. You also get  several feature length commentaries by film historians that other sets do not have. 

This Volume 4 set is rated 2.5 stars but I'm downgrading it to 2 because it lacks extras of any interest or value.  They should have had some home movies, cartoons inspired by Abbott and Costello, feature length commentaries on one or more of the movies, maybe an original documentary about their association with Universal too or at least a copy of Africa Screams, Jack and the Beanstalk , A & C Meet Captain Kidd and Dance with Me, Henry.   


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