Judge Dennis Prince revels in the wacky exploits of Bud and Lou at every opportunity, all the time trying to block out the purported reality of that wicked 1978 TV biopic.
Eight more kooky capers from Bud and Lou!
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello need little introduction. Comedic legends, their
career took them from the stages of vaudeville, to the airwaves of radio, to the
big screen, and then to the small screen. They were arguably media giants in
their own time, and now they're making their mark in the DVD realm with yet
another volume of moving picture misadventures.
Facts of the Case
On this welcome third 8-film volume, Universal delivers some more A&C
treats along with a few stale crackers. Covering the majority of their work
between the years of 1948 and 1953, this newest installment in the comedy team's
DVD library delivers one previously-released classic (1948's Abbott &
Costello Meet Frankenstein) and seven pictures that are receiving their
first release on the medium.
During the wartime years, Bud and Lou's films provided a much-needed escape
from somber times. The films on this disc, however, mark the period following
the war, when Bud and Lou essentially reinvented themselves. It was their
monster classic of 1948 that helped the team (and the Universal writers)
redirect their talents into areas where new gags and routines could play out.
Unfortunately, several of these films lapsed into attempted rehashes of the old
bits, often falling flat. (Some say the fact that the team was simultaneously
doing weekly television had put a strain on their abilities to remain fresh and
at their funniest best.)
Nevertheless, it's great to see this steady stream of releases from the
daffy duo, and Universal is delivering these films very competently. Each film
here (the plots to be discussed shortly) looks quite good. The transfers were
either cleaned up admirably or blessed with incredibly clean source prints. Each
is presented in its original full frame format. The detail level is excellent
and the contrast stays balanced throughout. This applies to all pictures
in this collection, which serves up a consistent quality from film to film and
from disc to disc. The audio, as would be expected, comes by way of Dolby
Digital 1.0 Mono mixes, all of which sound energetic and clear. The only extras
to be found are trailers from the Frankenstein, Invisible Man, and Go to Mars
features, but they are welcome extras. Each feature includes text notes that
were apparently culled from a 1991 book, "Abbott and Costello in
Just as with the previous two DVD volumes, this set arrives on two flipper
discs, two films per side. Unfortunately, this particular volume has been
plagued by production problems that either caused players to suddenly seize up
or, in the case of Mexican Hayride, fail to play at all. Hey, Universal,
who's on first?
So, with the disc particulars behind us, let's now take a look at the films
themselves (letter grades are provided in parentheses):
Abbott and Costello Meet
Here it is, the crowning glory as of the A&C
canon, as proclaimed by many fans (this one included). You likely know the
setup: Bud and Lou work for a shipping company, and get tangled up with dreadful
doings when they deliver crates containing Dracula and the Frankenstein monster
to MacDougal's House of Horror. Naturally, neither of these monsters is truly
laid to rest, this all being an elaborate plot to revive them. Larry Talbot
(a.k.a. the Wolfman) is also on hand to try to halt the horrific proceedings.
Bud and Lou dispense the usual routines and play entirely off the monsters. It's
a great teaming, and makes for some of the best A&C fun since Buck Privates.
Mexican Hayride (C-)
Ay caramba! If ever there was contrast
between two pictures, this is it. The bar was clearly set high by the previous
feature, but this 1948 follow-up to the Frankenstein feature elects to crawl
rather than attempt a similar height. After being swindled by Bud, Lou follows
him south of the border to reclaim his cash. Trouble is, once in the land of
siestas Lou sleepwalks into another con, this one involving a silver mine. The
bag of gags is dumped out, many within the confines of a bullfighting ring, but
they just don't gel. Fans enjoy the immediately recognizable Fritz Feld, who
manages to bring a few laughs to the proceedings. Otherwise, this all feels like
a poorly told joke.
Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (C+)
is this shameless bait-and-switch bamboozle which promises King Karloff in yet
another sinister role, then fails to deliver the goods. Bud's a hotel detective,
Lou's a bellboy, and both are hot on the trail of a killer—and it may be
Lou! There's much of the usual site shtick on display here (the card game with
corpses is rather well done), but it's really a cheat to find Karloff offered up
in a bit role as a complete red herring. The lost caverns are terrific to look
at, but I still feel I was robbed here.
Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion (B-)
Wrapping up Disc
One is this well-paced and reasonably funny hot sands hoot from 1950. Wrestling
coaches Bud and Lou, searching Algeria for the wrestler they're promoting,
unwittingly enlist in the Foreign Legion. This one's full of site gags a-plenty,
most of which work quite well, and a variation of the old "Who's On
First" routine that manages to evoke some deserving laughs. Genre fans
become giddy at the brief appearance of Tor Johnson (Plan 9 from Outer Space) late in the
Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (B+)
Disc Two starts
off quite promisingly with this 1951 fan favorite featuring Arthur Franz
(Monster on the Campus) as Tommy Nelson, a boxer unjustly accused of a
murder. Borrowing the secret of invisibility from none other than Jack Griffin's
nephew, Tommy goes undercover (and out of sight), employing the services of two
detective school bumblers, Bud and Lou, to clear his good name. This is a
refreshing return to the fun and fantasy that buoyed the Frankenstein feature.
Naturally, fans cite the boxing match as a comedic milestone, and they're right.
The invisibility effects, though somewhat primitive by today's standards, hold
up quite well, and were the best of their day.
Comin' Round the Mountain (C+)
Here's a real odd duck. In this
1951 feature, Bud and Lou crib a keg o' moonshine from the likes of Ma and Pa
Kettle (another Universal property) and conjure up some hillbilly hijinks. Lou
discovers he's kin to the McCoys, and heads to the Kentucky backwoods to lay
claim to a hidden treasure. The hillbilly hilarity doesn't have enough legs to
carry this one the full distance, but there are several bits that make it worth
a look. See Margaret Hamilton (The Wizard of
Oz) square off against Lou in a truly funny voodoo battle; see Glenn Strange
(without Frankenstein monster regalia) smitten upon downing an unintentional
love potion; see Lou ponder the prospects of a 40-year-old-man in a relationship
with a pre-teen hillbilly fawn (and try not to squirm through every
uncomfortable moment). Here, the formula was truly beginning to slip, relegating
the picture to a handful of high points and far too many low points at the hands
of Dorothy Shay, the singing "Manhattan Hillbilly."
Lost in Alaska (C)
Same gags, new setting. Firefighters Bud and
Lou save the life of a suicidal millionaire, who has a fortune in gold up
yonder. Our troubled twosome hitch a dog sled to help their newfound friend
retrieve his gold and reunite with his once-frigid female, all the while trying
to evade a cavalcade of casino crooks. Some of the material here works
reasonably well, but it all seems a bit frozen over. This 1953 effort isn't a
complete waste of time, but it comes doggone close.
Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (C+)
Finally, from 1953 comes
this severely disjointed and disappointing entry. Lou is once again the
simpleton who stumbles into a secret space project and, ultimately, the
super-secret interstellar rocket that whisks him and Bud into the cosmos.
Initially, they take a wild ride through New York City before navigating their
way to New Orleans during Mardi Gras. The shtick of our two astro-nuts believing
the wildly costumed revelers wears thin rather quickly. So, upon the entrance of
two escaping convicts, Bud and Lou and the rocket are high-jacked, and find
their way onto the planet Venus. It's a heavenly body, that's for sure,
populated by curvaceous Venusians who look strikingly like the current batch of
Miss Universe beauties. It's ultimately two plots mashed into one, and it plays
as such. There are a few laughs but, frankly, I found myself becoming impatient
for this one to end. Clifford Stine's visual effects are fun, however.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Some may think it's harsh to go after this well-loved and well-accomplished
two-man legendary team, but fans know that not all of their pictures were bona
fide hits. Sure, their mere presence and on-screen chemistry is always fun to
see—but, sadly, these two over-achievers were sometimes saddled with
scripts that simply couldn't be saved. We all have our favorite A&C
adventures, and the best news is that we're getting the whole gamut, for better
or worse, in these excellent collections.
It's great to see these pictures on DVD, and it's even better to see a studio
remain committed to feeding us a steady stream of vintage material without
bailing out midway through. Universal, however, needs to beef up their quality
control in regards to the numerous consumer complaints raised over this current
set (thankfully, my screeners were free of problems). but at least they're
staying the course in their release schedule. I eagerly await the next volume;
I'm anxious to see their run in with Jekyll & Hyde in glorious digital black
Universal Home Video is hereby on notice to quickly resolve their production
problems before the next volume is released. The court thanks Abbott and
Costello for their decade-long commitment of bringing laughs to appreciative
filmgoers. Court adjourned.
Give us your feedback!
Did we give The Best Of Abbott And Costello (Volume 3) a fair trial? yes / no
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Full Frame
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 635 Minutes
Release Year: 1948
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Science Fiction
• Production Notes