BEST OF ABBOTT & COSTELLO
Review by Ed Nguyen
Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Glenn Strange, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and more!
Director: Charles Barton, Charles Lamont, Jean Yarbrough
Audio: English monaural
Subtitles: English, French
Video: Black & white, full-frame 1.33:1
Features: Production notes, trailers
Length: 635 minutes
Release Date: August 3, 2004
"If you see a pair of grey
pants flyin' by, don't grab them."
"I'll be in 'em."
had two established movie franchises during the 1940's. One was its movie
monster franchise, comprised of the likes of Dracula and the Wolfman.
The other was the ever-popular comedic offerings from the team of Abbott
& Costello, who had appeared in more films for Universal than for any other
movie studio. So, when Universal needed a fresh, new idea to pack in the
movie-goers, what better way to rake in the bucks than to combine both
successful franchises together? The
result, Abbott and Costello Meet
Frankenstein, was one of Universal's biggest hits of 1948 and also
rejuvenated its venerable movie monster franchise.
film has now been brought together with seven other classic Abbott &
Costello comedies for volume three of Universal's Best of Abbott & Costello DVD series. Volume one featured the comedians' famous war-era musicals,
while volume two showcased the boys' experiments with costume pieces and
situation comedies. Volume three,
however, finds Abbott & Costello matching wits against the supernatural
might of Dracula, the Invisible Man, Boris Karloff, aliens, and much more!
Of course, we mustn't forget the usual choir of murderers, gangsters, and
thugs who routinely try to liquidate our courageous if perennially clueless
without further ado, read on below for more about the eight funny Abbott &
Costello films included in this delightful DVD collection from Universal:
and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
“You’re all excited reading
this legend. I know there’s no
such a person as Dracula. You know
there’s no such a person as Dracula.”
“But does Dracula know it?”
this film, originally entitled The Brain
of Frankenstein, Chick (Abbott) and Wilbur (Costello) are baggage clerks who
one day receive an unusual shipment for delivery - two large, mysterious crates.
Both crates are destined for a House of Horrors, and imagine our boys'
surprise when the crates turn out to hold real monsters - Count Dracula (Bela
Lugosi himself) and Frankenstein's Monster (Glenn Strange).
Apparently, Dracula has taken on the Monster as a glorified valet, but it
is now in need of a tune-up. More
specifically, the Monster's brain is past its warranty date, so Dracula joins
forces with a female scientist, Dr. Mornay (Lénore Aubert), to acquire a new
brain. This scientist must
certainly be mad, because she somehow has the impression that Wilbur's brain
will make a fine replacement for the Monster's worn-out one!
follows is a paradoxical comedy of horrors.
The insurance company is after our boys until they can retrieve the
contents of those crates. So, to
save their jobs, Chick and Wilbur must somehow re-capture Count Dracula and the
Monster while running for their lives from these same creatures of the night!
Throw in the Wolf Man (none other than Lon Chaney, Jr.) and a cameo
"appearance" by another hard-to-see Universal movie monster, and you
have the recipe for Abbott & Costello's biggest hit and crowd-pleaser since Buck Privates and still a fan favorite today.
TRIVIA: Glenn Strange broke his
ankle during filming, so Lon Chaney Jr. actually plays the Frankenstein Monster
in one scene during the finale! Also,
believe it or not, but this was only Bela Lugosi's second (and final) official
portrayal of Count Dracula in any film!
“That’s a load of malarkey.
This man adds up to Joe Bascom. Bascom
is short and dumpy.”
(Costello): “Like you?”
And he’s got a roly-poly face.”
And he’s got short, fat, stumpy legs.”
“Yeah, like me!”
“Officer, arrest that man!”
is Joe Bascom, a fugitive from the law, wanted for a crime he didn’t commit.
He pretends to be Humphrey Fish, and he must let the world think that he
is Humphrey Fish until he can prove his innocence (just don’t get him angry).
course, it’s really all Abbott’s fault in this film adaptation of a 1944
Cole Porter-Dorothy Fields stage musical. Thanks
to con man Harry (Abbott), the U.S. government is after innocent Joe Bascom for
fraud and for selling fake bonds.
dilemma receives a further twist when Joe inadvertently wins a contest as the Amigo
Americano, the U.S. good-will ambassador in Mexico for a week.
Harry, ever the scheming entrepreneur, takes advantage of Joe's sudden
celebrity to swindle more money out of well-wishing but unsuspecting Mexicans.
It's not exactly a great moment in international diplomacy, so Joe tries
to weasel the money back from Harry to clear his own name.
Until then, he has to evade a pair of stubborn American G-men sent to
fetch him back to the States.
originally a Broadway musical, but you'd never know it from this film. All the original stage music has been excised, although the
film's sole song is warbled by Luba Malina, an original Broadway cast member.
This film isn't generally considered one Abbott & Costello's better
efforts, but it still has many funny points.
Highlights in the film include Joe's various ridiculous disguises (as a
tortillas street vendor or a mediocre mariachi) and a bull fight in which Joe
stays away from an enraged bull while simultaneously trying to retrieve a hat
full of money from its head!
and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949)
“Maybe you’d like to select
your own means of self-destruction. How
would you like to die?”
a break from Universal during which the boys made Africa Screams for Nassour Studios, Abbott & Costello return for
a second dose of horror film icons. This
time, that icon is Boris Karloff, the silver screen’s most recognizable
is Casey, a hotel house detective, and Costello is Freddie, the hotel's inept
busboy. One evening, a prominent
lawyer is found dead in his room, and Freddie gets fingered as the prime
suspect. Freddie tries to prove his
innocence while staying alive as, one by one, hotel guests seem to drop like
flies all around him. In a nod to Hold That Ghost, these dead bodies appear and disappear at very
inconvenient moments, only to further implicate Freddie.
Fortunately, he has a true pal in Casey, who believes Freddie's
whodunit recaptures the fun sleuth work of Abbott & Costello's previous Who
Done It? and even recruits the spooky talents of Boris Karloff as Swami
Talpur, a mysterious hypnotist. Karloff's
role in this film is really something of a red herring, his sole function
seemingly being to hypnotize Costello and to convince him to take a flying leap
out an open window. Why does the
Swami want Costello dead? Who
film doesn't really make much sense beyond screwball logic, but it is a fun
thrill ride while it lasts. The
finale involves an enormous underground cavern, complete with spooky echoes and
exploding dynamite and bottomless pits and a bunch of creepy critters, too.
and Costello in the Foreign Legion (1950)
"Will you stop acting like a coward?"
and Lou (going by their first names in this film) are managers for Abdullah, a
champion wrestler from Algeria. In
a sudden fit of homesickness, the wrestler takes off for home, leaving the boys
high and dry and in a bit of financial trouble from their backers, the local mob
syndicate. So, Bud and Lou fly off
to Algiers to drag back their reluctant champ.
to our boys, Abdullah's cousin is secretly a nefarious sheik trying to extort
money from a local railroad company. The
sheik mistakes Bud and Lou for railroad spies when they ask around too much for
Abdullah, and he sends his assassins to take care of the boys.
A series of fun chases ensues, ending when Bud and Lou are duped into
enlisting in the French Foreign Legion to escape!
It's then déja vu, a fun throwback to Abbott & Costello's early
service films (Buck Privates, In the Navy,
Keep 'Em Flying) as Bud and Lou
undergo a series of misadventures in training.
one of the sheik's inside man in the Legion wants the boys dead.
Fortunately, the boys have a guardian angel - a luscious female
undercover agent (Patricia Medina). She
recruits Bud and Lou's help in exposing this spy in return for an honorable
discharge from the Legion and a ticket home to America.
in this film include all those chase scenes between Bud and Lou and those pesky
Algerian plotters, a desert sequence as the boys are tricked by one mirage after
another, and a couple of wrestling bouts in which Bud and Lou are totally
out-matched! In the end, they find
Abdullah and save the day, and Lou even ends up with his own harem of lovely
and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
"Fine pal you are.
Stand there and watch me get beat up."
"Bud, believe me, I didn't see
hard to fight an invisible man, as our boys learn in their next film, Abbott
and Costello Meet the Invisible Man. Since
this unseen foe had already made a cameo "appearance" in Abbott
and Costello Meet Frankenstein, it was really only a matter of time before
he "showed up" in his own film with the boys!
film is another of those rare instances in which the boys use their first names.
Bud and Lou are fledgling detectives-for-hire, and in their first big
case, they are recruited by a mysterious man, Tommy Nelson (Arthur Franz), to
solve a murder mystery. Tommy is
actually the one being accused of murder, but he insists he is innocent and
needs help to prove it. Perhaps
Tommy soon recognizes the futility of entirely trusting Bud & Lou to solve
the case, so he takes matters into his own hands.
has in his possession a secret invisibility formula, whose only caveat is that
it slowly renders its drinker insane. Nevertheless,
down the hatch it goes, and after that, it's a race against time, with Bud and
Lou's help, to catch the mobsters who framed Tommy before he starts to go mad
with visions of grandeur and invincibility.
include a scene in which Lou hypnotizes everyone by accident (including the
hypnotist!) and a series of misunderstandings in which no one believes Lou's
story about "seeing" an invisible man. The best sequence, though, is a boxing match (always a
reliable source of laughter whenever Lou Costello is concerned).
The bout turns out better than usual for Lou this go-around because this
time, he has help from the Invisible Man's sucker punches!
TRIVIA: Does the frustrated cop in
this movie look familiar? He's
William Frawley, Fred the neighborly landlord of the "I Love Lucy"
Round the Mountain (1951)
"You don't know these mountain
folks. They're as honest as the day
"You know the days here are
getting awfully short?"
the early 1950's, Universal was celebrating some unexpected box office success
from its Ma and Pa Kettle films, which were popularizing the
"fish-out-of-water," hillbilly brand of humor.
In fact, Majorie Main (Ma Kettle herself) had appeared in a previous
Abbott & Costello film, The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap.
So, it seemed logical that the next Abbott & Costello film, Comin'
Round the Mountain, should capitalize on the hillbilly theme and drop the
boys into a rural setting, complete with the usual blood feud, turkey shoots,
and a country fair, too. Oh, and we
mustn't forget romance between kissing cousins!
is Wilbert, a mediocre magician who just might be the lost heir to Squeeze Box
McCoy's hidden family fortune. Persuaded
by his agent Al (Abbott) and pretty cousin Dorothy (Dorothy Shay), Wilbert heads
way out west to reclaim his family name (and the treasure, too).
But before he is accepted as the lost heir, he has to prove himself as a
real McCoy, which includes winning a shooting contest, marrying into the family,
and mopping up that dang, dastardly Winfield clan.
the film highlights are a witch's love potion, which creates a series of
predictable but hysterical results when the wrong people drink it.
This film is also a throwback musical which showcases Dorothy Shay, the
popular "Park Avenue Hillbillie" singer of the day, in four separate
musical numbers. The songs are
variable in quality, but the last one - "You'll be Just Another Notch on
Father's Shotgun If'n You Don't Marry Me" - is quite catchy.
TRIVIA: Does that voodoo witch look
familiar? She's none other than
Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West from The
Wizard of Oz!
in Alaska (1952)
"You know my wife's an angel?"
"You're lucky, mine's living."
next Abbott & Costello film, Jack and
the Beanstalk, is a fan favorite and the duo's first color film.
Unfortunately, it was not made by Universal and so is not included in
this collection. The boys would
return to Universal for Lost In Alaska as a pair of happy-go-lucky volunteer firefighters
who end up in the Yukon.
luck shines upon Tom (Abbott) and George (Costello) one evening when they save a
drowning man, Nugget Joe. As it
turns out, Nugget Joe is filthy rich, having struck gold in the Yukon, but he's
out of his head, being hopelessly in love with a gal named Rosette.
Of course, the local authorities don't realize that Nugget Joe didn't
drown after all and soon put out a bulletin for two suspicious volunteer
firefighters seen at the scene, not realizing that our boys were heroes, not
course, misunderstandings are the bread and butter of any Abbott & Costello
film, so our boys go on the lam up to the Yukon with Nugget Joe as he seeks out
his sweetheart. Things aren't too
much safer up north, as lots of folks up in Skagway who know about Nugget Joe's
money and are willing to ice him (our boys included) to get that gold.
with Comin' Round the Mountain, this
Abbott & Costello film also contains a couple of songs.
Both tunes are forgettable, although "Hot Time in the Igloo
Tonight" is a bit goofy-funny. Lost
in Alaska is often cited as one of the worst Abbott & Costello films,
but even so, it has many funny spots. The
jokes which our boys try out on a depressed Nugget Joe to lift his spirits are a
riot, as is a classic skit involving a clock and Costello's inability to get any
TRIVIA: Portions of this film's
score were written by a young Henry Mancini!
and Costello Go to Mars (1953)
Orville (Costello): "NOW
we know who's boss!"
Allura: "WHO'S the boss?"
mere Earthlings in stitches wasn't enough for Abbott & Costello, so now the
comedy duo head for outer space to tickle some extraterrestrial funny bones.
In Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, our boys Lester (Abbott) and Orville
(Costello) hop on a rocket ship, which they accidentally launch into space with
themselves aboard. When the ship
touches down in New Orleans, the boys think they're on Mars.
Considering that it's Mardi Gras time, they can be forgiven their
raising a bit of unintentional havoc, our accident-prone boys launch the ship
once again. This time, they arrive
on a planet inhabited by beautiful women, appropriately enough portrayed by
actual Miss Universe contestants! Hmm,
what planet in the solar system could that be now?
Four hundred years have passed since there were any men here, so Orville,
being a lucky guy, gets selected as king to Queen Allura (Mari Blanchard).
Viewers with keen eyes should also keep a lookout for a young Anita
Ekberg as one of the female guards.
and Costello Go to Mars
has a decent amount of production value. In
fact, some of the props were re-used later for Universal's This Island Earth, another sci-fi film!
Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, Bud
Abbott and Lou Costello would only make a few more films together.
By the mid-1950's, after three dozen films as a team, the comedy pair
finally decided to call it quits, leaving behind a remarkable repertoire of
classic comedy skits for radio, theater, and the silver screen.
Towards the end of their career, they even had a popular television show,
too. No other comedy team in history - including Laurel &
Hardy, the Marx Brothers, and Martin & Lewis (the boys' successors) - could
claim such universal success or appeal. Even
though Bud Abbott and Lou Costello have long since departed for that silver
screen in the sky, their legacy as the most beloved comedy duo in film history
will endure for all ages.
eight films in this collection are shown in their original black & white,
full-screen format. The image
quality is generally quite good, with solid contrast levels and details.
There are some signs of the dirt and debris of aging but nothing too
films are presented in English monaural sound.
They sound pretty much as one would expect for films created over a
half-century ago. Fortunately,
background hiss is kept at a minimal, and dialogue is always clear.
film on this collection comes with several pages of production notes offering
tidbits of information about Abbott & Costello. In addition, vintage trailers for Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Meet the Invisible Man, and Go
to Mars are also included.