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Abbott and Costello made 36 feature films between 1940 and 1956. During that time they appeared on Hollywood's list of Top Ten Stars eight times. Since they also earned a percentage of the profits of their films, the boys were also among the highest-paid entertainers in the world.
Their film debut was in the 1940 musical "One Night in the Tropics," which earned them a long-term contract with Universal Pictures. Their follow-up film, "Buck Privates," (co-starring the Andrews Sisters) was a huge smash and led to two more hit service comedies in 1941: "In the Navy" and "Keep 'Em Flying."
Universal struck while the iron was hot: in their first 12 months in Hollywood, Abbott and Costello released four films and had two more in the can. Among their best films between 1941 and 1947 are "Hold That Ghost," "Pardon My Sarong," "Who Done It?", "Hit The Ice," "The Time of Their Lives," and "Buck Privates Come Home."
In 1948, Universal crossed the boys with its stable of monsters and the result, "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," was one of the studio's biggest hits and an instant classic. The film led to a series of popular sequels, with A&C meeting the Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the Mummy. Along with "Africa Screams," these monster films are among the boys' best work between 1948 and 1956.
Twenty-eight of the films were made at Universal, but the studio generally spent very little money on the A&C pictures. This always rankled the team. In fact, the only two color films Bud and Lou made--"Jack and the Beanstalk" and "Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd"--were produced independently by the boys themselves. The A&C films helped keep Universal's gates open, and the studio simply ground them out like sausages.
Nevertheless, Bud and Lou's films preserve some of the funniest burlesque sketches ever filmed, as performed by the greatest comedy team to ever come out of burlesque. Many of the movies also feature hit songs, like "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" (an Oscar-nominee from "Buck Privates") and "I'll Remember April" (from "Ride 'Em Cowboy"), and include such legendary acts as the Andrews Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald, and the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra. The team's "monster" films expertly blend chills and laughs, and paved the way for later films like "Young Frankenstein" and "Ghostbusters."
DVD Boxed Sets
Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection (DVD)
This is a premium boxed set of all 28 Abbott and Costello films produced at Universal including, for the first time on home video or DVD, the 1943 film "It Ain't Hay," which had been out of circulation due to copyright issues. The collection also includes audio commentary on six films, including "Buck Privates," "The Time of Their Lives" and "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein." Also included are the compilation "The World of Abbott and Costello" (1964), the special "Abbott and Costello Meet Jerry Seinfeld" (1994), and the documentary "Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters" (2000). Other extras include a special 44-page booklet, "Abbott and Costello: The Universal Story," and 20 theatrical trailers.
The Best of Abbott & Costello, Vol. 1 (DVD)
This terrific collector's set includes the boys' first 8 films at Universal: One Night in the Tropics (1940), their film debut, contains five great routines. The classic service comedies Buck Privates, In The Navy, and Keep 'Em Flying (1941) unleash the team on three branches of the military. Hold That Ghost (1941) is as good as "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein." The solid laughs in Ride 'Em Cowboy, Pardon My Sarong and Who Done It?, all released in 1942, helped make A&C Hollywood's No. 1 Movie Stars that year. 11 hrs. on two discs. Production notes, trailers. Soundtrack: English.
The Best of Abbott & Costello, Vol. 2 (DVD)
This set picks up where Vol. 1 left off, with Bud and Lou's next 8 films at Universal: Hit the Ice (1943) is a fast-paced comedy that takes the team to Sun Valley. The boys are plumbers who are mistaken for socialites in In Society (1944). Bud and Lou are caretakers at an all-girl college in Here Come the Co-Eds (1945). The best rendition of their "Who's on First?" routine is featured in The Naughty Nineties (1945). Lou plays a vacuum cleaner salesman in Little Giant (1946). The Time of Their Lives (1946) is a charming fantasy with Lou as a falsely accused ghost. Buck Privates Come Home (1947) is a great sequel to their original hit. Marjorie Main meets the boys in the western spoof The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap (1947). (Note: It Ain't Hay (1943) is missing from this collection due to copyright issues.)11 hrs. on two discs. Production notes, trailers. Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: Spanish, French.
The Best of Abbott & Costello, Vol. 3 (DVD)
Continuing with Bud and Lou's Universal films, this set features their all-time hit, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). A phony stock scheme sends the duo south of the border in Mexican Hayride (1948). Bud and Lou suspect a swami of murder in Abbott & Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949). In Abbott & Costello in the Foreign Legion (1950) they star as wrestling promoters who get involved with a sexy spy. Lou steps into the boxing ring in Abbott & Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951). The boys search for gold in Kentucky and in the Klondike in Comin' Round the Mountain (1951) and Lost in Alaska (1952). Eye-popping special effects and the Miss Universe beauties highlight Abbott & Costello Go to Mars (1953). 10 3/4 hrs. on two discs. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono.
The Best of Abbott & Costello, Vol. 4 (DVD)
This set completes Bud and Lou's Universal catalog. Abbott & Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953) co-stars Boris Karloff. The boys become silent movie stars in Abbott & Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (1955). The team's last feature for Universal, Abbott & Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), is one of their better efforts. Also included is the clip-filled 1965 compilation The World of Abbott & Costello, and the 1994 top-rated TV special Abbott & Costello Meet Jerry Seinfeld. A bonus feature is the 2000 documentary Abbott & Costello Meet the Monsters, which was originally included on the Special Edition DVD of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. Two discs. B&W and Color. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono.
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein [Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy] (1948)
The most popular and arguably the best Abbott and Costello film gets the Blu-ray treatment for Universal's 100th Anniversary. This combo pack (with a standard DVD as well) includes the documentary "Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters"; a commentary track by horror film historian Greg Mank; and production stills.
Buck Privates (Blu-ray edition) (1941)
The film that made Abbott and Costello movie stars. The boys accidentally enlist in the army, but camp life is not so bad with the Andrews Sisters on hand. This Blu-ray/DVD combo pack includes a number of bonus materials, including "Abbott and Costello Meet Jerry Seinfeld"; a forty-page booklet featuring an appreciation from director John Landis (The Blues Brothers), rare movie memorabilia, vintage photographs, and classic routine scripts; and three "100 Years of Universal" featurettes: "Restoring the Classics," "The Carl Laemmle Era," and "Unforgettable Characters."
It Ain't Hay (1943)
This is an on-demand DVD from the Universal Vault Collection, and retails for $13.49. Up until now, "It Ain't Hay" has only been available in the boxed set released in 2008.
Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952)
Finally, the restored version of the boys' second SuperCinecolor film has been released as an on-demand DVD from Warner Bros. It retails for $19.99. Co-starring Charles Laughton and Hillary Brooke.
Rio Rita (1942)
The boys' first film on loan to MGM. This is an on-demand DVD from Warner Bros. that retails for $19.99. Picture quality is excellent, but there are no extras.
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
In this all-time horror/comedy classic, Dracula plans to put Costello's pliable brain in the Frankenstein monster--but not if the Wolf Man has anything to say about it. With Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Lenore Aubert, Glenn Strange, and Jane Randolph. 83 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: French.
Abbott & Costello in Hollywood / Lost in a Harem Double Feature
Two of the boys' MGM features are packaged together. In "Harem" (1944), the boys are vaudevillians stranded in the Middle East. In "Hollywood" (1945), they play barbers with ambitions to be agents.
The Noose Hangs High (1949)
Abbott and Costello play window washers who must recover $50,000 for a gangster or else. Features many classic routines, including "Mudder and Fodder" and "Hole in the Wall." 77 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: English, Spanish, French.
Dance with Me, Henry (1956)
Bud and Lou's final film together mixes slapstick and sentiment as the boys get mixed up with gangsters while serving as guardians to a group of orphans. Mary Wickes, Rusty Hamer co-star. 80 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: English, Spanish, French.
Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
Stranded in Egypt, the boys get mixed up with fortune hunters seeking the tomb of Kharis. Marie Windsor, Richard Deacon, Michael Ansara co-star. 90 min. Standard; Soundtracks: English Dolby mono, French mono, Spanish mono; production notes; biographies; trailer.
Africa Screams (DVD) (1949)
Mistaken for great explorers, the boys lead an expedition to Africa on a silly safari for hidden diamonds. With Hillary Brooke, Shemp Howard, Joe Besser, Max and Buddy Baer, Frank Buck and Clyde Beatty. 79 min.
Jack and The Beanstalk (DVD) (1952)
Lou dreams himself into the classic fairy tale to rescue a beautiful princess from a giant and bring back the hen that lays golden eggs. With Buddy Baer, Dorothy Ford, and Shaye Cogan. Color, 78 min.
Africa Screams / Jack and The Beanstalk (DVD)
Dual DVD features both films. "Jack and the Beanstalk" is in color. 157 min. total.