It’s not often that a collection of “rarities” truly contains rarities, but this disc, produced by Thunderbean Animation, lives up to its billing. Sure, there are some things we’ve seen many times before, such as outtakes from selected films and theatrical trailers. But Abbott and Costello Rarities includes several priceless gems.
Die-hard Abbott and Costello fans knew that these films and recordings existed, but doubted that they’d ever get a chance to see or hear them. Not only do they provide additional career highlights, but also they give us important glimpses of Bud and Lou in unguarded moments behind the scenes.
Among the standouts is about 36 minutes of silent 16mm color home-movie footage of the boys’ 1942 cross-country war bond tour. Abbott and Costello were at the peak of their popularity that year, yet it is still jaw-dropping to see the enormous crowds they drew at every stop. There’s also some audio of the boys going into a serious sales pitch. The tour ended up in New York, where they met Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia on the steps of city hall. This event also captured in separate newsreel footage (with sound).
Another highlight is the November 1, 1953 Colgate Comedy Hour, with Bud hosting solo after Lou fell ill a few days prior to the broadcast and turning the second half of the show over to Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. (Lou isn’t entirely absent: two previously-broadcast sketches are shown as well.)
Audio rarities include the complete November 1, 1943 radio episode on the day Lou Costello, Jr. died. Lou Sr., on his first day back at work after recuperating from rheumatic fever, bravely went on in tribute to his son. It’s hard to tell that anything is amiss until Bud breaks the devastating news at the end of the program.
There is also an episode from the boys’ stint on the Kate Smith show and one from their own summer radio series broadcast just before they signed with Universal. The radio adaptation of Hold That Ghost is included, along with a pre-broadcast audience “warm up” for the May 5, 1948 radio show (when their guest was Bela Lugosi).
There are a few technical issues with the disc menus, but these are easily overlooked for everything this disc offers.