Abbott and Costello’s second independent feature, Africa Screams (1949), is not owned by a major studio. It’s up to Bud and Lou’s fans to see that it is preserved in optimum quality for future generations. Happily, Bob Furmanek is spearheading an effort to digitally scan and preserve the film in 4K and release it on Blu-ray.
You can help by contributing to a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds required to save the film.
To give us a preview, Furmanek has posted a test-scan in 4K resolution from the composite nitrate 35mm fine grain master positive on YouTube. Even with YouTube’s compression, the incredible quality of the original nitrate material speaks for itself…even though image grading, dirt clean-up and audio sweetening are still to be done.
Fans may recall that back in 1986 Bob conducted a worldwide search and located Africa Scream’s surviving 35mm nitrate elements. At that time he supervised a standard definition (SD) analogue transfer to one-inch tape and later produced a Special Edition laser disc release for Image Entertainment. Loaded with extras, the disc was awarded “Best Video Disc of the Year in the Best Supplementary Material Category” in 1988 by Video Magazine.
Unfortunately, that disc has been heavily pirated over the past three decades for unauthorized releases on VHS and DVD. The quality in circulating versions of Africa Screams is a far cry from the rich, visual record to be found and ultimately harvested from the original 35mm high silver content nitrate masters.
The film’s 35mm elements, however, are still on dangerous and flammable nitrate stock. The preservation effort will enable 4K digital scans of all the surviving 35mm elements, which include five reels of original camera negative and nine reels of composite fine grain master positive. Once the footage is scanned, a meticulous frame-by-frame digital clean-up of all dirt and damage, flicker reduction, image stabilization and grading will begin, creating a fully restored 4K composite master that will be utilized for a Special Edition region-free Blu-ray and DVD release. These discs will not be DVD-R or BD-R; they will be commercial discs pressed and manufactured to current industry standards.
Of course there will be exciting extras, too, including a new commentary track by Ron Palumbo, noted expert and co-author of “Abbott and Costello in Hollywood,” the definitive book on the boys’ films. Other extras include photo galleries with rare production stills taken on the set; full color posters and lobby cards from the 1949 release and 1953 re-release; industry trade advertisements; and a few surprises.
If the campaign is successful, fans will have the ultimate and definitive release of Africa Screams in the spring of 2020.•