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(April 2005)

Abbott & Costello Vol.3

Universal Pictures, bless their pea-picking hearts, continue to release the side-splitting comedies of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. In this, Universal's third boxed set, appropriately called

The Best of Abbott & Costello:

Volume 3 (1948-1953)- 8 Comedy Classics!

  • Abbott & Costello Go to Mars | 1953 |
  • Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein | 1948 |
  • Abbott & Costello Meet in The Foreign Legion | 1950 |
  • Abbott & Costello Meet the Invisible Man | 1951 |
  • Abbott & Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff | 1949 |
  • Comin' Round The Mountain | 1951 |
  • Lost in Alaska | 1953 |
  • Mexican Hayride | 1948 |
The Best of Abbott and Costello (Volume 3)
contains eight more movies continuing their post-Second World War success and on into the golden Eisenhower years of the early 1950s. Interestingly the first Abbot & Costello films, made during the war, relied heavily on their vaudeville career (see Vol. 1). Slapstick routines, honed to perfection from years on stage, were brought to the silver screen with loosely-linked story lines. A good example is Buck Privates (1941) with the Andrew Sisters. They also tried mixing the horror genre with their comedy routines in Hold That Ghost (also 1941). The movies were hugely successful.

 Later, in the early post-war years, they attempted to expand their cinema repertoire with more expansive settings and different on-screen interpersonal relationships (see Vol. 2). For example, in The Time of Their Lives (1946) they barely played off each other with Lou as a 18th Century ghost stuck in a tree and Bud a 20th Century lawyer. While these movies were still successful, they did not reach the heights of box-office success of their first films.

Taking note of the popularity of Hold That Ghost, the studio decided to try linking Abbott & Costello with some classic Universal horror stars of the 30s and 40s. They struck gold. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) (in this collection) was their biggest hit since their first starring role in Buck Privates. With Béla Lugosi as Dracula, Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man and Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s Monster, much hilarity and chills were had. Any tubby little man would follow lovely brunette Lénore Aubert as the beautiful but treacherous scientist who feigns love for Lou in order to lure him to an island. The movie ends with Bud and Lou rowing away from the monster island congratulating themselves on their survival and escape, and promising each other to always believe the other when one says “I saw what I saw when I saw it”. From the front of their rowboat we see a floating cigarette and hear a disembodied voice: “Allow me to introduce myself, I’m The Invisible Man” followed by maniacal laughter- The End.

Abbott & Costello Meet The Invisible Man (1951) find our boys as recent Detective School graduates. In trying to solve a murder they bumble around and come face-to-face with The Invisible Man (Arthur Franz). This movie contains one of their funniest filmed routines with Lou winning a boxing match with the help of The Invisible Man.

Continuing the horror theme, Abbott & Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff was released in 1949. Bumbling Bellhop Lou, working at a secluded resort, is the prime suspect in a murder. Bud is the house detective and Boris Karloff is a smarmy, slippery swami. Lovely Lénore Aubert is back, again as a treacherous woman, part of a gang, trying to get poor Lou drunk and “put him on a slow boat to Shanghais”.

Lou and a HandmaidenAn A&C movie with a science fiction theme is in this set. Abbott & Costello Go To Mars (1953) has a funny title because no one in the movie ever gets to Mars. At first the boys (who are accidentally trapped in a rocket ship) land in New Orleans during Mardi Gras and because of the strange costumes they think they’re on Mars. Later they really go to Venus and find a women-only civilization where men haven’t been seen for 400 years because, as Queen Allura (Mari Blanchard) puts it: “My man was the lyingest, cheatingest, double-crossingest male that ever inhabited Venus. And so were all of them”. She had caught her man trifling with a handmaiden and had banished all men. Her attitude later becomes important as Lou, chosen to be her king, has to hold special balloons that will burst if he thinks of another woman. This becomes a hilarious symbol of male arousal as Lou tries not to think “those thoughts” as beautiful handmaidens parade around him. The handmaidens were played by the winners of the 1952 Miss Universe Pageant. Needless to say, all the balloons burst, as any adolescent male seeing this movie in 1953 could have told you.

Also in this set is Mexican Hayride (1948) with Lou as a man who breaks into dance every time he hears Samba music. This movie was an adaptation of a successful Cole Porter Broadway musical. Abbott & Costello In The Foreign Legion (1950) has desert high jinks and a very funny scene where Lou is trapped in a wrestling match while Bud reads “the script” of what the match is supposed to be.

Comin’ Round The Mountain (1951) was inspired by the success of the Ma and Pa Kettle film series. The boys find themselves mixed up with hillbillies who are a feudin’ and a fightin’. A key scene is with Margaret Mexican HayrideHamilton (from the Wizard of Oz), here playing a voodoo witch who makes a clay doll of Lou and sticks pins in it. Lou then makes a doll of her and he sticks pins in that. They go back and forth sticking pins into each others doll until finally Lou flies away on Margaret’s broom! Lost in Alaska (1952) has the boys in the frozen north. Much hilarity with Eskimos, miners and dance-hall girls. Tom Ewell, co-stars. In 3 years he will be starring with Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch.

Universal also has a fourth volume of Abbott and Costello movies coming out. Thank you Universal, the old guy sitting in the corner is actually crying, he can hardly wait. Included are A&C Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953), A&C Meet the Keystone Kops (1955), A&C Meet The Mummy (1955), The World of Abbott & Costello (1965), A&C Meet Jerry Seinfeld (1994), and A&C Meet The Monsters! (2000). Click for more Abbott & Costello.

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