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DVD Review: Legends Of Laughter: Abbott & Costello

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The timeless comedy of Bud Abbott & Lou Costello has been delighting one generation after another for seventy plus years. With the advent of the VHS boom in the ‘80s, a handful of Bud and Lou’s licensed comedies made their way to home video, while many no-name companies sought to make a buck or two by releasing some public domain films and TV appearances. Twenty-some-odd years later, public domain compilations are still being distributed by one label after another. Hollywood Select Video is the latest group to do so.

But Hollywood Select Video’s release of Legends Of Laughter: Abbott & Costello is by far the most impressive. The six-disc-set starts out with fourteen episodes of The Colgate Comedy Hour variety program from the ‘50s.

For those of you who aren’t old enough to remember what a variety show was, The Colgate Comedy Hour featured laughs, song and dance routines, and the odd-assortment of circus-like acts (hence, “variety”). Each Sunday, families would sit ‘round the boob tube and watch the fun, all of which was brought to them courtesy of the folks at the Colgate-Palmolive Company, who produced and sponsored the show. Each episode features a new celebrity host, as well as special musical guests. For Abbott and Costello fans, The Colgate Comedy Hour contains some of Bud and Lou’s greatest live flubs and ad-libs, many of which were highlighted in a delightful Warner VHS release, The Best Of Abbott And Costello Live back in the ‘80s.

Following The Colgate Comedy Hour episodes, Legends Of Laughter: Abbott & Costello features a selection of A&C movie trailers, PSA/documentaries (some of which have little to no relevance to the comedy duo), rare outtakes (a number of which you may have seen on old video releases), feature films Africa Screams (1949) and Jack And The Beanstalk (1952) (which have been the staple of the public domain market for years), and lastly, seventeen radio episodes of The Abbott & Costello Show. The supplementary materials are a delight to both see and hear, but the real gold here is in the live TV shows.

Quality-wise, Hollywood Select Video’s Legends Of Laughter: Abbott & Costello is below average, which is about what one would expect, seeing as how the original source materials were not up to the standards we have today. The fact that Hollywood Select Video stuffed as many items as they possibly could onto each disc doesn’t help any. The DVD menus reflect Hollywood Select Video’s production values as well: the design is poor (check out the badly pixilated picture with crop notes on the main menu), buttons don’t often work like they’re supposed to, and names are spelled incorrectly. You’d almost think this was a bootlegged import from China.

Despite the crappy quality, however, Legends Of Laughter: Abbott & Costello still manages to entertain. I’ve always been a big fan of Bud and Lou, and so it’s always fun for me to see these live shows once again and hark back to my younger years when I used to own a few of them on VHS.

My best advice is to buy it on the cheap.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.