Cinephiles, Classic Movie Buffs Alike Will Enjoy Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection Re-Issue

Courtesy: Universal Pictures/Shout! Factory

Seventy-nine years ago this year, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello made their theatrical debut in the classic romantic comedy One Night in the Tropics.  That movie made its theatrical debut Nov. 15, 1940.  Shout! Factory and Universal Pictures are partnering to get a jump on celebrating the anniversary of the legendary comic duo’s big screen debut with the Blu-ray release of Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection: 80th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition.  The famed duo’s collection has previously been released twice on DVD, but this marks the first time that the collection has received the Blu-ray treatment.  All joking aside (yes, that terrible pun was intended), the forthcoming Blu-ray re-issue of the collection is a presentation that every classic film buff will appreciate.  That is due in no small part to its featured movies, which will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content featured with the collection adds even more enjoyment to this collection, and will be addressed a little later.  The collection’s packaging rounds out its most important elements and will also be addressed later.  Each item discussed here is important in its own way.  All things considered, they make the set’s average price point money very well spent among every cinephile and classic movie buff.

Universal Pictures and Shout! Factory’s new forthcoming re-issue of Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection: 80th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition is a presentation that fans of the comic duo and its work will appreciate just as much as any cinephiles and classic movie buffs.  That is due in no small part to its makeup.  The collection features all 28 of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’s Universal Pictures movies in one setting.  The movies are spread across 15 discs in three separate Blu-ray cases.  This is important to note because while all 28 movies have been released previously between 2003 and 2005 by Universal Pictures in four separate DVD collections, this set marks the first time that they have ever seen a Blu-ray release and in one complete collection.  In other words, this collection is not the first time that all 28 movies have ever been released together in one setting (considering the collection’s previous two DVD releases), but it is the first time that all the movies have ever seen release in one setting on DVD.  That will save space for those audiences and fans who might not already own the noted standalone DVD volumes released between 2003 and 2005.  Also, a comparison of the bonus content featured in those previous standalone DVD sets (the 2003-2005 sets) and the bonus content featured here shows far more bonus content in this collection than those sets.

The bonus content featured in Universal Pictures’ standalone Abbott & Costello DVD sets is minimal at best.  Audiences got in those noted sets, Production notes in the second of the four sets, and a pair of features in the fourth volume – a tribute to Bud and Lou from famed comedian Jerry Seinfeld, and a retrospective on Abbott & Costello’s monster movie crossovers.  By comparison, audiences get in the new Blu-ray re-issue of Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection, feature-length commentaries as an extra in no fewer than six of the collection’s movies.  The noted Seinfeld and monster movie retrospectives are also featured in this collection.  This goes right back to the already discussed fact that the entire collection is featured in one setting.  So, for those who might not have the fourth previously released volume of Abbott & Costello movies will now have those retrospectives along with lots of new, commentaries that were also featured in the collection’s previous two DVD releases.  As if the commentaries and retrospectives being placed in one complete collection is not enough, audiences also get the same companion booklet that was also featured in the previous DVD releases of Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection.  That booklet is just as important as the retrospectives and the commentaries.  Reading through the booklet not only gives audiences an overview of each of the movies,  but also some rather interesting trivia.  For instance, audiences learn of One Night in the Tropics, the very first scene that Bud and Lou shot for that movie was their now iconic “Who’s on First” bit. Additionally, at one point, laughter by the movie’s crew members got so bad that the set had to be cleared.  In the case of The Naughty Nineties, viewers learn that the riverboat set was originally constructed for Universal Pictures’ 1936 movie Show Boat and that Henry Travers, who played the riverboat’s Captain, also went on later to play Clarence opposite James Stewart.  Also of interest in the companion booklet’s information is that the pair’s 1946 movie The Time of Their Lives, that marked one of only two times during their career in which Bud and Lou did not work as a team.  The other time is noted in the booklet but will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  Getting read the trivia is like taking in the same kind of presentation from one of the current hosts at Turner Classic Movies. It just makes the experience that much more personal, and in turn enjoyable.

As if all of the trivia revealed and the story summaries are not enough for viewers, the companion booklet also features introductions from family members of Bud and Lou.  Specifically speaking, Bud Abbott’s daughter Vickie Abbott Wheeler and Lou Costello’s Children Paddy Costello Humphreys and Chris Costello.  Vickie Abbott Wheeler reveals in her introduction that her parents worked together in Vaudeville early on, adding that her mom actually worked with Lou Costello before her dad.  She also reveals something very intriguing about Universal studios during its heyday that will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  The Costello children reveal in their introduction information, such as the revelation that Bud and Lou intentionally kept their act clean because they did not like working “blue.”  They also note, Bud and Lou had a good relationship both on and off camera and that Lou would have appreciated the advancement of recording technology because of his personal interest in technology.  This is just a portion of everything that the pair had to talk about.  Between that and everything else that they and Mrs. Abbott Wheeler had to say, audiences get a lot of engaging and entertaining personal insight into who Bud and Lou were on and off screen.

As if all of the personal recollections from Bud and Lou’s family are not enough, there is also an extensive, in-depth look back at the life and legacy from Abbott & Costello In Hollywood co-author Ron Palumbo that will keep viewers just as engaged and entertained.  Audiences learn about the cultural significance of Abbott & Costello through Palumbo’s discussion on the constant comparisons that are made to the duo since – as he writes – “There are no comedy ‘teams’ anymore.  Pakumbo writes that comparisons to Bud and Lou during discussions about comedic duos, such as gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, Dan Akroyd and John Belushi.  Palumbo also notes bud and Lou had a very noticeable financial impact for Universal Pictures during their 15 years under contract with the studio.  He notes that the pair was the studio’s “single greatest source of income.”  That is a very telling statement in regards to the pairing’s star power.  This and everything else that Palumbo notes in his liner notes couples with the discussions that Bud and Lou’s children share in the booklet to make the set’s companion booklet perhaps its most important bonus.  That is especially considering all of the trivia shared in the booklet and the movie summaries that are featured within, too.  When the importance of all of this information is considered along with the fact that all of the pair’s Universal movies are set here with lots of other previously released bonus content, the set becomes that much more of a plus for any cinephiles and Abbott & Costello fan who might not already own Universal’s previous Abbott & Costello collections.

While the primary and secondary content featured in Shout! Factory and Universal Pictures’ new Bud Abbott & Lou Costello Blu-ray collection go a long way toward making the collection so impressive, they are only a portion of what makes it notable.  The overall packaging is just as worth examining as the set’s content.  As previously noted, all 28 of the duo’s Universal Pictures entries are spread here across 15 discs in three separate Blu-ray cases.  That is important to note, as it takes up less space than the four standalone DVD sets that Universal Pictures released between 2003 and 2005.  This critic owns those standalone sets and measured them against one another.  The new Blu-ray re-issue is equal, in terms of space, to three of the four DVD sets.  So, while the space saving might not be extensive, audiences do still get with this set, a package that consumes less space on a rack than the four separate DVD sets.  The movies featured in the DVD sets are featured two to a side on either side of two discs on each set.  In simpler terminology, each DVD set features two discs.  Each disc has two movies on either side, making for eight movies.  The fourth and final set features four more of the pair’s movies plus the noted retrospectives.  By comparison, the Blu-ray presentation features two movies per disc, with each disc sitting on its own plate on either side of a set of plates inside the cases.  So, while the discs have fewer movies on each one, the packaging still helps to save space, again, still making the packaging its own positive.  Keeping this in mind along with the breadth and depth of primary and secondary content, the whole of this collection proves a welcome addition to the home library of any cinephile and Abbott & Costello fan who might not already have either of this collection’s previous DVD releases or Universal Pictures’ previously released standalone DVD volumes of Abbott & Costello movies.

Universal Pictures and Shout! Factory’s forthcoming Blu-ray re-issue of Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection is a welcome addition to the home library of any true blooded cinephile, classic movie buff and Abbott & Costello fan.  That is due in no small part to the fact that it features all 28 of Abbott & Costello’s Universal Pictures features in one complete setting.  The extensive bonus content – the feature-length bonus commentary and extra information featured in the set’s companion booklet – adds its own share of engagement and entertainment for audiences, as has been noted here.  The space-saving packaging in which the whole thing is featured makes for its own positive.  Each noted item is important in its own way to the whole of this collection.  All things considered, they make Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection: 80th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition one of this year’s top new DVD/BD re-issues.  It will be available Nov. 19.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

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The Red Skelton Show: The Lost Episodes Is One Of 2014’s Best Box Sets For Families

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Timeless Media

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Timeless Media

Comedy today is a far cry from what it once was in the golden era of television.  Families could gather together and enjoy great shows such as Burns & Allen, The Jack Benny Show, and The Abbott & Costello Show just to name a few.  By comparison, so many of today’s sitcoms rely on sex and other material that is anything but family friendly to entertain audiences.  Thankfully, Timeless Media and Shout! Factory have partnered to counter all of that with the upcoming release of The Red Skelton Show: The Lost Episodes.  The double-disc set will be released next Tuesday, February 11th.  And it is quite the welcome release.  Whether or not viewers are familiar with The Red Skelton Show or even Skelton’s comedy in general, this set is certain to have viewers of every age laughing uproariously.  That’s because the comedy contained in the episodes culled for this set is appropriate for every viewer.  This is just the beginning of what makes this set such a joy.  Just as important to the overall enjoyment of The Red Skelton Show: The Lost Episodes is the quality of the episodes’ footage.  The episodes culled for this set obviously came from the show’s early days.  And they look and sound quite good considering their age.  The last part of the whole the audiences will appreciate is the set’s packaging.  Timeless Media and Shout! Factory continue to maintain their high standard of packaging with this collection of episodes.  That and the aforementioned factors work together to make The Red Skelton Show:  The Lost Episodes a must have for anyone looking for true quality and family friendly comedy.

The episodes collected for The Red Skelton Show: The Lost Episodes are collectively an excellent example of what once made comedy great.  Maybe it is the dad in this critic.  Maybe it’s just this critic’s more conservative side talking.  But in comparison to so much of what is on television today, the comic elements of The Red Skelton Show make it far more entertaining than much of what fills the television spectrum today.  The sketches that Skelton would use are loaded with wonderful physical comedy for the whole family as well as some commentary that while sharp for its time, is still tame by comparison to what is out there today.  A prime example would be commentary about Kennedy in one of Skelton’s Freddie the Freeloader skits.  That same skit also offers some great jokes about Freddie being healthy despite living in poor conditions.  The jokes that make up the dialogue in this skit are just as hilarious as the physical comedy.  The other skits included in this set are each loaded with their own jokes and gags, too.  They are certain to have any viewer laughing out loud with every watch.

The jokes and gags that make up the episodes in this set are a joy for the entire family.  Just as worth noting is the quality of the footage.  The vintage footage of these classic episodes looks wonderful.  So it goes without saying that the painstaking efforts undertaken to restore and resurrect these episodes more than paid off.  It paid off both for viewers and for those charged with bringing the episodes back to life once again.  It’s the visual equivalent of putting a classic vinyl onto a turntable and listening to it.  It just brings back such a sense of nostalgia.  Making the deal even sweeter, Timeless Media and Shout! Factory took the high road with this set, letting viewers know that the footage was re-mastered as best as possible.  Both companies are to be applauded for including the disclaimer.  It shows that both companies know some people simply can’t be pleased.  So the use of a disclaimer is the only feasible answer.  For that, those responsible for collecting the episodes for this set and dusting them off for a whole new generation are more than deserving of applause.

The quality of the episodes’ footage and their content are both excellent reasons that any pure comedy fan or even comic will want to check out this new set.  There’s still at least one more factor to this set that makes it so pleasant to take in.  That final factor is the set’s packaging.  Both discs are placed in their own spot inside the case.  Even more interesting (and this may not be the case with other copies) to note is that this critic’s copy of the set also included a pad of sorts inside the case that kept the two discs from touching each other even on their “faces.”  This protects the discs from one another even more.  It might be a bit of overkill.  But it proves yet again just how much Timeless Media and Shout! Factory care about presenting the best product possible for consumers.  That concern for presenting the best product possible is the proverbial icing on the cake for this brand new set.  It led to top notch packaging for another new release from both companies.  It also led to impressively restored vintage footage, which  also made it easier to take in the family friendly comedy.  It all makes The Red Skelton Show: The Lost Episodes a must have for anyone that wants true, pure comedy.  It will be available next Tuesday, February 11th and can be pre-ordered online now via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/product/red-skelton-show-lost-episodes.  More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory and Timeless Media is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com, http://www.timelessvideo.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.