From our friends at The 3-D Film Archive.
Category Archives: Abbott & Costello
I’ve been thinking about a classic Universal monster movie for Halloween night, but there are a lot of them — and they’re all so great? (They’re represented by this wonderful ad for the Aurora monster model. Click on it and it gets, well, monstrous!)
What are your thoughts? Mummy? Frankenstein? Dracula? The Wolf Man? The Creature? Or a one-off like The Invisible Ray (1936)? Or, maybe a different direction, like something from AIP or Hammer?
Robert Furmanek restored one of Abbott & Costello’s funniest films, Africa Screams (1949), for its stunning Blu-Ray release, and he and his team have set their sights on Bud and Lou’s Jack And The Beanstalk (1952).
Working with the only surviving 35mm color camera negative footage, this should be incredible. The Kickstarter campaign has already, well, kicked off, so let’s make this happen!
Robert Furmanek restored one of Abbott & Costello’s funniest films, Africa Screams (1949), for its stunning Blu-Ray release, and he and his are are back with Jack And The Beanstalk (1952).
Working with the only surviving 35mm color camera negative footage, this should be incredible. As before, there will a Kickstarter campaign to help cover the restoration costs — and to let you help make it happen. More details to come!
Directed by Charles Barton
Original Story and Screenplay by Earl Baldwin
Music by Walter Schumann
Cinematography: Charles Van Enger
Film Editor: Frank Gross
Music by Walter Schumann
Cast: Bud Abbott (Buzz Johnson), Lou Costello (Stanley Livington), Clyde Beatty (himself), Frank Buck (himself), Max Baer (Grappler McCoy), Buddy Baer (Boots Wilson), Hillary Brooke (Diana Emerson), Shemp Howard (Gunner), Joe Besser (Harry), Burton Wenland (Bobo), Charles Gemora (The Ape)
Back in December, we were given the opportunity to help The 3-D Film Archive restore Africa Screams (1949) for Blu-Ray. If you were one of those that did, you’re probably feeling pretty good about yourself right now. And you should, because the results of that Kickstarter campaign, and the painstaking work it funded, are really something to see.
The new Africa Screams Blu-Ray, available from ClassicFlix, shows what a little money — coupled with a whole lot of love, dedication and technical knowhow — can accomplish. One of Abbott & Costello’s funnier movies, an independent production, Africa Screams has been rescued from the PD slag heap and allowed to shine every bit as bright as its richer cousins from Universal. And that’s quite a feat indeed.
Robert Furmanek of The 3-D Film Archive is the author (with Ron Palumbo) of one of my all-time favorite film books, Abbott & Costello In Hollywood. This is not Bob’s first time working with this movie — he put together a terrific, extras-packed laserdisc back in the pre-HD late 80s. (That’s it on the left.) My love of Africa Screams came from watching that disc many, many times. For Blu-Ray, Bob had to start all over. The 35mm camera negative and a fine grain positive, both on nitrate stock, were scanned in 4K, and those scans were given a painstaking clean-up. The results are staggering at times.
Africa Screams (1949) was an independent production from Nassour Studios. It offered a chance for more dough for Bud & Lou, so they were pretty stoked for this one. The team was riding high — they’d just done Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), both one of their best pictures and one of their biggest hits.
Charles Barton, who directed A&C Meet Frankenstein, was hired on, along with Charles Van Enger, who shot it, and Frank Gross, who cut it. Bud & Lou also brought in friends like Hillary Brooke, Shemp Howard, Joe Besser and Max and Buddy Baer. So they both stacked the deck and made sure they’d have a good time doing it.
Africa Screams is a spoof of jungle pictures, complete with appearances by Clyde Beatty and Frank Buck. Costello works in the adventure books section of a department store (he even wears a safari outfit). He and Abbott end up joining an expedition to search for a giant ape. It’s really a bunch of crooks after a secret diamond mine. A map to the mine was printed in an old book, which Costello claims to remember. They end up not only battling the bad guys, but being captured by cannibals and coming face to face with Charles Gemora in one of his great gorilla costumes.
The picture has plenty of opportunities for Costello’s classic scared routine (the gorilla, a crocodile, etc.) and Abbott’s abuse of his chubby friend. Shemp Howard is terrific as a near-sighted big game hunter and Hillary Brooke is as perfect as she ever is when dealing with Bud & Lou. Of course, it’s all very silly — and at times, extremely funny.
Now back to the Blu-Ray. Black and white movies really benefit from high definition, and Africa Screams is a sterling example. The sharpness, the deep, rich shadows and the expanded contrast levels help create a sense of depth that can be really effective at times. You see it in film noir quite a bit, and in this picture, it makes the scenes shot on the jungle set really come alive (though you never, ever think it’s an actual jungle). This restoration was probably an uphill battle, but you’d never know if from looking at the results. Every frame is perfection.
It’s loaded with special features, too — trailers, outtakes, stills, a TV appearance, some old interviews, a 3-D comic book (with glasses even!) and a wonderful commentary from Ron Palumbo, Furmanek’s co-author on Abbott & Costello In Hollywood.
Africa Screams is one of Abbott & Costello’s best pictures (I’d put it at #2). This is certainly the best presentation any of their films has received on Blu-Ray — and if you’ve seen the Shout Factory box, you know just how high the bar is. Highly, highly recommend.
Robert Furmanek of The 3-D Film Archive is the author (with Ron Palumbo) of one of my all-time favorite film books, Abbott & Costello In Hollywood. He recently kicked off a Kickstarter campaign to restore one of Bud and Lou’s funniest films, their independently-produced Africa Screams (1949). It’s one of the team’s absolute best, released right after Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). They were really on a roll.
My love of this movie stems from Bob’s terrific, extras-packed laserdisc from the late 80s. I played that thing about a million times. And I’m really stoked about the opportunity to take a part in this restoration.
The existing 35mm material (camera negative and fine grain positive) is on nitrate stock, which is difficult, dangerous and expensive to work with, but can make for stunning results. The plan is to do 4K scans of these reels, then do a thorough clean-up for a DVD and Blu-Ray release. When I checked, Bob was over halfway to his goal of $7,500, and we have till the end of December to help make this happen. Click on the image up top to do your part.
Not sure what’s more exciting about this — being able to help preserve a movie I adore, or the thought of seeing it look like a million bucks on Blu-Ray.
UPDATE: In a little over a day, the goal has been met. Thanks to everyone who pledged to bring Africa Screams to Blu-Ray.
The Abbott & Costello movies offer up some of the great joys to be had in this world. Their “Who’s On First?” routine (found in The Naughty Nineties) is timeless — and runs constantly in the Baseball Hall Of Fame. Me, I simply cannot be down if Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) is on.
Shout Factory has announced The Complete Universal Pictures Collection, that puts their 28 Universal pictures (they say they saved the studio from bankruptcy) on 15 Blu-ray Discs, packed with hours of extras and a collectible book. It’s coming in November. What a great big box of Wonderful this will be!
Louis Francis Cristillo (AKA Lou Costello)
(March 6, 1906 – March 3, 1959)
If Lou Costello has done nothing but Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), I’d still be honoring him on his birthday. It’s so funny, so brilliant, so perfect. Luckily, he and Bud Abbott did plenty more.
So here’s Lou with Bela Lugosi. “Weel-burr, Weel-burr…”
Directed by Edward Bernds
Screenplay by Charles Beaumont
From a story by Ben Hecht
Cinematography: William P. Whitley
Music by Marlin Skiles
Film Editor: William Austin
Cast: Zsa Zsa Gabor (Talleah), Eric Fleming (Capt. Neal Patterson), Dave Willock (Lt. Mike Cruze), Laurie Mitchell (Queen Yllana), Lisa Davis (Motiya), Paul Birch (Prof. Konrad), Patrick Waltz (Lt. Larry Turner), Barbara Darrow (Kaeel), Marilyn Buferd (Odeena), Lynn Cartwright
Some movies are labelled art, others are considered simply entertainment. A select few can actually be both, while unfortunately, some are neither. While film critics and scholars like to decide what falls into which category, we all get to call ’em as they see ’em. For me, Queen Of Outer Space (1958) — which is a real hoot, is a helluva lot better movie than, say, The English Patient (1996).
A team of astronauts, led by Eric Fleming of Rawhide, is drawn to Venus, where they find the planet populated by beautiful women in miniskirts with ray guns — except for a few who wear masks to cover ghastly radiation burns. Zsa Zsa Gabor plays a Venusian scientist — and the only human on the planet with a Hungarian accent. All that, plus a giant rubber spider.
It all started with a 10-page story idea (called Queen Of The Universe) by the great screenwriter Ben Hecht. It had been sitting around Allied Artists for a few years when Ben Schwalb, who was producing The Bowery Boys movies, ended up with it. He handed it off to writer Charles Beaumont. Beaumont’s script was then fiddled with by Ellwood Ullman, who’d written for The Three Stooges. Edward Bernds, another Stooge veteran, directed — just as he’d done with AA’s previous sci-fi picture, World Without End (1956).
Don’t let the DeLuxe color and CinemaScope fool you — Queen Of Outer Space is a pretty cheap affair. You might recognize the spacemen’s uniforms and some of the ladies’ costumes from Forbidden Planet (1956). There are models, sets and footage from World Without End (1956) — which featured rocket footage lifted from Flight To Mars (1951). And the rubber spider is the same one seen in World Without End (1956).
Of course, others had boldly gone after the planet-of-women plot-line before. Take a look at Abbott & Costello Go To Mars (1953, above), Cat-Women Of The Moon (1953) and Fire Maidens From Outer Space (1955). But with Queen Of Outer Space, they got the mix of chicks, chills and cheese just right. (Okay, I’m stretching it a bit with the chills part.)
Speaking of just right, the Warner Archive Blu-Ray is a great example of bringing an old movie to high-definition. It’s sharp as a tack, with the color dialed in perfectly. This is maybe the best-looking DeLuxe color I’ve seen on Blu-Ray — and a big improvement over the nice-looking DVD. The audio is clean. And the commentary from that DVD has been retained.
For some of us, and we know who we are, owning this is an absolute necessity. For others, it’s a complete waste of time, money and pixels. If you’re in the former group, you won’t be disappointed.
One last thing: In some lucky cities, Queen Of Outer Space was paired with Howard W. Koch’s Frankenstein 1970 (1958). Those were the days.
Saw the other day that Frankenstein is 200 years old, with Marry Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, Or The Modern Prometheus first published in 1818.
So here’s to Dr. Frankenstein, his monster, the monster’s bride, and anybody who ever helped bring the many Frankenstein movies to the screen — particularly the Universal and Hammer films.
It was a very shrewd move for Hammer to focus their series on the doctor and his misadventures rather than inviting strict comparisons to the Universal classics, which would be very hard to top. And, of course, casting Peter Cushing in the role was simply inspired.
So happy 200th, Frankie. You’re holding up pretty well.