Chris Hicks: DVD releases: Abbott and Costello collection rereleased in less expensive box set
A beloved 1950s sitcom — rereleased in a less expensive box set — leads off this look at shows new to DVD.
"The Abbott and Costello Show: Collector's Edition" (E1, 1952-54, b/w, nine discs, $59.98). Bud Abbott and Lou Costello re-created their most famous burlesque routines, which they had previously done on radio and in movies, and preserved them for the ages in the half-hour sitcom format — which makes for an amazing collection of comedy skits from a lost era, performed by one of the best comedy teams ever.
The show ran for two seasons, and each episode has a thin story line, which is merely an excuse for the boys to wreak havoc on everything and everyone around them. Regulars for both seasons were Sidney Fields as their landlord (and various other characters) and Gordon Jones as Mike the Cop, while Hillary Brooke was their neighbor and sometime love interest during the first season (and for one episode in the second). The first season also featured Joe Besser as a sort of man-child, dressed in a Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit, and Bingo the chimp (until he bit Costello and was fired).
This is low comedy to be sure, but it's also carefully choreographed slapstick and rapid-fire patter performed by seasoned veterans in a manner that's all but lost these days. And a bonus feature gathers many of the best routines, including "Who's on First," so you can quickly go to them and share the fun with friends.
This remastered set (the shows look great) only has one new bonus feature the previous sets lacked, a 70-minute retrospective of Bud and Lou's best routines, "Hey Abbott!" (1978), hosted by Milton Berle, Steve Allen, Phil Silvers and Joe Besser. And this two-season set can be purchased for quite a bit less than either of the previously issued single-season sets.
Extras: full frame, 52 episodes, featurettes, TV special: "Hey Abbott!" short film: "10,000 Kids and a Cop," Costello's home movies, "Classic Routine Reel"; 44-page booklet
"Lucy Calls the President" (MPI, 1977, $14.98). Fans will love this hourlong comedy, which was Lucille Ball's final CBS special, and it was the last time she was teamed with the great Vivian Vance, who died two years later. This show also marked Ball's farewell to comedy until she signed on for one last sitcom in 1986.
The plot has Ball's small-town Indiana character, Lucy Whittaker, calling President Jimmy Carter, who then decides to pay her a visit. That prompts Steve Allen to drop by and interview Lucy before the visit. All of which puts Lucy, her husband (Ed McMahon), her father-in-law (Gale Gordon) and her best friends (Vance and Mary Wickes) into a tizzy, leading to one slapstick disaster after another.
Extras: full frame, rehearsal featurette, interview with character actor James Brodhead, black-and-white "Tonight Show" interview with Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon (from November 1969), two "Let's Talk to Lucy" radio show episodes with Lucy interviewing Steve Allen (from January 1965), promos
"I'm No Dummy" (Salient/Vivendi, 2009, $19.98). This documentary's talking-heads format interspersed with clips is routinely constructed, but the subject is unique and very funny — ventriloquism.
The greatest voice-throwers are on display, from such current practitioners as Jay Johnson (and Bob), Jeff Dunham (and Achmed the Dead Terrorist) and Lynn Trefzger (and Camelot) to such past masters as Edgar Bergen (and Charlie McCarthy), Paul Winchell (and Jerry Mahoney), Jimmy Nelson (and Danny O'Day) and many more.
This is a lot of fun, but it's too bad that it's also laced with periodic R-rated gags, making it out of bounds for youngsters who could have enjoyed it as much as their parents.
Extras: widescreen, deleted scene, featurettes
"My Friends Tigger and Pooh: Super Duper Super Sleuths" (Disney, 2010, $26.99). A magic star lands in Rabbit's garden, causing the vegetables to grow tremendously, and as they eat them, Pooh, Tigger and friends gain super powers.
Extras: widescreen, new unaired episode (until June), interactive aspects, trailers
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