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Universal Studios' Comedy Legends: Abbott & Costello

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This compilation presents a dilemma for fans of the comedy duo. On one hand, it offers pristine transfers of eight films, each prefaced with vintage trailers, a cartoon, and a newsreel travelogue. On the other, anyone avid enough to splurge for it also knows that the period documented here was not A&C’s most consistent or fertile. Universal compounds that sketchiness by including a trifle like 1940’s One Night in the Tropics, while omitting Buck Privates (1941), their first screen gem. And though the pair start to hit their stride with Hold That Ghost (1941), Pardon My Sarong, and Who Done It? (both 1942) — all here, as well as Here Come the Co-eds, Hit the Ice, The Naughty Nineties, and The Time of Their Lives — their best work lay ahead, in the series of late-’40s monster spoofs (like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein) and their 1952 TV series. Unfortunately, the set also resurrects Abbott & Costello Meet Jerry Seinfeld, a hokey 1994 homage/documentary seemingly designed more to cash in on Seinfeld’s popularity than to break any new ground. B

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