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TV slapstick from Abbott and Costello

Comedy duo's 1950s series comes to DVD. Also out: `United 93,' `Amarcord' and a deluxe `Godzilla-Gojira' set.

September 05, 2006|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

Who's on DVD?

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. The first season of the comedy legends' TV series, "The Abbott and Costello Show," arrives today in a fun, nostalgic "100th Anniversary Collection Season 1" set (Passport Entertainment, $40).

After working for years on radio -- the duo's "Who's on First?" is one of the best-loved routines -- and topping the box office for several years in the 1940s, the two turned to TV near the final years of their career.

Their series, which initially aired from 1952 to '54, was not a critical success. But audiences loved their slapstick antics, puns and Costello's double takes, and the show has lived in repeats over the decades.

In the first season, Abbott and Costello played unemployed actors who lived in Sid Fields' rooming house and were always behind on the rent. Hillary Brooke played the blond bombshell across the hall who was romanced by Costello; Gordon Jones was Mike the Cop; and a pre-"Three Stooges" Joe Besser was the mean little kid, Stinky.

The set includes all 26 episodes from the first season; affectionate interviews with Costello's daughters Paddy and Chris; the recently restored 1948 short film, "10,000 Kids and a Cop," starring William Bendix, that promoted the Lou Costello Jr. Recreation Center in Boyle Heights; and a trove of color home movies of Costello (it's the 100th anniversary of his birth, FYI) and his family at home in the San Fernando Valley, as well as black-and-white footage of the family traveling to England aboard the Queen Mary.


Also new this week

"United 93" (Universal, $30): Paul Greengrass' ("Bloody Sunday," "The Bourne Supremacy") semi-documentary retelling of how the brave passengers and crew of the fourth plane that was hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001, risked their lives so the plane wouldn't reach its target.

The thought-provoking extras include a lengthy documentary chronicling the emotional meetings between the victims' families and the actors; biographies on the passengers and crew; and unsentimental but gripping commentary with Greengrass.

"Kinky Boots" (Miramax, $30): Sweet little comedy-drama based on fact about a young man (Joel Edgerton) who discovers an offbeat way of keeping his late father's struggling shoe factory afloat -- by making elaborate footwear for drag queens. Chiwetel Ejifor steals the film as a brassy drag queen-cabaret singer named Lola.

Extras include deleted scenes, a mini-documentary on the real factory and enjoyable commentary with director Julian Jarrold, Edgerton, Ejifor and costar Sarah-Jane Potts.

"Godzilla-Gojira Deluxe Collector's Edition" (Classic Media, $22): This yummy two-disc set features both the 1954 Japanese version of the monster movie and the 1956 American version, "Godzilla, King of the Monsters."

The Japanese film was produced nine years after the end of World War II. It's a serious, somber anti-nuclear cautionary tale -- the 400-foot, fire breathing prehistoric monster is awakened and goes on a rampage because of nuclear testing in the ocean.

When a U.S. company bought the rights to the film, they cast a pre-"Perry Mason" Raymond Burr as an international correspondent named Steve Martin who happens to be in Japan when Godzilla emerges. The American version, which was also released internationally, blends footage from the original with the new scenes.

The two-disc set includes featurettes on the Godzilla suit and the history of the production, plus trivia-filled audio commentary on both films with author Steve Ryfle and publisher Ed Godiziszewski,

"Amarcord" (Criterion, $40): Lovely two-disc set of Federico Fellini's warm and funny surreal memoir of his hometown during the Fascist era. The film won the 1974 foreign-language Oscar; Fellini was also nominated for best director and screenplay. Extras include the warm documentary "Fellini's Homecoming," which features interviews with the late filmmaker's friends and colleagues who discuss Fellini's love-hate relationship with his hometown; a recent interview with one of the film's stars, Magali Noel; an array of Fellini's drawings for the film; a look at "Amarcord" ephemera; audio interviews conducted by Gideon Bachmann with Fellini and his friends and family; and academic commentary with film professors Peter Brunette and Frank Burke.

"Pretty Poison" (Fox, $15): Cult favorite from 1968 stars Anthony Perkins as a mentally unstable young man released from an institution after several years -- as a teenager he had burned down his aunt's house with his aunt in it -- who pursues the affections of a beautiful high school senior (Tuesday Weld) by telling her he's a CIA agent. But he soon realizes that Weld's Sue Ann has more than her own share of problems and murderous fantasies. Perkins and Weld are perfectly cast thanks to Lorenzo Semple Jr.'s award-winning script and Noel Black's taut direction.

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