DVD Review: Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd
Article first published as DVD Review: Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd on Blogcritics.
In the late ‘90s, the Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) came into power. It replaced the previous lordship, Vertical Helix Scan (better known as “VHS”) as the reigning king of the home video market, making the videocassette format as obsolete as an honest politician. Unfortunately for some, there were many titles that had been available on VHS that never made it to disc once the new resident of the throne took over. One such title was Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd (known to some fans as “A&CMCK”), which later became something of a holy grail with Bud & Lou fans after VHS was superseded — with original videocassette copies reportedly selling for as much as $100 (or better) on sites such as eBay and Amazon amongst some very eager collectors.
Now, nearly fifteen years after DVD started taking over, Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd has finally hit the digital realm via a remastered-but-unrestored manufactured-on-demand DVD-R from the Warner Archive Collection (or WAC, for short). While releasing such a title onto a made-to-order format might bring up a teeny “WTF?” from some fans, the fact is that the long wait is over.
But was it worth it?
Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952) was the second color film that the immortal comedy duo of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello made. Both this and their first color feature, Jack And The Beanstalk (also made in ‘52), were privately-produced by the duo themselves, since the suits at Universal Studios — the company whom the duo were under contract to for many years — were too cheap to finance a color feature for them. But Bud and Lou weren’t the only ones that were economical; this is evident in as much as they didn’t bother paying for an extremely clever, interesting, or wholly-entertaining script for Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd.
Don’t get me wrong, now: I love Abbott and Costello with a passion and have been a fan of theirs since I was three years old. But, when compared to some of their other works, Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd is a bit of a bore. The story has Bud and Lou joining the nefarious Captain Kidd (Charles Laughton, who has played the same character several years before in much-more serious 1945 United Artists production, Captain Kidd) after a mix-up with a map and a love-letter between our story’s romantic interests (Leif Erickson and Fran Warren). The usual amount of buffoonery ensues: recycled vaudeville routines, slapstick, and musical numbers — the latter of which are both plentiful and painful.
The biggest drawback here is the acting. Charles Laughton is obnoxious as screams every other word of dialogue and rolls his eyes whenever Bud and Lou start one of their classic routines; while the musical coupling of Leif Erickson and Fran Warren is so wearisome, it prompts viewers to roll their own eyes every time they’re on-screen together. Even Bud, Lou, and their Abbott And Costello Show regular Hillary Brooke don’t seem to be as “in” to the whole production as they should be. Speaking of regulars, the film could have really benefited from a supporting role from Shemp Howard or Joe Besser — to say nothing of snappier musical numbers.
Although it’s a delight to see Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd finally available on DVD (and in an anamorphic widescreen format, to boot!), I have to say that the feature isn’t a great one in my book. Warner’s MOD disc (available exclusively at www.warnerarchive.com) is a barebones affair, sporting nothing in the way of special features. The title boasts the original Mono English soundtrack, with no subtitle options.
Recommended for Abbott & Costello completists only.