MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
As part of Universal’s celebration of 100 years as a movie studio, the Abbott and Costello film “Buck Privates” has been newly released on Blu-ray with a remastered print. This classic features the famous comedy duo in one of their most famous earlier films. They play two schlubs who are go into the Army to avoid jail time. Once there, they bumble around during peacetime preparation, causing slapstick problems.
More an assembly of funny sketches, “Buck Privates” still plays very funny without much of a story behind it. The chemistry between Abbott and Costello shines through the movie, and it’s easy to see why this film was a hit back in 1941. Even though it dealt with a peacetime Army as it was produced on the eve of America entering World War II, it comes off as a light-hearted look at the men in uniform. It gave the country a reason to laugh as it was still coming out of the Depression.
I tend to remember Abbott Costello for their famous turns in monster movies of the 1950s, this is a neat insight into their earlier movie career. The film has plenty of funny moments and, even though it’s short on plot, it’s neat to watch.
The film also is notable for introducing the world to the Andrew Sisters’ “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Sure, the Andrew Sisters’ songs are slid into the movie with even less finesse than the sketch comedy bits of Abbott and Costello, but it still plays well, especially as a piece of history.
This new Blu-ray offers “Buck Privates” for the first time in high definition with a fantastic and clean transfer. In fact, this is one of the better transfers I’ve seen of a black and white film, let alone one that’s more than 70 years old.
The disc comes packaged with the DVD in a collector’s series book. The special features on the discs are a little slim, offering only the theatrical trailer and a one-hour TV special from the 90s called “Abbott and Costello Meet Jerry Seinfeld.” Still, this is a decent retrospective into their careers, even if it does use lesser actors to recreate some of their more memorable sketches. Additional features include three featurettes from the 100 Years of Universal slate: “Restoring the Classics,” “The Carl Laemmle Era,” and “Unforgettable Characters.”