Buck Privates [Blu-ray]
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Comedy legends Bud Abbott and Lou Costello cemented their place in film history with the hilarious wartime comedy classic Buck Privates. After spending years on stage in burlesque and on radio perfecting classic routines such as “Who’s on First?,” the duo transitioned to motion pictures at Universal in1940. In their first leading roles, Bud and Lou play con artists who accidentally enlist in the U.S. Army to avoid going to jail. Making matters worse, their no-nonsense drill sergeant turns out to be the cop who tried to arrest them! Featuring classic routines such as “Drill,” “Dice Game” and “You’re Forty, She’s Ten,” the film also starred the popular singing group The Andrews Sisters performing the Academy Award-nominated song “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Following the success of Buck Privates, Bud and Lou made an astounding 26 more movies at Universal leaving a legacy of laughter that will be treasured forever.
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Comedy legends Bud Abbott and Lou Costello cemented their place in film history with the hilarious wartime comedy classic Buck Privates. After spending years on stage in burlesque and on radio perfecting classic routines such as “Who’s on First?,” the duo transitioned to motion pictures at Universal in1940. In their first leading roles, Bud and Lou play con artists who accidentally enlist in the U.S. Army to avoid going to jail. Making matters worse, their no-nonsense drill sergeant turns out to be the cop who tried to arrest them! Featuring classic routines such as “Drill,” “Dice Game” and “You’re Forty, She’s Ten,” the film also starred the popular singing group The Andrews Sisters performing the Academy Award-nominated song “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Following the success of Buck Privates, Bud and Lou made an astounding 26 more movies at Universal leaving a legacy of laughter that will be treasured forever. Digitally Remastered and Fully Restored from High Resolution 35mm Original Film Elements.
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: 1941 Academy Awards®: Nominated: Best Original Song for “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” for Hughie Prince and Don Raye. Nominated: Original Music Score for Scoring of a Musical Picture for Charles Previn. Abbott and Costello performed a radio adaptation of the ‘BUCK PRIVATES’ on the Lux Radio Theater on 13th October, 1941. Japan used this film as propaganda to demonstrate to its own troops the "incompetence" of the United States Army. The Andrews Sisters perform four songs during the course of the film: "You're a Lucky Fellow, Mr. Smith;" "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy;" "Bounce Me, Brother, With a Solid Four" and "(I'll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time." Their performance of "Bounce Me, Brother, With a Solid Four" also features one of the more famous “Lindy Hop” dance sequences of the swing era. Many dancers from Los Angeles, including Dean Collins, Jewel McGowan, Ray Hirsch, and Patty Lacey, are featured.
Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Lee Bowman, Jane Frazee, Alan Curtis, Nat Pendleton, Laverne Andrews, Maxene Andrews and Patty Andrews (The Andrews Sisters), Samuel S. Hinds, Harry Strang, Nella Walker, Leonard Elliott, Shemp Howard, M.J. Frankovich, Dora Clement, Jean Brooks, Janet Warren, Kay Leslie, Nina Orla, Dorothy Darrell, The World Champion Boogie Woogie Dancers, Al Billings (uncredited), Stanley Blystone (uncredited), John Butler (uncredited), John L. Cason (uncredited), Charles Coleman (uncredited), Frank Cook (uncredited), Frankie Dolan (uncredited), Kenne Duncan (uncredited), James Flavin (uncredited), Lloyd Ford (uncredited), Harold Goodwin (uncredited), William Gould (uncredited), Frank Grandetta (uncredited), Eddie Hall (uncredited), J. Anthony Hughes (uncredited), Selmer Jackson (uncredited), Frank Penny (uncredited), Franklin D. Roosevelt (uncredited), Henry L. Stimson (uncredited), Tom Tyler (uncredited), Robert Wayne (uncredited), Douglas Wood (uncredited) and Carleton Young (uncredited)
Director: Arthur Lubin
Producer: Alex Gottlieb
Screenplay: Arthur T. Horman and John Grant (special material for Abbott and Costello)
Composer: Charles Previn
Cinematography: Jerome Ash and Milton R. Krasner
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo and English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French
Running Time: 84 minutes
Region: Blu-ray: All Regions and DVD: NTSC
Studio: Universal Studios
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘BUCK PRIVATES’  was the film that launched Abbott and Costello into Hollywood superstardom. In the fall of 1940, with the Draft Bill freshly signed into law by FDR, the Hollywood studios were scrambling to develop screenplays cantered on the selective service. Amongst those houses was Universal, which opted to roll the dice and place their project square on the shoulders of a pair of burlesque comics who had only appeared in supporting roles in one previous movie, the unmemorable musical revue ‘One Night in the Tropics’ . The end result, ‘BUCK PRIVATES’ , launched Bud Abbott and Lou Costello as the dominant draws of WWII-era show business and spawned numerous. The film also grossed $4.7 million in a time when tickets cost a quarter, and outdrew such prestigious contemporary productions as ‘Citizen Kane,’ ‘How Green Was My Valley,’ ‘Sergeant York’ and ‘Here Comes Mr. Jordan.’
What passes for a plot in ‘BUCK PRIVATES’ would set the formula for Abbott & Costello's run in Hollywood, providing just enough story to give the gifted clowns of patter a setting to perform their stage-honed shtick. Sidewalk hucksters Slicker Smith [Bud Abbott] and Herbie Brown [Lou Costello] are rousted from their attempts to earn a marginally honest living by an angry cop [Nat Pendleton], and duck into a busy theatre in hopes of escape. They wind up realizing too late that the movie house has been converted into an enlistment centre, and that the "prize drawing" they signed for was a stint with Uncle Sam. Things get even worse when they report to boot camp, and discover that Pendleton is their master sergeant.
Basic training lent a contemporary context for Bud Abbott and Lou Costello brand of comedy, and audiences of the day responded enthusiastically. This was best demonstrated in the sequence where Bud Abbott attempts to guide the hapless Lou Costello through drill ("Throw your chest out!" "I'm not done with it!"), which necessitated a dozen takes because Lou Costello kept cracking up according to director Arthur Lubin. Editor Phil Cahn was under orders to preserve every foot of it, and the end result of his cobbling is brilliant. Arthur Lubin recounted how the stage veterans had some initial trouble adjusting to their new medium. "They played to the people on the set instead of the camera. They were used to having a live audience and missed getting laughs. But they learned quickly and we had a lot of fun on that picture." From Bud Abbott's attempts to fleece the alleged novice Lou Costello at craps, to goading him to blast the radio in defiance of Nat Pendleton's orders, their interplay is captured in peak form.
Beyond Bud Abbott and Lou Costello's foible-filled escapades in basic training, the story presents a romantic triangle between a pretty camp hostess [Jane Frazee], an arrogant playboy [Lee Bowman] certain that his father's pull will get him out of service, and his pushed-to-the-limit former valet [Alan Curtis]. Jan Frazee's support staff includes the singing Andrews Sisters, who use their multiple interludes to deliver such hits of the period as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy from Company B,” “Bounce Me Brother With a Solid Four” and “I'll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time.” In structure, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello feels like a filmed vaudeville revue, alternating comedy skits with musical numbers. The only thing I felt that let this film down is that some of the comedy between Bud Abbott and Lou Costello just did not resonate with me, and at times I found that the comedy was not funny, especially when Bud Abbott would want to belittle Lou Costello, which I found cruel and very unfunny, but luckily there is a lot more going on in the film and the brilliant songs performed by The Andrew Sisters helped me to enjoy this 1941 Black-and-White film, and especially seeing it in the glorious Blu-ray format, like it should be seen and not in that terrible inferior picture quality DVD format.
The film was a huge hit with audiences at the time and made big time movie stars of Bud and Lou. They were the top Box Office Stars in 1942, remaining in the top tier at the box office for the rest of the decade. A sequel to ‘BUCK PRIVATES’ aptly titled ‘Buck Privates Come Home’ with Nat Pendleton recreating his role as Sgt. Michael Collins. Even though it is seven decades since ‘BUCK PRIVATES’ was in the cinema and The Andrew Sisters and the music of the time, the military draft, both now things of the past, it is easy to see why this film was such a big hit in its time and remains even today a bundle of laughs. The Abbott and Costello routines remain classic bits of comedy spreading laughs across generations and the music has a rhythm that is as toe tapping today as it was back then. The romantic subplot is such a dud that it barely even registers, but there are some gags that make good use of the props determined by the setting Abbott and Costello’s best gags often involve their play with the genre of the film they’re in, and ‘BUCK PRIVATES’ best scene involves Bud Abbott serving as a drill sergeant for the incompetent Lou Costello.
Blu-ray Video Quality – This Universal Pictures presentation of ‘BUCK PRIVATES’ is presented in a stunning Black-and-White 1080p encoded image, with an equally impressive 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Some scenes show very clear evidence, particularly the wargames exercise, where any cut from the rougher stock footage of tanks and planes to the close-ups of the lead players immediately shows a quantum drop in the grain presence and it is evidently due to the use of DNR [Digital Noise Reduction] to smooth out the image when the cast is involved. There are several other scenes where the DNR is evident, but there are also scenes where the picture quality is quite good. A shot of the enlistees marching past a pond, to the tune of “I’ll Be With You When It’s Apple blossom Time,” shows a lot of lovely detail in the reflection of the water.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – This Universal Pictures presentation of ‘BUCK PRIVATES’ has a choice of two audio tracks, which are 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo and 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo, that provides the best possible sound quality from the elements. The songs by the Andrews Sisters come through loud and clear, as do the rat-a-tat back and forth between Abbott & Costello. This is a solid presentation of the audio elements.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Abbott and Costello Meet Jerry Seinfeld  [480i] [1.33:1] [45:41] Jerry Seinfeld pays tribute to the famous comedy team of Abbott & Costello. This NBC TV Special features classic film and television clips of the duo as well as never-before-seen home movies narrated by Lou Costello. When we first meet Jerry Seinfeld it is a mock up Vaudeville type theatre, with lookalike American old comedy stars, but it is just to set the scene on why Jerry Seinfeld loves this comedy duo of Abbott & Costello. Here we have a great wealth of information about Abbott & Costello’s rise to fame. We also get a great deal of material is shown, including the complete “Who’s on First?” routine from “The Naughty Nineties,” and a selection of hysterical clips from their 1950s live television programme. Where things fall short is in any thought of depth about the lives of the comics or what was actually happening behind the scenes. Some quick mentions are made to the tensions and competition between the two men, as well as a cursory mention of the tax problems that plagued them in the latter half of their career. But what we do get to hear a lot about Abbott & Costello from contributors like Budd Abbott, Jr.; Vickie Abbott-Wheeler; Paddy Costello-Humphreys; Chris Costello; Buzz Belmondo; Tisa Hibbs; Bart Williams; Burton Richardson; E.E. Bell; Debby Dodds; Eric Sharp and James Tumminia [Film producer].
Special Feature: 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics  [1080p] [1.78:1] [9:12] Here we get a great presentation on how Universal Pictures decided that the old classic films and some more up-to-date films needed restoring for the 21st Century and to explain the whole process, we have contributions from Bob O’Neil [Vice President of Image Assets/Preservation Universal Studio Vault Service]; Peter Schade [Vice President of Universal Studios Technical Services]; Rick Utley [Vice President of Preservation Services at KODAK Pro-Tek media Preservation]; Henry Ball [Engineer at Universal Studios Digital Services]; Phil R. Defibaugh [Mastering Supervisor at Universal Studios Technical Services]; Ken Tom [Mastering Supervisor at Universal Studios Technical Services] and John Edell [Supervising Sound Editor at Universal Studios Technical Services]. But what we also get to see how they take the whole film into a digital format so they can get rid of lots of tears that was in the original negative, as well colour fading and a really bad hissing soundtrack and again make it fit for the 21st Century, so making future generations appreciate these classic Universal Pictures films.
Special Feature: 100 Years of Universal: The Carl Laemmle Era  [1080p] [1.78:1] [8:40] Carl Laemmle was born in Germany in 17th January1867, and at the age of 17 years of age he persuaded his Father that his future was in America. The year is 1912 and seeking refuge from Thomas Edison’s aggressive patent-enforcement tactics, a Chicago-based film producer named Carl Laemmle sets up operation in the rural Californian sanctuary of “Hollywoodland.” Carl Laemmle’s life and work is the subject of this special feature, especially his creation of Universal Studios and originally the Universal Film Manufacturing Company, and the famous names and productions which emerged from that company. The personal interviews feature Carla Laemmle, niece of the mogul; Sarah Karloff and Bela Lugosi Jr., children of famed Hollywood actors; composer Howard Shore; actor John Malkovich; director Peter Bogdanovich; Steven J. Ross [Author of “Hollywood Left and Right”]; Jeff Pirtle [Director of Archives & Collections at NBCUniversal]; Jon Wilkman [Writer/Producer of “Moguls & Movie Stars”] and Robert S. Birchard [Author of “Early Universal City”]. We also get archival excerpts and historical insights shed new light on ‘Dracula’ ; ‘Phantom of the Opera’  and ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ , and other film classics.
Special Feature: 100 Years of Universal: Unforgettable Characters  [1080p] [1.78:1] [8:18] Here we get an in-depth insight into all the characters we have seen over the 100 Years with Universal Pictures. The special starts off in 1931 with the horror genre films, like ‘Dracula’ ; ‘Frankenstein’ ; ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’ ; ‘The Mummy’ ; ‘The Wolf Man’ ; ‘Creature From The Black Lagoon’  and ‘The Invisible Man’ . We then move onto the 1975 era and beyond with films like ‘JAWS’ ; ‘Jurassic Park’ ; ‘The Mummy’  and ‘King Kong’ . We also delve into characters that had disturbed minds like in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘PSYCHO’ , but we also take a look at quirky characters that have appeared in the Universal Pictures films and the announcer says, “Let’s hope we can look forward to another 100 years of films produced by Universal Pictures.
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [1.33:1] [1:34] This is the Original Theatrical trailer for the film ‘BUCK PRIVATES.’ This sadly is of very poor quality, but despite this, it is a great presentation.
BONUS: The Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook includes a 28-page stunning booklet about the film, the stars Abbott and Costello, the Andrews Sisters and the other actors, is in the center of this hard-shell 2 disc case, with stories about “the boys” and the other performers. Includes script dialogue from several skits, such as the "You're Forty and She's Ten" sketch. Also press book cuttings, reviews, a list of stats about the career of Abbott and Costello, and bios of all the performers.
Finally, at its finest, ‘BUCK PRIVATES’ achieves a measure of pre-war patriotism, and the worst it can be called is corny by today's standards. ‘BUCK PRIVATES’ is a relic of a bygone age, with a decidedly different comedy ethos than a lot of what's on display nowadays. But for those who grew up with Abbott & Costello, especially in the cinema, ‘BUCK PRIVATES’ remains one of their simplest, least forced entries, one which retains just the right amount of lunacy mixed in with some fantastic music interludes courtesy of the winning The Andrews Sisters. But who can resist the timeless humour of stars like Abbott & Costello, especially when so lovingly restored for this surprisingly accomplished Blu-ray debut. 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. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
And did I forget to say that the Andrews sisters really outdo themselves in Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy? Their definitive take on this tune must be among the top musical moments of the era. Accept no substitutes!
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