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Introducing A & C to a new generation of comedy fans

Introducing A & C to a new generation of comedy fans dvd_abbotcostellobw.jpg
March 29, 2010 By G. Michael Dobbs Managing Editor A fun scary movie and a trip down memory lane are in this edition of the DVD review column.
I Sell the Dead
As I've noted in several recent columns, it seems that zombie movies have become a dominant sub-genre in horror movies during the past few years, but this film is certainly not a standard shambling living dead funfest. "I Sell the Dead" is a an often times funny in a very dark way -- inventive film with a script that is several notches above the average low-budget horror film. The film tells the story of two grave robbers, Arthur Blake (played by Dominic Monaghan) and Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden). We meet up with them as Grimes is being executed for murder and Blake is recounting their story to an inquisitive priest (horror genre favorite Ron Perlman) while he waits for his date with the guillotine. The two started out as grave robbers at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century as all resurrectionists did: working for a doctor who needed corpses for his underground examinations of human anatomy. All of that changes when they are dispatched to fetch a recently buried corpse at a crossroads. The team is not all that bright and is bewildered by why this body has a wreath of garlic bulbs around its neck and a wooden stake in its chest. When they remove the stake for greater ease in transportation, they have their first brush with the supernatural -- a very hungry vampire. Thus begins their specialty: procuring the abnormal dead. Watching the making of feature on the DVD reinforces just how competent and clever first time director Glenn McQuaid (who also wrote the script) is. McQuaid shot the film on location on Staten Island and Long Island, N.Y., and did so in a way that the low budget film never betrays the authenticity of the period piece. The two leads give very engaging performances as does Perlman, and the film moves at a quick pace with several major twists and turns. If you're a horror fan, you need to check out "I Sell the Dead."
The Abbott and Costello Show
If you're young enough never to have seen the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, I will try to explain the shtick of these two guys who dominated the movie comedy scene of the 1940s. Abbott was the straight man, playing a bit of a con artist who is linked at the hip to a classic "man child" character played by Costello. They specialized in broad comedy and slapstick. They were Martin and Lewis before Martin and Lewis. I suppose I have to now explain Martin and Lewis. You see, when you attempt to explain comedy, it falls apart. From their breakthrough film "Buck Privates" (1941) to the early 1950s, the team was among the top movie stars of the era. If nothing else, their routine "Who's on First" is one of the funniest and most respected comic dialogues ever written. In 1952, they shot two seasons of a half-hour television comedy series that saw wide syndication for the next 30 years. This series is now on DVD in a nine-disc set complete with extras that include a book on the team, four postcards and even some of Costello's home movies with commentary by two of his daughters. The show gave the team the chance to reprise their old routines, first developed in burlesque, in simple stories revolving around their efforts to find work and evade their landlord. The first season was a tad surreal with the comics breaking the fourth wall to come before the audience and speak about the action of the story. The first season also had Joe Besser, a guy in his late thirties or early forties, playing "Stinky," a little boy dressed in a turn-of-the-century Buster Brown outfit. Besser's and Costello's characters would frequently be in conflict -- two men-children for the price of one. The second season was more of standard sitcom with A & C as chronically unemployed guys always trying to punt a scheme over their landlord. Like all comedy, A & C is a matter of taste. Since I grew up watching their movies, this series, which I've not seen before, was a hoot. I can't vouch that a non-Baby Boomer would find this material funny.

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