Best BEANSTALK on DVD
yaremar | Pilsen, USA | 12/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This Abbott and Costello Double Feature from the Roan Group offers high-quality copies of AFRICA SCREAMS and JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, two ubiquitous "public domain" titles that can be found almost anywhere DVDs are sold. While it's superior to most copies in circulation, the Roan edition of AFRICA SCREAMS is not as crisp as some others. For example, the $1 disc from Digiview has noticeably sharper picture quality, particularly in an early sequence when Bud and Lou are outside Hillary Brooke's mansion at night. Curiously, both editions seem to have used the same source material for their DVD transfers, although the Digiview version cunningly edits out the copyright notice in the opening credits. (See my review for the Digiview release.)
That leaves JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, and if you've been searching for the best DVD copy currently available, this is it. (It seems to have been taken from the Image Entertainment laserdisc, which also featured some extras not included here.) The print used for this transfer was in excellent shape, and is a faithful representation of how the film was originally released in 1952: the opening and closing sequences are in sepiatone, and the "Super Cinecolor," though not as vibrant as Technicolor, is pleasing to the eye. (In most copies of JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, the color is washed out and dupey-looking.) It also has the original Warner Brothers opening logo and the closing-door "End" title that are missing from other DVD editions.
Both of these films were independently produced by the team. AFRICA SCREAMS is the funnier of the two, but neither can be ranked with their best efforts for Universal. (Although as a kid, JACK AND THE BEANSTALK was one of my favorite A&C pictures, and contains a number of still-amusing sequences.)
Since excellent-quality copies of AFRICA SCREAMS are available on other, cheaper discs, it would depend on how badly you want JACK AND THE BEANSTALK to pay the $19.98 list price for this edition. This is a title most collectors can live without. However, if you want to add it to your library, it is worth the extra expense to spare yourself having to sit through the generally mediocre copies available from other distributors. If you're planning to start collecting the team's films on DVD, I would suggest beginning with one of the first three BEST OF ABBOTT AND COSTELLO "Franchise Collection" volumes from Universal, which contain eight movies per two-disc set. You can generally find them for around $20 each...the same price as this Roan Group disc, which is best suited for completists.