What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Africa Screams (1949)

Next up, we have the 1949 Abbott and Costello comedy Africa Screams. But before we get into that, I have one more poll to post.

Previously, I picked Doris Day for January 2021’s “Star Of The Month” (and have the movies to review, based on my poll for that). After that, I posted a poll to pick the star for February 2021, and I can announce that the choice was Clark Gable (of course, I’ll be picking the four movies I review for that month). Now, I have one last poll to pick the star for March 2021 (and I’ll be picking the movies for whomever wins). So, get your vote in, and I’ll be ready to start working on it! Now, back to our regularly scheduled review…

Buzz Johnson (Bud Abbott) and his buddy Stanley Livington (Lou Costello) are working at Kloppers department store when they are both approached about a map in a now out-of-print book. Stanley is willing to draw the map, but Buzz smells the opportunity for some serious money, especially when he learns that Diana Emerson (Hillary Brooke) is hiring Clyde Beatty (played by himself) to lead an African safari. Buzz makes Diana drag them along on the safari, much to Stanley’s dismay (since he is scared of all animals, big and small). Once on the trip, Buzz again overhears Diana talking to her two thugs about diamonds in the area, and he tries to have Stanley draw the map, only to learn that Stanley didn’t know the right map! So, the safari keeps going on, while Stanley worries about his reputation (well, it’s more like Buzz, since he’s the one constantly getting Stanley into trouble). Eventually, Buzz and Stanley accidentally stumble across some diamonds, but find themselves captured by a tribe of African cannibals. They escape, but the natives want to make a deal with Diana to get them back! So now Buzz and Stanley are on the run from everybody (all the while, of course, Buzz is obsessed with getting HIS damonds)!

Africa Screams was Abbott and Costello’s second independent film, following the previous year’s The Noose Hangs High. The associate producer for the movie, David S. Garber, was a studio manager at Universal Studios. He helped bring Bud and Lou to Nassour Studios for this movie, and brought much of the crew that had been working with Bud and Lou on their films at Universal. The film’s title was a reference to the 1930 documentary Africa Speaks, and for Africa Screams, they brought in explorer Frank Buck, who had done a number of early safari treks on film, as well as lion tamer Clyde Beatty. Bud and Lou ended up not getting along with the Nassour brothers, who were very money-conscious, and complained about the money Bud and Lou spent on pies for periodic pie fights to alleviate the tension. The Nassour brothers fought back by painting the set and charging it to the production, to Lou’s dismay and refusal to pay. Personally, I’m on Bud and Lou’s side, and I almost wish I could have visited this set when the movie was being made, if only to have some fun being involved with the pie fights!

Until recently, I had seen Africa Screams once before, on a DVD rented from Netflix a decade or so ago. Since the movie itself had long before fallen into the public domain, it was one of those DVDs put out by many different labels that utilized a very poor transfer. As a result, I didn’t really take to the movie at the time, nor did I bother to look into finding a decent transfer on disc in spite of my fondness for Abbott and Costello. However, with the recent release of the movie on an official Blu-ray (more on that in a moment), I was willing to give it a try. This time around, it was well worth it! I had a lot more fun with the movie, enjoying the antics of the then-current Stooge Shemp Howard as the very nearsighted hunter (if you can call him that with his vision, or lack thereof) Gunner, plus future Stooge (and costar on The Abbott And Costello Show TV series) Joe Besser. Of course, Lou is a lot of fun, and most of his best moments are with some of the animals, whether it be the small kitten that scares him at the beginning, or the “crocodiles,” or especially with the ape portrayed by Charles Gemora. Admittedly, the movie does have some issues that make it of its time, such as some of the images underneath the opening credits (which are barely noticeable unless you’re really looking at them), as well as a special effect near the end of the movie that renders some of the African natives white in the face from fear. Still, these are minor problems in a movie that is otherwise a lot of fun (certainly more than I remembered), and it is one that I would quite heartily recommend!

In the late 1980s, Robert Furmanek located some surviving 35mm nitrate elements of the movie, and did the best he could for the time being. However, in the time since, the movie has seen many a home video release (due to its public domain status), with few releases offering up good quality. In December 2019, Robert Furmanek started a Kickstarter campaign to restore the movie, as the elements were starting to deteriorate. The campaign was very successful, and the movie was given a 4K restoration by him and his team at 3-D Film Archive. The new transfer was licensed out to Classicflix for a limited, special edition on Blu-ray and DVD. It’s been a while in coming, and it was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020. Having seen it, all I can say is that IT’S WELL WORTH IT!!! The movie itself looks fantastic, and I have no complaints about it. But wait, THERE’S MORE!! Also included is the Abbott and Costello comedy sketch “The Rubdown,” taken from a performance on live TV from 1953, which has been restored from a kinescope, a radio show from 1948 with Bela Lugosi (with the original unedited version that includes audience warm-ups and other stuff, plus what was actually broadcast), an Abbott and Costello comic book in 3-D, outtakes/bloopers, and more! Honestly, if this doesn’t make for one of the best releases of the year, I’d be surprised, its just that good! From what I’ve heard, another label, VCI, is putting out the Abbott and Costello film Jack And The Beanstalk later this year, and will include Africa Screams as a bonus feature, but that will NOT be the new transfer released by Classicflix. So, if you want Africa Screams looking the best it has in a LONG time, get this Classicflix release while it is still available (last information I heard was that it was limited to 2,500 copies, and it was selling pretty good, so don’t wait)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Classicflix as a limited special edition exclusive to their own website and their eBay store, and is one hour, twenty-five minutes in length (the last five minutes are the restoration/Kickstarter donor credits).

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

*ranked #10 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2020

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Mexican Hayride (1948)Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello – Abbott And Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff (1949)

Coming Up Shorts! with… What’s Buzzin’ Buzzard? (1943)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

Welcome to my new feature on various theatrical shorts! Sometimes my comments will be on shorts included as extras on a disc set I am reviewing, and other times, they will be completely unrelated to the movie being reviewed (and I will try to indicate which). Hope you enjoy!

(Length: 8 minutes, 12 seconds)

Two very hungry buzzards decide to try to eat each other, to hilarious effect! With one of the buzzards being a very obvious imitation of star James Durante (at least, for those of us who still know who he was), I certainly got a kick out of it! And wile it was very much a satire of the food rationing going on at the time, back in WWII, it still manages to work well. Throw in a gag that reminds you that this short was originally seen in theatres, and it’s a fun watch (just don’t watch it when you’re hungry, or the closing gag will REALLY make you hungry, unless you’re vegetarian)!

And stay tuned for more of Coming Up Shorts! featuring cartoons by Tex Avery (and the eventual post on the entire Volume 1 set), along with other shorts!

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