The Bootleg Files: Abbott & Costello Meet Superman

BOOTLEG FILES 704: “Abbott & Costello Meet Superman” (2015 fan film).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.


It’s kind of obvious what is going on here.

They’re lucky that Mike the Cop doesn’t arrest them.

Fan films often represent a victory of enthusiasm over talent, with aspiring Spielbergs getting carried away with their mania over popular film franchises. For the most part, these films can be accepted as charming – a few are actually quite polished thanks to an intelligent use of digital effects.

But every now and then, a fan film comes along that is so much fun that it deserves to be called out. Such is the case of something called “Abbott and Costello Meet Superman,” which combines two very different film franchises into one brilliantly ridiculous experience.

Shot in wonderful black-and-white, “Abbott and Costello Meet Superman” opens with a series of anime-style drawings with the eponymous characters getting acquainted. In these drawings, Superman is upset to find Costello wearing his celebrated costume while Abbott tries to fast-talk an explanation for the duo’s antics. The opening credits give proper attribution to Superman’s creators and Abbott and Costello’s material, but it also borrows drawings from the Fleischer Superman cartoons and the Abbott and Costello animated series that television in the 1960s.

We are then presented with a view of what appears to be an abandoned factory along a river, but a caption appears informing us that it is actually “Metropolis State Prison.” An escaped convict disguising himself in a trench coat walks out from under a bridge by the river, only to be confronted by someone identifying himself as a “down on his luck dentist.” The dentist tries to snag an unpeeled avocado that the convict is about to eat and offers to trade the fruit for a comic book. The convict takes the comic book and shoves the dentist away. But when the convict starts to read the comic book, he realizes it features Superman. Angry to be reminded of the Man of Steel, he drops the comic book and crushes it under foot.

The viewer is then taken to an office building. Inside a conspicuously empty suite, Daily Planet editor Perry White is assaulted by would-be reporters Abbott and Costello seeking employment. This version of Abbott and Costello are played by young men who wear suits, oversized hats (a fedora for Abbott and a derby for Costello) and fall into the familiar pattern of an overbearing Bud and a frustrated Lou. But White in unimpressed and barks, “Get out my office! You’re not reporters, you’re con artists!”

We then get treated to some Abbott and Costello wordplay around the word “volts.” Costello first mistakes “volts” for “votes” until Abbott informs him that “volts” are “watts.” Costello’s bewilderment over “watts” reminds us that I Don’t Know is playing third base. White insists that Abbott and Costello find a Superman story, and Abbott promises an interview with Superman.

Outside of the House of Frankenstein Wax Museum, Abbott cons Costello into playing Superman for a fraud designed to get the duo jobs as reporters. The pair hold a press conference in an empty ballroom and who should show up but Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen – Clark has slicked back hair and dark rimmed glasses and Jimmy has an ill-fitting suit and cap. Then, the escaped convict (remember him?) shows up dressed like he walked out of an RKO film noir. The press conference begins and Lou comes out with his zaftig body shoehorned into a Superman costume. Abbott interviews the fake Superman but keeps interrupting him in a manner reminiscent of the fabled comics’ “Jonah and the Whale” routine.

Clark Kent has enough of this nonsense and disappears, only to reappear as Superman – or a rather skinny and muscle-free facsimile. The convict then pulls out a gun to recount how the superhero sent him to prison, and then he pulls out a chunk of Kryptonite that disables the superhero. Abbott and Costello knock the kryptonite out of the villain’s grip and after a bit of knockabout the day is saved. Superman is not angry with Bud and Lou – he shakes hands with them as the evildoer is vanquished. Alas, Abbott and Costello don’t get jobs at the Daily Planet, but Jimmy Olsen clues them to a job in Gotham City.

“Abbott and Costello Meet Superman” was written and directed by Aaron Lambert, who also played Abbott opposite Jake Navatka’s Costello. Their imitations are very amusing – Lambert approximates Abbott’s growl and Navatka gets Costello’s gestures down perfect. Billy Tom Myott played Clark Kent/Superman – and while physically wrong, he gets the character’s personality down without problem. From what I can gather via the Internet Movie Database, the film and its creators are based in upstate New York and have worked in that region’s indie film scene. This short was created under the banner of SpaceCat Entertainment and appears to be its only release.

Is “Abbott and Costello Meet Superman” great filmmaking? Well, not really – the production is obviously threadbare and the story’s ending feels rushed. But the young cast is clearly enjoying themselves and their invigorating energy compensates for whatever wobbles that turn up on screen. In watching this, one has to rue the fact that Universal Pictures didn’t consider this for the real Bud and Lou – the idea of Abbott and Costello joining forces with the 1950s-era George Reeves’ Superman would have been priceless. Pity that Aaron Lambert wasn’t around back in the day to make this really happen.

This film’s creators include closing credit acknowledgment that the film was created for “entertainment purposes only” and was not designed to generate profit or spirit away licensing from established entities – a nice touch. “Abbott and Costello Meet Superman” is on YouTube, and it deserves to be seen because it is a cute little film that will entertain viewers who grew up on these franchises.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: While this weekly column acknowledges the presence of rare film and television productions through the so-called collector-to-collector market, this should not be seen as encouraging or condoning the unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material, either through DVDs or Blu-ray discs or through postings on Internet video sites.

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