‘The Noose Hangs High’ Blu-Ray Review – Abbott And Costello Delight In Breezy Comedic Romp Despite Recycled Material

With recent discussions about Laurel and Hardy and The Marx Brothers, it feels right to be rounding out the holy trinity of comedy groups by exploring the work of Abbott and Costello. Like those other groups, Abbott and Costello were insanely popular in their day with a consistent output of feature films to supplement their stage shows. By the late 1940s, many might say the best days of the duo were behind them, but that did not stop Universal Pictures from signing a lucrative new deal with them. That agreement would reignite their box office returns thanks to the savvy pairing with Universal monsters such as Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and The Mummy. Yet this deal also allowed the pair to make one film a year outside of the studio. While initially a Universal project, the gentlemen first used their new clause to purchase the story for what would become 1948’s The Noose Hangs High, itself a remake of For Love or Money from 1939. The film is a minor entry in their career with recycled bits from previous efforts utilized here, but even minor Abbott and Costello remains a very funny time. 

In this outing, the pair play Ted Higgins (Bud Abbott) and Tommy Hinchcliffe (Lou Costello), a couple of window washers who get into a real mess once they are mistaken for employees of a messenger service. A quick and convoluted series of events leads to our hapless protagonists getting taken advantage of and blamed for losing $50,000 for a very powerful businessman. There is little suspense as to who ends up with the money, as we see the lovely assistant Carol (Cathy Downs) become the unexpected recipient of the windfall. While initially careful to try to rectify the oversight, Carol eventually blows through the money in quick succession and leaves the guys trying to figure out how exactly they are going to replace the funds. The drama is definitely secondary to any comedy that is on the docket, which is what you would expect from the pair. By the time you reach the end of this journey, you will struggle to remember any of the secondary characters, but you will remember the comedic bits they run through. 

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Not surprisingly, this plot is not taken too seriously as it is fashioned to flow as a series of vignettes. The opening of the film feels especially like an addendum to pad out the very lean 77 minute film. Tommy is first seen in agony over a toothache that has devolved into him trying to coach his pooch to yank it out with a string. This is later punctuated by an outlandish visit to the dentist who might just give you nightmares from his incompetence. These bits in particular lean into the physical humor of Costello more than anything. While very amusing, I am more partial to the verbal repartee between the duo. There are back-to-back classic bits featured at a final dinner scene; the first concerns Tommy’s lack of affection for mustard for which Ted tries to rally, and the other analyzes how differences in age change over time. Abbott and Costello have impeccable comedic timing which really brings big laughs, even if you happened to have caught similar bits from their previous work. The plot may be forgettable and somewhat padded, but for a jolt of their comedic prowess, this narrative does the trick. 

 

Video Quality

The Noose Hangs High makes its Blu-Ray debut thanks to ClassicFlix with a remastered 1080p transfer. For a film that is over 70 years old, this is a solid presentation that should please fans. The lovely black-and-white photography shines in high definition with natural grain intact. There is a pleasing amount of detail present with nice textures on the clothing and within the production design. The new transfer shows off a great amount of depth and enhanced detail within the film’s composition, but some portions can be a bit fuzzy. This may be attributed to some deficiencies in the source material which results in some fluctuations. Black levels are deep with no overwhelming occurrence of black crush or compression artifacts. The contrast is well defined, and the track only experiences very minor specks of damage and scratches. ClassicFlix has done some really great work here. 

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Audio Quality

The Blu-Ray comes with a fairly solid DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track that serves this movie well. This track does present with a minor amount of age related wear and tear and some slightly shallow sounding music and dialogue. The music never overpowers the dialogue or other important information. Dialogue and background noises are represented in perfect harmony with all competing elements. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles included for the feature film. The good folks at ClassicFlix have done their best to prove the most stable track possible for this one. 

Special Features

  • Trailer: The two-minute trailer is provided here. 
  • Image Gallery: A collection of rare stills, posters and promotional material is provided here. 

 

Final Thoughts

The Noose Hangs High may not be completely groundbreaking for Abbott and Costello fans, but as stitched together in this film the material is a lot of fun. The plot makes very little sense when you stop to think about it, but the important thing is it gives this duo a framework to unleash their charming sensibility. ClassicFlix has released a Blu-Ray that sports a solid A/V presentation but not much in the way of special features. If you are a fan of the duo, this release is a solid investment. Recommended 

The Noose Hangs High is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD.  

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: ClassicFlix has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.

 

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