Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Today’s movie represents my second foray into the Universal Horror series… sort of. Apparently there is a fair amount of disagreement as to whether Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein should count as the last entry in the series. It was produced in 1948 it features a trio of monsters all portrayed by the actors that played them in the rest of the series: Lon Chaney as Lawrence Talbot/The Wolfman, Bela Lugosi as Dracula, and Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s Monster). On the other hand, it’s a fairly broad comedy and despite being produced under the name Frankenstein’s Brain, it wound up with the names of its comedic leads in the title. I’m inclined to think that it’s got to be its own canonical entity, but the presence of the “real” monsters does add to the fun.
Abbott and Costello star as Chick and Wilbur, a pair of freight handlers who’s lives take an interesting turn when they’re assigned to deliver a pair of crates purported to contain the actual remains of Count Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster to a “house of horrors.” Of course, it turns out that the remains are exactly what they’re purported to be, except that Dracula is still very much un-dead, and plotting to re-energize the monster by giving him a new and more simple-minded brain: Costello’s.
If you’ve seen anything from Abbott and Costello, then there’s really nothing new to their performances here. Still, good comedy is good comedy, and for the most part, that’s what they deliver. There’s also not much new to the performances by the monsters, but that’s really not what this is about. This movie is about taking two wildly different types of movies, throwing them together, and seeing what happens. As it turns out, what happens is a lot of fun. The combination of the cynical Abbott, the bumbling Costello, and the straight-forward performances by Lugosi and Chaney, (despite the title the Monster is largely intert until the film’s final six minutes,) somehow combines to create a very memorable movie. Of course, what I’ll probably remember most is the uncreditetd, but unmistakable vocal cameo by Vincent Price.
This is really an oddly funny movie. On one hand it’s a bizzare way for Universall to have wrapped up it’s classic moster movie sereies of the 30’s and 40’s, and yet the spectacle of Bela Lugosi chasing Lou Costello on those iconic sets, is probably enough to make the film noteworthy by itself. Add in some clever comedy and a decent monster movie plot, and it’s just a fun way to spend an hour and a half. Would I rank it as one of the top 60 comedies of all time? (As AFI did in 2000.) Probably not, but I certainly think its worth seeing.
[Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) – Directed by Charles Barton – Unrated]