I’m a lifelong fan of Halloween and Universal Horror films. From “The Phantom of the Opera”(1925) to “The Wolfman”(1941), I own the entire catalog.
And, when you take those classic monster movies and add in the hilarity of the top comedy duo of the day, you end up with the hit comedy-horror flick “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948).
Starring the legendary comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello the production has the reputation of being the final nail in the coffin of taking seriously Universal Horror monsters. The film is also considered the swan song for the “Big Three” Universal horror monsters – Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi), Frankenstein’s monster played by (Glenn Strange), and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.), none of whom had appeared in a Universal film since 1945’s House of Dracula.
The movie makes glorious fun of the classic monsters, Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman and is one of my all-time favorites!
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (the film’s poster title), or Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (the onscreen title)—although the film is usually referred to as simply Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein—is a 1948 American horror comedy film directed by Charles Barton and starring the comedy team of Abbott and Costello. The picture is the first of several films where the comedy duo meets classic characters from Universal’s horror film stable. (Wikipedia)
The plot revolves around Lawrence Talbot-The Wolfman (Lon Chaney, Jr.) making an urgent call from London to a Florida railway station where Chick Young (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello) work as baggage clerks. Wilbur answers the phone, and Talbot tries to impart to him the danger of a shipment due to arrive for the “McDougal House Of Horrors”, a local wax museum, which purportedly contains the actual bodies of Count Dracula (Béla Lugosi) and the Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange).
Bud and Lou at work
However, before he is able to warn Wilbur, a full moon rises, and Talbot transforms into The Werewolf. Wilbur, thinking the call is a prank, hangs up and continues on with his work day. Later that night, Chick and Wilbur arrive at McDougal’s “House Of Horrors”, open the first crate and find a coffin with “Dracula” inscribed on the front.
When Chick leaves to retrieve the second crate, Wilbur witnesses Dracula awaken and he tries to get Chick’s attention. However, when Chick returns with the second crate, Dracula hides just in time to go unnoticed. Dracula hypnotizes Wilbur and re-animates Frankenstein’s Monster. The plot thickens as Dracula intends to transplant Wilbur’s brain into the Frankenstein Monster. What could possibly go wrong?
The film is peppered with classic Abbott and Costello humor. In a discussion whether Costello would share an extra female admirer of his:
Chick Young: You know the old saying? Everything comes in threes. Now suppose a third girl should fall in love with you?
Wilbur Grey: What’s her name?
Chick Young: We’ll say her name is Mary.
Wilbur Grey: Is she pretty?
Chick Young: Beautiful!
Wilbur Grey: Naturally, she’d have to be.
Chick Young: Now you have Mary, you have Joan, and you have Sandra. So, to prove to you that I’m your pal, your bosom friend, I’ll take one of the girls off your hands.
Wilbur Grey: Chick, you’re what I call a real pal… you take Mary.
The film was originally intended to be titled The Brain of Frankenstein, but its name was changed prior to the filming schedule, which ran from February 5 through March 20, 1948.
During filming, Glenn Strange found Costello so funny he would often break up laughing, requiring many retakes (this is readily apparent in the scene where Costello sits on the Monster’s lap).
Boris Karloff refused to actually see this film, although he did help promote the film and can be seen in several publicity photos, including one where he is buying a ticket. Karloff appeared with the duo the next year in Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff, and in 1953 in Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
During the scene in the laboratory where the Monster comes after Chick and Wilbur after throwing Sandra through the window, Glenn Strange stepped on a camera cable, causing the camera to fall and break some bones in his foot. Lon Chaney, Jr., who was not working that day and who had previously played the Monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein, took over the role of the Monster for that scene as well as the scene where the monster is throwing barrels and crates at Wilbur and Chick while they are trying to escape in a rowboat at the pier.
This was the only time Béla Lugosi reprised the role he had created in Dracula (1931). He had previously portrayed vampires in Mark of the Vampire (1935), The Return of the Vampire (1943) and would do so again in Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952) (and made a gag cameo as Dracula in a 1933 Hollywood on Parade short), but this was the only other time he played Dracula as a sustained role on film.
Abbott and Costello were a comedy double act during the early Classical Hollywood era of American cinema. The team was composed of William “Bud” Abbott and Lou Costello whose work in vaudeville and on stage, radio, film and television made them the most popular comedy team during the 1940s and early 1950s. Their patter routine “Who’s on First?” is one of the best-known comedy routines of all time and set the framework for many of their best-known comedy bits. (Wikipedia)
In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein”culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry, and in September 2007, Readers Digest selected the movie as one of the top 100 funniest films of all time. The film is number 56th on the list of the “American Film Institute’s 100 Funniest American Movies”. (Wikipedia)
“Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” is a playful romp through the Universal Horror franchise and a great family movie to add to your Halloween viewing list.