Thursday, February 11, 2010

Review: "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" is Still Fun


TRASH IN MY EYE No. 217 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Bud Abbott & Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) Black and White
Running time: 83 minutes
DIRECTOR: Charles T. Barton
WRITERS: Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo, and John Grant
PRODUCER: Robert Arthur
EDITOR: Frank Gross


Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Lon Chaney, Jr., Bela Lugosi, Glenn Strange, Lenore Aubert, Jane Randolph, Frank Ferguson, and Charles Bradstreet with (uncredited voice) Vincent Price

Bud Abbot and Lou Costello are hapless railroad baggage clerks Chick Young (Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Costello). They receive a strange shipment meant for a local attraction called the House of Horrors, two crates allegedly supposedly containing the last remains of Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange). However, the infamous creatures are very much alive, and they leave their crates and slip quietly away to a secret island hideaway. Meanwhile, the House of Horrors owner, Mr. McDougal (Frank Ferguson), blames Chick and Wilbur for the disappearance of the crates’ contents, so the duo follows Dracula and the monster’s trail to the secret hideaway island. They discover that Dracula has also joined forces with a mad scientist, Dr. Sondra Mornay (Lenore Aubert), who is determined to transplant Costello’s brain into monster. The problem is that Mornay had been pretending to be in love with Wilbur.

In the intervening time, a strange man named Lawrence “Larry” Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) showed up looking for the crates. Larry Talbot is really the Wolfman, and he joins Chick and Wilbur’s search for Dracula, Dr. Mornay, and Frankenstein’s monster, all the while fighting his transformations into the Wolfman every time the full moon appears (coincidentally several times in this film). Can Chick, Wilbur, and the Wolfman stop Dracula and the scientist before they remove Costello’s brain?

Many people consider Bud Abbott & Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (also well known as Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein) to be the comedy team’s best film outing. The film was a huge hit when it opened in 1948, and it has retained an international cult following. The other thing that the film has going for it is that frequent Abbott & Costello helmsman Charles Barton directed it.

Besides the presence of Barton and one of the 20th century’s finest comedic duos of the stage, film, and television, the other element makes the film a favorite is the fact that the film monsters, Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Wolfman, are played straight, and the actors: Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Glenn Strange as the monster, and Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Wolfman give inspired performances. They obviously take their roles and performances damn seriously, and it shows. The three classic creatures of Universal Studios’ film line, Universal Horror, are in top form and are as menacing as they ever were in straight horror films.

The blend of Abbott & Costello’s timeless comedy and the Universal Monsters horror creates a peculiar film. The union does show its seams; the flick is more odd than very good. The black and white photography gives it a gentle supernatural aura and lightly spooky atmosphere. Still, that only makes Abbott & Costello Meets Frankenstein unique, which might be the reason it has never grown old or less funny.

6 of 10


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