PLAYING IT STRAIGHT
A Video Review of "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein"
Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker
I must have seen Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein from 1948 dozens of times when I was a kid back in the 1970s. It was a Sunday afternoon tradition around my house. We’d get home from church just before noon and that was when the now defunct channel 48 out of Philadelphia would broadcast the Abbott and Costello movies. They showed them all from Buck Privates to The World of Abbott & Costello, maybe four or five times each. When they replaced them with the considerably less entertaining Ma and Pa Kettle movies viewer complaints got the A&C films back on. Those were good times and Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein was one of the best.
Lou Costello (who for those not in the know was not the idiot portrayed in the movies but in reality the brains of the pair) originally didn’t want to make ‘that crap’ regarding the film. He said his baby daughter could write a better script. Costello caved when his partner Bud Abbott and director Charles T. Barton (who directed some of the best of the A&C movies as well as coincidentally the "Munsters" TV series) had already signed on. The $50,000 advance didn’t hurt either.
The trivia involved in this picture is almost mind-boggling. According to Universal Studios Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein is the official sequel to 1945’s House of Dracula and the next in their Universal monsters continuity. Bela Lugosi almost didn’t get to play Count Dracula in this one because the studio thought he was dead. Walt Lantz of Woody Woodpecker fame did the animation on the opening credit sequence as well as Dracula’s bat transformations.
The casting is Universal monster classic. As mentioned Bela was Dracula who along with Lon Chaney Jr. reprising his Larry Talbot role including one of the more convincing Wolfman transformations and Glenn Strange doing his Frankenstein’s monster round out the trio of fiends. Foreign beauty Lenore Aubert is serviceable as the nefarious Dr. Mornay and watch out for the Invisible Man at the end voiced by Vincent Price.
The simple story of freight movers stumbling into Dracula’s plans to find a suitable brain for Frankenstein’s monster moves along well. The madcap Bud and Lou meld seamlessly into the world of Universal horror. What really makes this work is that the monsters all play it straight. The horror actors are all deadly serious. It’s a good contrast to the capers of A&C.
This one also contains one of the best Lou Costello lines. When Wolfman Larry Talbot says "You don’t understand. Every night when the moon is full, I turn into a wolf."
Lou replies "You and twenty million other guys!"
See Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. It’s one of the best.
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