|Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Dir: Charles Barton
Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Lon Chaney Jr, Bela Lugosi, Glenn Strange, Lenore Aubert, Jane Randolph
I’d originally planned to do Val Lewton’s Cat People but due to poor planning, I’ll dust off this ‘ol gem instead. Though in a way this is just important as it might be the first great horror/comedy, at least the first that comes to my mind. What happens when you cross old school comedy with old school horror? Sheer brilliance, with no shortage of scenes where are duo wander in rooms, blissfully unaware of monster’s right behind them. Like this one scene where Costello sits on the Frankenstein Monsters lap and– Maybe I should first explain how all these characters are in the same movie.
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello play Chic and Wilbur, railway baggage clerks in LaMirada, Florida. The film opens with Lon Chaney Jr. reprising his role as “The Wolfman” calling the depot and begging them to hold two packages until he gets there. Unfortunately he’s in London and it just happens to be a full moon. The conversation carries on with Wilbur thinking his talking to a dog until another man named McDougal shows up and requests the same two packages. He claims to have acquired them for his “House of Horrors” and also claim that they are indeed the bodies of Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and Frankenstein’s Monster (Glenn Strange.) McDougal demands the duo deliver them in person to his museum and hilarity ensues.
Later on we find out that a woman named Sandra (Lenore Aubert) is seducing Wilbur so she (partnered with Dracula) can put Wilbur’s brain in the Frankenstein Monster. Why? I have absolutely no idea, but it’s a hilarious haunted romp. Abbott and Costello have such incredible chemistry and their routine never gets old. Lou Costello is the simple minded, clumsy, moron while Bud Abbott fills the often underrated role of the pissed off straight man. As Groucho Marx once said regarding Abbott “He’s the Greatest Straight Man Ever.” I felt that was worth addressing as he’s often overshadowed by the silliness of his partner.
What’s amazing is it’s actually a fairly good horror film as well. Anytime Universal is involved you know it’ll go that extra mile and it does. I mean the story is pretty moronic but it is also a comedy so it finds a pleasing mid ground. Lon Chaney Jr. and Bela Lugosi are a real treat to see fighting together and although you miss the presence of Karloff, Glenn Strange is a suitable Frankenstein’s Monster.
Abbot and Costello made dozens of films together and from what I’ve heard this is supposedly one of their best, at least their most famous. It brought classic comedy and horror fans into the same theater and there’s nothing wrong with that. I might even check out some more Abbott and Costello flicks after Halloween. Then again they do have several other horror related flicks, hmm.