ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN(director: Charles Barton; screenwriters: John Grant/Robert Lees/Frederic I. Rinaldo; cinematographer: Charles Van Enger; editor: Frank Gross; music: Frank Skinner; cast: Lou Costello (Wilbur Gray), Bud Abbott (Chick Young), Bela Lugosi (Dracula), Lon Chaney [Jr] (Larry Talbot), Lenore Aubert (Sandra Mornay), Glenn Strange (The Frankenstein Monster), Joan Randolph (Joan Raymond), Charles Bradstreet (Professor Stevens), Frank Ferguson (MacDougal); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Arthur; Universal; 1948)
“The best of all the 35 Abbott and Costello movies made between 1940 and 1956.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The best of all the 35 Abbott and Costello movies made between 1940 and 1956, which might not be saying much–it was more silly than funny, but showed respect for Universal’s traditional monster films. In this monster spoof Universal brings out Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolf Man and the voice only of the Invisible Man (the voice is provided by Vincent Price). The 65-year-old Boris Karloff thought it would be undignified to goof over his monster in an Abbott and Costello vehicle and turned down the chance to play Frankenstein, as instead the part was given to Glenn Strange who had played the part in two other recent films. Dracula was played by Bela Lugosi, the one most identified with that part, while the Wolf Man was played by Lon Chaney [Jr], who was the only one to play that part at the time. This lively spoof put a rest to the Universal monsters for awhile. What made it work was that the monsters played it straight while the comedians acted in the same goofy manner they usually do, making it a hybrid horror-comedy.
Wilbur Gray (Lou Costello) and Chick Young (Bud Abbott) are two bumbling railway baggage handlers who receive a shipment of two crates from London to the MacDougal House of Horrors. The wax museum hopes to display the coffins of Count Dracula and Frankenstein, with their remains still intact. Before the crates arrive Larry Talbot phones from London warning Wilbur not to open the crates or ever give them to MacDougal, that Dracula is planning to revive Frankenstein by an electrical charge and use him as a slave to do his dirty work while he goes out after sunset looking for victims to bite. Chick tells his buddy not to be foolish, the monsters are not real–they are only movie characters. MacDougal doesn’t trust these nitwits to handle his valuable cargo, and forces them to deliver the crates at night to the museum where they will be opened in front of the insurance investigator. When the crates are empty, the clerks are placed in jail for theft but they are bailed out by Joan Raymond, a sly insurance investigator, who figures they will lead her to the valuable cargo. Meanwhile Talbot arrives from London and says he will help them destroy the monsters, but they better lock him up in his hotel room at night because the moon is full and that drives him crazy.
Classy Sandra Mornay, a corrupt scientist, is chasing after Wilbur, something Chick doesn’t understand why, but her hidden agenda is to take Wilbur’s brain and transfer it by an operation to a revived Frankenstein. She is under Dracula’s power, as the operation will also put Frankenstein under his power. The chic Sandra invites Wilbur to the masquerade ball at the creepy castle (Dracula’s digs but using an alias) and Wilbur brings Joan and Chick along. In the eerie castle, with trap doors, the comedians are met by serious research scientist Professor Stevens who is clueless that he’s working in Dracula’s castle, but is smart enough to know how to put on the moves to snag the looker Joan. As expected the fraidy-cat Wilbur finally convinces the know-it-all Doubting Thomas pal of his that these monsters are for real and it leads to the zany finish of trying to get out of the castle in one piece with all the monsters in their pursuit.
There’s a funny exchange between Chaney and Costello: Wolf Man “You don’t understand. Every night when the moon is full, I turn into a wolf.” Wilbur “You and twenty million other guys!”
REVIEWED ON 7/19/2005 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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