ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN

(1948)
With Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Glenn Strange, Vincent Price (uncredited; voice only)
Directed by Charles Barton
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

     One of Bud and Lou's most popular films, then and now, in which they tangle with the Frankenstein Monster, Count Dracula and The Wolf Man.  That all three monsters also happened to be under contract to Universal Studios is surely a coincidence.

     The antics of the team, more of a part of the story than usual, play against a straight plot that has Dracula looking for a new brain to tame the Monster, while Larry Talbot (the Wolf Man) attempts to stop the Count.  Lon Chaney Jr. is his usual sympathetic self as the chronically depressed Talbot.  Glenn Strange, who played the Monster in the two HOUSE OF films, finally gets some lengthier screen time.  The real treat of the film is the return of Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula, although, with 17 years passing since he first played the role, he seems to have almost as much makeup on as Chaney or Strange.  A&C, who loved to play practical jokes and have fun on the sets of their films, took care to treat Lugosi with respect and he responded with one of his loosest, most natural performances.

     The production values of A&C MEET FRANKENSTEIN are sufficiently creepy and dusty, are as good as those found in any of the Universal monster series. The story doesn't allow for many of Abbott and Costello's patented verbal routines, but there are plenty of jokes as well as a return to the "haunted house" humor (including the moving candle routine) of HOLD THAT GHOST, to which this entire film has a familiar resemblance.  Occasionally, the monsters themselves will be involved in some gags, but always in character, such as when The Monster takes his first look at Lou and howls in fright.

     Lou Costello, who like Bud Abbott, preferred gags and jokes (the older the better) over stories, didn't think much of this film, until his mother told him it was the best thing the team had ever done.  Something of a comeback for the team, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN also hamstrung Bud and Lou through the end of their movie career, as Universal quickly formulized the idea into a series of quasi-sequels (...MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN/ THE MUMMY/ DR. JEKYLL, etc.) that were sometimes amusing but never as good as A&C MEET FRANKENSTEIN.

     Some horror fans decry this film as a sorry conclusion to the Monster Cycle, but really, ever since GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE MUMMY'S HAND, with each film getting sillier and sillier, it was heading this way anyway.  I see ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN as a joint celebration of two of Universal's greatest contributions to the movies. 3½ - JB

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