“Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein”
Directed by Charles Barton
“A & CMF” is hands down one of my favorite Horror Comedies. Right up there with John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London, Tremors and Shaun of the Dead. The insanely popular status that this movie has garnered over the years is definitely warranted. It is witty, funny and yes even scary. It is the razor sharp template to follow if you want to get a horror / comedy done right. The best quality besides the impeccable timing of Abbott and Costello is the fact that that Director Charles Barton and writer Robert Lees treat the Universal Monsters with amazing respect and genuine admiration.
The movie does not parody or pander regarding our beloved monsters In this case – Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolf Man. Yep, the whole gang is here and what a fun and hilarious ride it is. It is hands down a very nostalgic piece of movie perfection for me. Eventually A & C would go on to team up with Jekyll and Hyde, The Mummy and even the Invisible Man (Another one of my faves). For now though we get not just one monster but 3 in this one.
Chick (to Wilbur) – “Answer the bell! Answer the phone!”
Wilbur – “Which one do you want me to answer first?”
Chick – “Both of ’em!”
The boys, in this film Bud is Chick and Lou is Wilbur, are baggage clerks at a Railway Station in Florida. Wilbur receives a phone call from none other than Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr) from “The Wolf Man” Talbot tells Wilbur that he is a man named McDougal and tries to warn Wilbur that a shipment due to arrive to them for “McDougal’s House of Horrors” contains the actual bodies of Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and the Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange) and that they should alert the authorities. Wilbur is convinced that he is being crank called and doesn’t believe him.
Soon enough, Talbot watches as the full moon breaks through the clouds and he begins to transform. Wilbur overhears the change and brilliantly responds to The Wolf Man’s growling by saying: “You’re awful silly to call me all the way from London just to have your dog talk to me.” Just epic. After this early scene the film solidifies itself into displaying an insane amount of humor and witty repartee. Lou gives this performance of Wilbur his all. He is never better than he is here.
The real McDougal shows up and is pretty angry as he gets impatient with Wilbur and his goofing around –
Wilbur – “Well that’s gonna cost you overtime because I’m a union man and I work only sixteen hours a day.”
McDougal – “A union man only works eight hours a day. ”
Wilbur – “I belong to two unions!”
More awesome repartee and it continues throughout the whole movie. As the story progresses the boys deliver the shipment to McDougal’s HOH. Wilbur, already frightened, suspects that something is wrong. We are then introduced to Dracula as he wakes up and tries to revive the Frankenstein monster. Wilbur of course sees all of this and can’t get Chick to see what he has seen in time. Chick never believes him. Drac and The Monster escape unnoticed. McDougal arrives and he and his insurance agent after finding the crates empty accuse the boys of stealing his prized exhibitions.
Dr Sandra Mornay (The beautiful Leonore Aubert) plays Wilbur’s girlfriend and she receives Dracula and the Monster at her creepy island castle. It seems that she and Dracula are planing to follow Dr. Frankenstein’s notebook and have Wilbur’s brain inserted into the Monster’s. Sandra is just using Wilbur for this very purpose.
Without doing a huge recap, I just want to go into why this movie rocks to no end!
– There is a very cool animation opening credit scene!
– There is an epic animated transformation scene where Drac turns into a bat and vice versa.
– Glenn Strange as the Monster gets to speak! “Yes, Master.”
– Bud Abbott is really incredible here. I can’t give Lou all the credit. His turn as “Chick” is spot on and even though he plays the straight man to Lou he gets in a funny part here and there like when he pretends to be hypnotized by Wilbur. Great stuff.
– The film looks great in black and white. No other way to watch these great monsters. It sports some great cinematography and some great sets and effects.
– Lugosi and Chaney give great performances. Chaney is sympathetically crazed here and Lugosi is very suave and menacing in his last turn as Dracula. He is way more charming here than in the 1931 film.
– Charles Barton keeps the pace fast and furious always giving the actors a ton of room to improvise.
– There is a surprisingly shocking scene where Frankenstein’s Monster literally tosses Sandra out of a window to her death below on the Castle rocks. Just as brutal as when Karloff dispatches the small girl in the first film.
Finally the last act of the movie is INSANE! There are crazy face off’s between Dracula, Frankenstein and the boys as they try to escape the lab and the castle but not before they suffer through some great physical comedy. There are walls that revolve (a classic device in these horror films), a great lab scene that has The Wolf Man and Dracula fighting each other resulting in Dracula turning into a bat to try and flee but not before The Wolf Man grabs him and dives out a high castle window. It’s a classic sequence that is quite successful in being entertaining and suspenseful at the same time.
The best reason to watch is two fold though. Watching these great monsters in a battle royale of sorts and having the opportunity to watch A & C do their thing here. Great dialog, great timing, great chases and excellently staged comedy and slapstick. Yep, Wilbur gets a few slaps across the face here and there. Now everyone knows why I get Nostalgic for this great Horror / Comedy! Enjoy!