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Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

theatrical poster
Directed by Charles Barton
Produced by Robert Arthur
Written by Robert Lees
Frederic I. Rinaldo
John Grant
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Lon Chaney, Jr.
Bela Lugosi
Glenn Strange
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography Charles Van Enger
Editing by Frank Gross
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release date(s) June 15, 1948 (1948-06-15) (US)
Running time 83 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $760,000
Preceded by House of Dracula (1945])
The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944)
The Noose Hangs High (1948)
Followed by Mexican Hayride (1948)
Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (which has the onscreen title Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein) is a 1948 American comedy horror film directed by Charles Barton and starring the comedy team of Abbott and Costello. It is the first of several films where the comedy duo meets classic characters from Universal's horror film stable. In this film, they encounter Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, and the Wolf Man, while subsequent films pair the duo with the Mummy, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the Invisible Man. On a TV special in the early 1950s, the two did a sketch where they interacted with the latest original Universal Studios monster being promoted at the time, the Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). The film is considered the swan song for the "Big Three" Universal horror monsters – Dracula, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein's monster – although it does not appear to fit within the loose continuity of the earlier films.

The film was re-released in 1956 along with Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff. In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed this film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry, and in September 2007, Readers Digest selected the movie as one of the top 100 funniest films of all time.

Contents

Plot

Chick Young (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello) work as baggage clerks in LaMirada, Florida. When Wilbur mishandles two crates belonging to McDougal's House of Horrors museum, Mr. McDougal (Frank Ferguson) demands that they deliver them in person so that they can be inspected by an insurance agent. McDougal boasts to Wilbur's girlfriend, Dr. Sandra Mornay (Lénore Aubert), that the crates contain "the remains of the original Count Dracula" (Bela Lugosi) and "the body of the Frankenstein Monster" (Glenn Strange).

Dracula awakens, hypnotizes Wilbur, and spirits away his own coffin (and the revived Monster) before anyone else sees them. McDougal then arrives with the insurance agent. Finding the storage crates empty, he accuses the boys of theft and has them arrested.

Mornay receives Dracula and the Monster at her island castle. Sandra is a gifted surgeon who has studied Dr. Frankenstein's notebooks, and has been posing as Wilbur's girlfriend as part of Dracula's scheme to replace the Monster's brutish brain with one more pliable — Wilbur's.

Wilbur and Chick are bailed out of jail and mistakenly believe Sandra to be their benefactor. Actually Joan Raymond (Jane Randolph), who also seems to like Wilbur, is responsible for the good deed. Joan is secretly working for the company that is processing McDougal's insurance claim, and hopes Wilbur will lead her to the missing 'exhibits'.

Meanwhile, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) has taken the apartment across the hall from Wilbur and Chick. He has tracked Dracula and the Monster from Europe, and knows them to be alive. Talbot asks the boys to help him find and destroy the villains. Wilbur is amenable to the plan, but Chick thinks both of them are crazy. Talbot's desperate insistence that he be locked in his room before moonrise impresses Chick even less. But unbeknowst to Wilbur and Chick, Talbot transforms into the Wolf Man when the moon rises. When Wilbur brings over Talbot's luggage that he forgot at their apartment, he is stalked unsuspecting by the Wolf Man, and narrowly escapes without realizing he was even in danger.

The following night, Wilbur, Chick and Joan go to Sandra's castle to pick her up for a costume ball. Sandra has told Wilbur to come alone, and receives the extra guests rather icily.

While the ladies powder their noses, Wilbur answers a telephone call from someone wanting to speak to a 'Dr Lejos'. It is Talbot, who informs them that they are in the "house of Dracula". Wilbur reluctantly agrees to search the castle with Chick, and soon stumbles upon an underground passageway, complete with boat and dock. Behind a secret revolving wall, Wilbur again encounters Dracula and the Monster, but escapes. Wilbur's every attempt to get Chick to witness the villains fails - thanks to the revolving wall. Meanwhile, Joan has discovered Dr Frankenstein's notebook in Sandra's bureau, while Sandra has discovered Joan's employee I.D. in her bag.

Suavely re-attired, Dracula (a.k.a. Dr. Lejos) is introduced by Sandra to Joan and the boys. He commends Sandra on her 'choice', expertly massaging the ego of Wilbur, who does not realize the true context of the remark. Also working at the castle is the naive Dr. Stevens (Charles Bradstreet), who questions some of the specialized equipment that has arrived. Dracula manages to deflect Dr. Stevens' questions by pairing him with Joan and shooing off the 'young people' to their ball. Sandra claims to have a sudden splitting headache and will not be able to attend the event. When Dracula consults Sandra in private, she admits that Dr. Stevens' questions, Joan's insurance credentials and Wilbur's inquiries have made her nervous, and wants to postpone the experiments. Impatient, Dracula asserts his will by hypnotizing her, and biting her in the throat.

At the ball, the boys encounter Talbot and McDougal. Dracula arrives unexpectedly with Sandra, now under his spell. Dracula easily deflects Talbot's accusations, making the man appear disturbed. Dracula takes Joan for a dance while Sandra lures Wilbur to a quiet spot. Just before she can bite Wilbur's neck, Chick and Larry approach looking for Joan, and Sandra flees. As they search the grounds, Talbot transforms into the Wolf Man. Wilbur escapes, but the Wolf Man finds and injures McDougal. Noting that Chick has a wolf mask, McDougal concludes that Chick attacked him for revenge. (The fact that Chick is dressed like Talbot does not help the situation). Chick manages to slip away, only to witness Dracula hypnotizing Wilbur. Chick becomes somewhat hypnotized himself, while Wilbur and an entranced Joan are brought back to the castle by Dracula and Sandra. The next morning, Chick is still on the lam when he finds Larry, who confesses that he was McDougal's attacker. Now finally convinced, Chick agrees to help Larry rescue Wilbur and Joan.

While Wilbur is being held in a pillory, Sandra finally explains to him the plan to transplant his brain into the Monster. She and Dracula leave him to prepare the Monster for the operation. Chick and Talbot arrive, free Wilbur, and head off to save Joan. Wilbur, meanwhile, is lured back to the castle by Dracula, who easily overpowers his mind.

While the Monster receives an electrical boost in the lab, Sandra is about to open Wilbur's skull when Talbot storms in and casts her aside. Chick swings at Dracula with a chair, knocking out Sandra in the process. Just as Talbot is about to untie Wilbur, he once again transforms into the Wolf Man.

Dracula returns to the scene and engages in a tug-of-war with the Wolf Man over Wilbur's gurney. Dracula flees, with the Wolf Man giving chase. Chick arrives to untie Wilbur just as the Monster, now at full power, breaks his own restraints and rises from his stretcher. Sandra attempts to order him back as Dracula can, but the Monster defiantly throws her out the lab window.

Dracula, in an attempt to escape, transforms into a bat, but the Wolf Man snares him and both fall over a balcony and into the rocky seas below. Joan abruptly wakes from her trance, while the boys escape the castle and head to the pier, with the Monster in pursuit. Once again Chick and Wilbur encounter Mr. McDougal, who still insists that he wants his exhibits. They loudly reply, "..here comes one of them now!" When the Monster appears, McDougal and his partner jump off the pier. Chick and Wilbur attempt to escape in a rowboat that is still roped to the pier. The Monster throws barrels at them, in a series of near misses. Wilbur finally unties the boat, while Stevens and Joan arrive and set the pier ablaze. The Monster turns around and marches into the flames, succumbing as the pier collapses into the water.

Just as Chick and Wilbur relax, they hear a disembodied voice (Vincent Price) and see a cigarette floating in the air: "Allow me to introduce myself, I'm the Invisible Man!" The boys jump off the boat and swim away as the Invisible Man lights his cigarette and laughs. (This scene presaged 1951's Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, though Price did not star, and all characters were different; Price had appeared, however, in 1940's The Invisible Man Returns).

Cast

Production notes

  • The film was originally intended to be titled The Brain of Frankenstein, but its name was changed prior to the filming schedule, which ran from February 5 through March 20, 1948.
  • In a 1996 documentary, 100 Years of Horror, hosted by Christopher Lee, it was revealed that the studio hired two additional comedians to add laughs between takes on the set.
  • Costello hated the script.[2] He said that his five-year-old daughter could have written something better, but later warmed to the film during production.
  • During filming, Glenn Strange found Costello so funny he would often break up laughing, necessitating many retakes (this is readily apparent in the scene where Costello sits on the Monster's lap). There were several pie fights between takes as well, but Abbott and Costello respected the three monsters (Chaney as the Wolfman, Lugosi as Dracula and Strange as the Monster) and made sure no pies were flung at the heavily made-up actors.
  • Boris Karloff was originally approached to play the monster once again, but declined. He did, however, help promote the movie and can be seen in several publicity photos, including one where he is buying a ticket, even though he refused to actually see the film (considering it an insult).
  • The Australian film board required that almost every scene involving a monster be removed before release.[2]
  • Contrary to popular misconception, this was the one and only time Bela Lugosi reprised the famous role he had created in Dracula (1931). He had previously portrayed vampires in Mark of the Vampire (1935), The Return of the Vampire (1944) and Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952), and made a gag cameo as Dracula in a 1933 Hollywood on Parade short, but this was the only time he again played Dracula as a sustained role on film.[3]

Film mistakes

At one point in the film, where Abbott and Costello's characters are going through the revolving panel, Costello calls Abbott by his real name instead of his character's name.

Dracula's reflection can be seen in the mirror when he makes Dr Mornay his next victim. The studio intended to remove the reflection, but failed to do so before the film was released.

When the Frankenstein Monster breaks free of his bonds on the operating table in the climactic chase/fight scene, one of his neck electrodes clearly pulls off of his neck.

Awards and honors

American Film Institute recognition

In popular culture

  • In a 2006 episode of Iconoclasts on the Sundance Channel, Quentin Tarantino cited the film as his favorite childhood movie because "when it was supposed to be funny, it was really funny, and when it was supposed to be scary, it was really scary."
  • The film was unofficially remade in Mexico as Frankenstein, el Vampiro y Compañía (1962) and in Egypt as Haram Alek (1953).[4]
  • In 1954, an Egyptian film studio created Ismil and Abdel Meet Frankenstein, a scene-for-scene remake of the 1948 classic. This version is not commercially available on DVD, but was scheduled for a public film showing at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in September 2008.

Routines

The Moving Candle routine previously used in Hold That Ghost (1941) was utilized again in this film.

DVD releases

This film has been released three times on DVD. Originally released as single DVD on August 29, 2000, it was released twice as part of two different Abbott and Costello collections, The Best of Abbott and Costello Volume Three, on August 3, 2004, and again on October 28, 2008 as part of Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection.

Notes

  1. ^ The monster is actually played by two actors. Glenn Strange plays him for most of the film, but when he broke his foot during production, Lon Chaney, Jr. (who previously played the monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein), took over the role for a portion of the laboratory battle sequence.
  2. ^ a b Furmanek, Bob; Palumbo, Ron (1991). Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. New York: Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51605-0
  3. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael G. (1977), Universal Pictures: A Panoramic History in Words, Pictures, and Filmographies, New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House Publishers, p. 60, ISBN 0-87000-366-6 
  4. ^ Frankensteinia: The Frankenstein Blog: Frankenstein Gets Knocked-Off

External links








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