Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

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Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein
A&cfrank.jpg
Theatrical release 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.
Béla Lugosi
Glenn Strange
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography Charles Van Enger
Edited by Frank Gross
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release dates June 15, 1948 (1948-06-15) (US)
Running time 83 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $792,270[1]
Box office $3.2 million[2]

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (the film's poster title), or Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (the onscreen title)—although the film is often referred to as simply Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein—is a 1948 American horror comedy 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 Count 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 – Count Dracula, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein's monster, none of whom had appeared in a Universal film since 1945's House of Dracula.

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. The 1948 film is recognized by historians as the definitive end point to the American golden age of the monster mash and the classic Universal monster cycle.[3]

Plot[edit]

The film opens with Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) making an urgent call from London to a Florida railway station where Chick Young (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello) work as baggage-clerks. Talbot tries to impart to Wilbur the danger of a shipment to the "McDougal House Of Horrors" (a local wax museum) which purportedly contain the actual bodies of Count Dracula (Béla Lugosi) and the Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange). However, before he is able to warn Wilbur, a full moon rises and Talbot transforms into a werewolf, who proceeds to destroy his apartment while Wilbur is on the line. Wilbur, thinking the call is just a prank, hangs up and continues on with his work day. Immediately thereafter, the actual Mr. McDougal (Frank Ferguson) shows up to claim the shipments and, fearing them damaged whenever Wilbur and Chick mishandle them, demands that the crates be delivered in person so his insurance agent can inspect them.

When Chick and Wilbur get to McDougal's "House Of Horrors", they open the first crate and find a coffin with "Dracula" inscribed on the front. When Chick leaves to retrieve the second crate, Wilbur witnesses Dracula awaken and tries to get Chick's attention. But when Chick returns with the second crate, Dracula hides just in time to go unnoticed. After Chick leaves again to greet McDougal and the insurance agent, Dracula hypnotizes Wilbur and re-animates Frankenstein's Monster. McDougal and the insurance agent (with Chick in tow) arrive again too late to witness anything. Finding the storage crates empty, McDougal accuses the boys of theft and has them arrested.

That night, Dr. Sandra Mornay (Lénore Aubert) welcomes Dracula and the Monster to her island castle. Sandra, a gifted surgeon who has studied Dr. Frankenstein's notebooks, has been posing as Wilbur's girlfriend as part of Dracula's scheme to replace the Monster's brutish, rebellious brain with a more pliable one — Wilbur's.

Wilbur and Chick are bailed out of jail and mistakenly believe Sandra to be their benefactor. It is actually Joan Raymond (Jane Randolph), who is secretly working for the insurance company that is processing McDougal's claim, and hopes Wilbur will lead her to the missing "exhibits". Meanwhile, Larry Talbot 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 Chick and Wilbur to help him find and destroy Dracula and the Monster.

The next day, Joan Raymond comes to Chick and Wilbur's apartment and feigns love for Wilbur. Wilbur, not expecting the favor but embracing it, invites Joan to the masquerade ball that evening. That night, Wilbur, Chick and Joan go to Sandra's castle to pick her up for the ball. While the ladies powder their noses, Wilbur answers a telephone call from someone wanting to speak to a 'Dr Leighos'. It is Talbot, who informs them that they are in fact 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. Chick insists they search for Dracula and the Monster in an attempt to prove to Wilbur that they do not really exist. Wilbur experiences a few close calls when he is confronted by the monsters and every time he tries to show them to Chick they have disappeared. Meanwhile, Joan has discovered Dr. Frankenstein's notebook in Sandra's bureau and Sandra has discovered Joan's insurance company employee I.D. in her purse.

After the women re-join the men, a suavely dressed Dr. Leighos, (a.k.a. Dracula) descends the castle stairs and introduces himself to Joan and the boys. Also working at the castle is the naive Prof. Stevens (Charles Bradstreet), who questions some of the specialized equipment that has arrived. After Wilbur admits that he was in the basement, Sandra feigns a headache and tells Wilbur and the others that they will have to go to the ball without her. In private, Sandra admits that Stevens' questions, Joan's credentials, and Wilbur's curiosity in the basement have made her nervous enough to put the experiment on hold. Impatient, Dracula asserts his will by hypnotizing her, biting her in the throat, and making her his vampire slave.

At the ball, the boys encounter Talbot and McDougal just as Dracula and Sandra rejoin the group. Dracula, when confronted by Talbot, easily deflects accusations that he is "the real thing" by insisting that it's only his costume and he is not actually Dracula. While Dracula takes Joan for a dance, Sandra lures Wilbur to a quiet spot in the woods. Before she can move in and bite him, Chick and Larry approach and she flees. As they search for Joan, Talbot transforms into the Wolf Man and stalks Wilbur. Wilbur escapes, but the Wolf Man finds and injures McDougal. Noting that Chick has brought a wolf mask as his costume to the ball, McDougal concludes that it was Chick who actually attacked him out of revenge. Chick manages to slip away, only to witness Dracula hypnotizing Wilbur. Chick is then also hypnotized and rendered helpless while Dracula and Sandra bring Wilbur and Joan back to the castle. The next morning, Chick and Talbot meet and Talbot tells Chick that he is the Wolf Man. After Chick explains to him that Dracula has taken Wilbur and Joan to the island they agree to work together to rescue them.

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 to rescue Wilbur, but in an attempt to escape Dracula hypnotizes Wilbur into coming back. Wilbur who is now strapped to a slab witnesses Dracula giving the Monster electrical boosts in the lab. Just as Sandra prepares to open Wilbur's skull, Talbot and Chick storm in. Talbot struggles with Sandra and casts her aside. Chick knocks out Sandra and runs out of the lab to make Dracula leave so Talbot can save Wilbur. Just as Talbot is about to untie Wilbur, he once again transforms into the Wolf Man. Dracula returns to the lab to find the Wolf Man there and 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, but the Monster defiantly throws her out the lab window to her death. Chick and Wilbur try to escape with the Monster hot on their trail.

After trying to fight off the Wolf Man with little success, Dracula attempts to escape and transforms into a bat, but the Wolf Man snares him and both fall down to the sea below. Joan abruptly wakes from her trance, while the boys escape the castle and head to the pier with the Monster in pursuit. Wilbur succeeds in untying 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, Wilbur scolds Chick for not believing him. Chick insists that, since all the monsters are dead "there's nobody to scare us anymore", they hear a disembodied voice (provided by an uncredited Vincent Price) and see a cigarette floating in the air. The voice says: "Allow me to introduce myself, I'm the Invisible Man!" The boys jump off the boat and swim away while the Invisible Man lights his cigarette and laughs as the final scene comes to a close.

Cast[edit]

Production notes[edit]

  • 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.[4] 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 refused to actually see this film, although he did help promote the film and can be seen in several publicity photos, including one where he is buying a ticket. Karloff appeared with the duo the next year in Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff, and in 1953 in Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
  • During the scene in the laboratory where the Monster comes after Chick and Wilbur after throwing Sandra through the window, Glenn Strange stepped on a camera cable, causing the camera to fall and break some bones in his foot. Lon Chaney, who was not working that day and who had previously played the Monster in Ghost of Frankenstein, took over the role of the Monster for that scene as well as the scene where the monster is throwing barrels and crates at Wilbur and Chick while they are trying to escape in a rowboat at the pier.[5]
  • The Australian film board required that almost every scene involving a monster be removed before release.[4]
  • This was the only time Béla 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 would do so again in 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 other time he played Dracula as a sustained role on film.[6]
  • Abbott and Costello sidekick Bobby Barber appears in the film as a waiter at the costume ball. Barber was a regular part of the crew of many Abbott and Costello productions. Deleted and backstage footage from the movie catches Costello and Barber in several gags and stunts.

The film was originally budgeted at $759,524 but went $32,746 over. Abbott and Costello were paid $105,000.[7]

Film mistakes[edit]

  • 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. In previous Universal horror films, (notably Lugosi's Dracula and House of Dracula with John Carradine), the undead could be recognized because they cast no reflection. However, this bit of lore had not been established within the context of the Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein script.
  • 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.
  • When Costello is next to Dracula's coffin at the beginning of the film, the information card says "Frankenstein's monster" until the camera moves and it changes to "Dracula's legend."

Awards and honors[edit]

American Film Institute recognition

Routines[edit]

The "moving candle" routine previously used in Hold That Ghost (1941) was utilized again in this film.

Reissues and home media releases[edit]

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was re-released theatrically by Realart in 1956 on a co-bill with Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff.

After being released several times on VHS in the 1980s and 1990s, the film was released four times on DVD. Originally released as a single DVD on August 29, 2000, it was re-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. Its blu-ray debut and DVD re-release was on September 4, 2012 as part of Universal's 100th Anniversary series. It was also included in Frankenstein: Complete Legacy Collection (2014) along with seven other Universal films featuring the Monster.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Furmanek p 168
  2. ^ Furmanek p 175
  3. ^ Poole, W. Scott (2011). Monsters in America: Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and the Haunting. Waco, Texas: Baylor. p. 108. ISBN 978-1602583146. 
  4. ^ a b Furmanek, Bob; Palumbo, Ron (1991). Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. New York: Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51605-0
  5. ^ Glut, Donald F. (1973). The Frankenstein Legend: A Tribute to Mary Shelley and Boris Karloff. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarcrow Press, Inc. ISBN 0-8108-0589-8
  6. ^ 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 
  7. ^ Furmanek p 168

External links[edit]