Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Having ridden the success of their monster films for somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 years, by 1948 Universal had gone through about all the permutations of monsters battling one another they could think of. In an effort to suck even more money out of these played out ideas, they decided to insert their monsters into a comedy starring Abbott and Costello. The first of what turned out to be an ongoing series of these horrorific comedies is Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and it is by far and away the best and funniest of the series.

Bud and Lou play a couple of baggage clerks named Chick and Wilbur. They stand around in the claims area doing their vaudeville schtick, knocking over a truck load of bags, exchanging witty one liners with one another when all of a sudden Wilbur (Costello) gets a call from London. The caller is none other than Lon Chaney, Jr. known to most of us as Larry Talbot and the Wolf Man. Larry is out of control once again and sputtering about bad things that are going to happen upon the arrival of two mysterious packages.

It seems that for some nebulous reason, Count Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster have been crated up, insured for $20,000 and Fed Exed across the pond to America! Why? Who knows? Why is the Wolf Man interested? Couldn’t say! How did the Wolf Man, Count Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster all survive their respective demises in all those previous films? Who cares! Bring on the funny!

Anyway, we’ve got Larry Talbot going through the “change” while on the phone and he eventually starts growling at Wilbur over the receiver and Wilbur keeps wondering why some guy from London would call just to put his dog on the phone!

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Early in the movie we are also introduced to Wilbur’s girlfriend, Sandra. Sandra is one of those dark haired beauties who is up to no good. We know that because she is dark haired and a beauty and is supposedly ga ga over Wilbur, who is not what you would call handsome. Chick can’t understand what Wilbur’s got that would make this dame fall for him, but we know she’s probably playing some angle.

We also meet Mr. McDougal. He owns the local wax museum. The local wax museum? Guess who is anxiously waiting to pick up a couple of crates filled with classic monsters? McDougal’s jacked because he thinks he’s going to make a mint exhibiting these dudes, but can’t figure out why some anonymous seller in Europe picked his name out of a phone book and gave him a real sweet deal on Drac and Frank. I smell a dastardly scheme!

Chick and Wilbur are dispatched to deliver the two crates to the wax museum and you can only imagine the problems that ensue. They get there and Wilbur is pretty much scared of his own shadow. He gets creeped out reading the advertising for both Count Dracula and the Frankenstein monster. The rest of this extended scene consists of Chick leaving Wilbur alone with the crates for one reason or another and every time Chick leaves, the creatures start coming out of the crates and harassing Wilbur, but as soon as Chick shows up everything is back to normal. Plenty of funny faces, gasping of breath, and silent screams from Wilbur.

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Bela Lugosi comes back to ham it up as Dracula and looks fairly silly trying to scare Wilbur. I mean, this Count Dracula guy has got all these powers and stuff and he spends this part of the movie playing tricks on Wilbur?

Somehow both the Frankenstein Monster and Count Dracula leave the wax museum while dragging the vampire‘s coffin without anybody seeing them. McDougal arrives, finds out his prized attractions are missing and has Chick and Wilbur arrested.

The logical explaination of course is that the two creatures hightailed it out of town to the nearby island castle. And you know what? That’s exactly what they did. Who says these flicks aren’t logical?

Chick and Wilbur are bailed out of jail the next day. As luck would have it, they are also rooming right across the hall from the recently arrived Larry Talbot! I bet you forgot all about him. He’s there to try and stop those other two monsters from doing whatever it is they are in town to do.

Everyone suddenly decides to go to a costume ball for no good reason. But first they have to stop off at the island castle to pick up Sandra. Wilbur doesn’t wonder why his mysterious girlfriend is living in an island castle because he’s in love. Chick doesn’t wonder because he’s an idiot.

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Finally we find out that Wilbur is just being used by Sandra, who is really Dr. Mornay. She and Dracula are going to take Wilbur’s brain and put it into the Frankenstein Monster! Wilbur is weak and easily controlled (try telling that to Chick) so he’s a good candidate to provide a brain for the monster that Dracula could control. Of course, this doesn’t make much sense since Dracula already has powers to compel people to obey him.

Everyone ends up at the castle for a final battle highlighted by Dracula throwing a potted plant at the Wolf Man.

As you can see things are rapidly moving to their conclusion, which is good because the seams in this flick were starting to show. What sort of town in the U.S. has an island castle? Why does everyone go to this costume ball? Why were these monsters mailed over here in the first place?

And how come Wilbur keeps seeing these creatures, gets scared and then continues to go about his business in the next scene as if nothing happened until he sees these bad dudes again? At some point, I would have been like, “screw this! I’m moving to a town that doesn’t have an island castle, a giant costume ball, and a wax museum with Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Wolf Man!”

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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