Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr, Glenn Strange, Charles Bradstreet,
Written by: Robert Lees (original screenplay), Frederic I. Rinaldo(original screenplay)
Directed by: Charles Barton
Original Year of Release: 1948
Rated: Not Rated
Run Time: 1hr, 23 minutes
In all my years of collecting the Universal Horror classics, I never ventured into the world of the Abbot and Costello “Meet” pictures. That also includes any of the Abbot and Costello films, not just those that feature Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf Man. Old Hollywood humor and schtick does very little for me. I loved the Three Stooges as a kid, but find no need today to go back and watch them again. The same can be said about the Marx Brothers. Whether it be the actors involved or the length of the films/ shorts, I would never call myself a fan of either. Yet, now, this one peeked my interest.
Here is the story according to Universal: “Abbott and Costello, as railroad baggage clerks, receive a strange shipment - the last remains of Dracula and Frankenstein's monster. But this deadly duo is still very much alive. So when the shipment arrives at the House of Horrors, the Monsters are not in their crates but have disappeared to a secret hideaway island. Blamed for the disappearance, Abbott and Costello follow their trail to the island, where not only do they meet up with Dracula and the Monster, but a Mad Scientist who wants to switch Costello's brain with that of the Monster. With everyone chasing each other, the Wolf Man shows up to scare them all”. - Universal Studios
If you are unfamiliar with the film or even the history behind the Universal Monsters, Boris Karloff does not play his signature character, Frankenstein's Monster. In fact, Karloff is not even in the film (though he did participate in the marketing). Regardless, the true star rose from his coffin, yes, Bela Lugosi was back and, officially, playing Dracula for the second! I was shocked that not only was Lugosi billed second (behind Lon Chaney Jr.), but also that this film primarily features Frankenstein’s Monster as a plot device. Granted, the monster cannot talk much but why not then call it "Abbott and Costello Meet Dracula"?It seems as if Lugosi, despite not having Karloff in the film, was again to take second fiddle to the creature in the title and (again) billing.
The film is packed with Abbott and Costello's schtick. The film shines when Lugosi chews up the frights and Lou Costello tries to keep his composure. Thankfully, that's pretty much the whole picture. Here, Lugosi would make his last appearance as the character for which he will forever be linked to. It’s mind-boggling now to think how under-appreciated Lugosi was. Yet, today, we are far removed for the studio politics and Lugosi’s personal problems. None of that will matter to little ones watching their monster heroes in comedic situations that NEVER make fun of the creatures and always pay them the proper respect.
The marriage of two of Universal’s successful properties was indeed a step in the right direction. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was their second highest grossing picture that year. It also spun several sequels featuring the Invisible Man and another featuring Karloff (not as Frankenstein’s Monster, mind you). Whether this film is a part of the Universal Horror Cannon is up to the individual fan to decide. It was a treat to hear Lugosi say different lines as the same character and to see those eyes mesmerize yet another unsuspecting victim. If anything, it featured the original Dracula squaring off against the original Wolf Man for the first and only time. Just one more reason as to why it was worth the watch! #AFJ4LIFE