10/21/13

ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN - REVIEW


The first in the classic series of Universal monsters/Abbott & Costello crossover comedies, Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein was the duo's first attempt at making a respectful homage to classic horror films while putting together a good, original comedy AND not taking the piss too much of the source material.

I mean, this is a film in which Lon Chaney Jr. and Bela Lugosi reprise their respective roles of The Wolfman and Dracula so making a straight-up spoof would have been a faux-pas to say the least. Somehow I don't see Lugosi making a mockery of Dracula... without Ed Wood, that is. This movie is certainly a crowd-pleaser in that both fans of the old monster movies can enjoy it and fans of Abbott and Costello as well. It walks a fine line between homage and parody but makes it work both ways admirably. Unfortunately, the title is a bit of a lie: they never meet Frankenstein. They meet Frankenstein's Monster, played by Glenn Strange, but never Doctor Frankenstein, though there is a doctor in there. The fact it's a misnomer isn't too big a deal, however, since many Hammer or Universal films did mess around with titles quite a bit. Bud Abbott and Lou Costello play a couple of normal(-ish) guys in charge of delivering a big box containing Count Dracula's remains so they can be used in some sort of waxwork museum by some rich guy. Of course, Dracula (Bela Lugosi, duh) turns out to be well and truly alive and he's back with a dastardly plan to take over Dr Frankenstein's work and improve it by not only controlling the Monster but finding a better brain for it. As you can imagine, Lou Costello runs around out of his mind terrified for most of the movie (and is even kidnapped at one point) and Bud Abbott yells at him and doesn't believe him for 90% of it.

It's a fun Abbott and Costello outing and it's made all the more enjoyable by the fact that neither Lugosi or Chaney Jr. are phoning it in. They're both playing their iconic roles seriously, without much irony, which makes a great contrast with the otherwise light, jokey tone of the movie, balancing it out somehow to create something that is silly without ever being trashy. Highlights include Dracula sneaking around Costello as the latter slowly loses it, The Wolfman's many untimely transformations and a brilliant last-minute cameo appearance by Vincent Price as The Invisible Man. Of course, Abbott and Costello have many great moments and lines throughout so you're never bored. Not too much happens in this movie and more could have probably been done with all these classic characters but, as it stands, it works well enough. It's a shame that Boris Karloff wasn't playing Frankenstein's Monster but hey, Abbott and Costello would go on to work with him on Abbott & Costello Meet The Killer so there's always that.

Overall, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein is a really good start to a fun comedy franchise and a completely enjoyable loving homage to Universal's classic monster movies. This one's worth seeing if only to see Dracula turn into a cartoon THEN into a bat.

Good times.

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