Synopsis: Two hapless frieght handlers find themselves encountering Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man.
Stars: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Lon Chaney Jr., Glenn Strange, Bela Lugosi, Lenore Aubert
Director: Charles Barton
Running Length: 83 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: In retrospect, I can’t even begin to fathom how I made it through my childhood without seeing this classic film from the true heyday of the Universal Studios and their monster films. It’s a little like The Avengers with an ‘all hands on deck’ approach from the studio that were responsible for most of, if not all, the indelible monster movies from the 1930’s-1950’s.
I must confess that this is the first Abbott and Costello movie I’ve ever seen. I know, I know…sacrilege…right? Still, I think I always thought of them as another version of The Three Stooges and once I grew out of that part of my childhood I didn’t see the need to revisit another comedy team. Boy, was totally off base because the greatness of the comedy stylings of Abbott and Costello are hard to measure by today’s standards. I would have been able to pick Lou Costello out of a line-up but couldn’t say the same for Bud Abbott…the long-suffering straight-man to Costello’s bumbling bafoon.
Their word play, physical comedy, and crack comic timing work wonders to elevate this film from its humble beginnings to the true classic that it is. It also helps that along with the dynamic duo you have Lugosi reprising his role of Dracula, Strange as Frankenstein’s Monster, and Chaney Jr. going another round as The Werewolf. Add sultry Aubert to the mix and you have a solid grouping of the best of the best.
The title of the film may not be totally accurate as the movie is just about Abbott and Costello meeting Dracula as it is about meeting The Wolfman…but at the time Frankenstein was the hot seller so above the title he went. It’s really a caper film with Dracula wanting to substitute Costello’s simple brain for the more aggressive one inside Frankenstein’s Monster. Along the way there are copious amounts of comedy, action, good special effects, and jaw-dropping set pieces.
This was in the day when movies were made on the back lot of their studios but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from the impressively detailed set designs, strong use of miniatures and special effects. More than once I blurted out, “Just LOOK at that! That’s a SET!” Director Barton was experienced with our two stars and would work with them on several other Abbott and Costello Meet __________ over the years – his technique seemed to be best when he just lets Costello do his thing and allowing Abbott to get more flustered.
Widely regarded as the best film from comedy duo Abbott and Costello, it’s not hard to see why. It’s a fast, funny, frantic film that has moved onto my list of annual films to watch around Halloween. You don’t need to wait until next year to track this one down…it’s available in a striking new BluRay presentation celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Universal Studios.