Wednesday, October 12, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein


Directed by Charles Barton.

1948. Not Rated, 83 minutes.
Cast:
Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Bela Lugosi
Lon Chaney Jr.
Glenn Strange
Lenore Aubert
Jane Randolph
Frank Ferguson
Charles Bradstreet

Chick (Abbott) and Wilbur (Costello) are a couple of couriers who receive a strange phone call from a desperate sounding man named Lawrence Talbot (Chaney Jr.). He tells them not to deliver the shipment that is supposed to go to McDougal's House of Horrors, a local wax museum. About time Wilbur hangs up the phone with this gentleman, Mr. McDougal himself is standing at the counter demanding his goods are delivered. He tells them they must be very careful with it as it contains the actual bodies of Count Dracula (Lugosi) and Frankenstein's Monster (Strange). This is only fitting because, as astute viewers will note, the man on the phone is actually The Wolf Man. Our heroes deliver the crates and, much to their dismay, find out that the bodies of the monsters really are in those crates. And they're not dead. Dracula wants to take over everything. To do so, he needs to replace The Monster's brain with one that is little smarter, yet also easier to control. The plan is to switch it out for Wilbur's. However, since this is one of the greatest comedy duos of all-time, none of his is too heavy as hijinks and shenanigans ensue.

The film features the well established personas our heroes brought to many other films during their storied career. Abbott is more or less the straight man and thought to be the brains of their little tandem. Costello is a goofy sort who seems to always find himself in trouble. As the shorter, rounder of the two, Costello is also deemed the less physically attractive of the two. The running gag there, and a major plot point, is that all the women in the movie are tripping over themselves to be with him. Between the two, they give us many wonderful gags, as well as some rather witty dialogue that keeps things moving along quite nicely. Abbott usually hurls some sort of insult while Costello responds with a self-deprecating remark.


Chick (Abbott): I don't get it. Out of all the guys around here that classy dish has to pick out a guy like you.
Wilbur (Costello): What's wrong with that?
Chick: Go look at yourself in the mirror sometime.
Wilbur: Why should I hurt my own feelings?

I'm not so sure that works for you, but it that's the kind of stuff that cracks me up. I had a blast as our heroes have exchange after exchange like this. The perfectly timed slapstick between these mean the laughs keep coming at a steady pace. This is a welcome distraction from a story that is merely there to string the humor together.

Another thing this movie does well, and no doubt it's actual purpose, is it references Universal's classic monsters in a more direct manner than other films. It being a Universal film, itself, is a great aid in this arena. Therefore, not only does Lon Chaney reprise his role as The Wolf Man, Bela Lugosi and Glenn Strange do the same for their iconic roles. All deliver excellent performances. Lugosi is particularly good, doing a perfect parody of himself. As a whole, the film has become known as the swan song for the three monsters as they had not appeared in any Universal pictures in a few years. It's a fitting send-off as watching them together proves to be a massive treat.

I've been a huge football fan ever since I can remember. One of the photos that has taken on legendary status in my family is of me as a three year old, asleep in my bed, wearing the football helmet I refused to take off. Therefore, in my mind, Sunday is a sacred day. It's the day when men don matching armored suits and partake in a rather violent form of chess. The goings on begin at 1:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. Way back in the dark ages, before ESPN, football talk didn't start on TV until noon. My love of pre-game shows didn't start until years later, so I didn't view much of them. In need of something to watch on Sunday morning, and in the absence of Saturday's cartoons, my television was tuned to Channel 11, WPIX in New York. Every Sunday they showed an Abbott and Costello movie. I watched this gem more than a few times, as they showed it often. Before this viewing, however, I hadn't seen it in quite some years. Thankfully, it's every bit as fun as I remembered.

10 comments:

  1. I don't know. I do like Abbott and Costello as well as Bela Lugosi but not having Boris Karloff as Frankenstein is something I can't accept. Then again, maybe it was Lugosi who got someone else to play Frankenstein since he thinks Karloff is a cocksucker.

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    1. Love your affection for Karloff. By this point, however, Strange had been playing the monster for the last 3 or 4 Frankenstein movies, if not more. So, I doubt Lugosi had anything to do with Karloff not playing the part this time.

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  2. This one is on my list for later in the month. You're not the only person to love it, so I'm looking forward to it.

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    1. Abbott and Costello movies tickle me in just the right spot. Glad to hear it's not just me. Waiting to see what you think of it.

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  3. While I prefer their service comedies, particularly any one where you get the bonus of the Andrews Sisters too, and my favorite of their films is their most unconventional "The Time of Their Lives" this is one of the pair's better horror/comedy entries.

    They work together like a well-oiled machine and their schtick is honed to a fine point. It definitely adds an extra boost that they have the original actors, or in the case of Strange the one who was currently playing the role, in the monster parts.

    I used to watch A/C on Sunday mornings too! Ha! Though I never followed it up with the football game. Their films alternated in blocks with Shirley Temple Theatre (only her films up to "Young People"-after that she was a teen and I guess they thought kids wouldn't be interested-obviously not realizing how crazy funny The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer is) and Sundays with Blondie-LOVED Penny Singleton as Blondie...Arthur Lake less so as Dagwood.

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    1. Love those movies with the Andrews Sisters. Most of the actual titles of their films elude me, I'd have to see a bit of "The Time of Their Lives" to remember which one that was.

      Great point about how they worked together. They're probably my favorite comedy team, though The Three Stooges are pretty close.

      Never did watch much Shirley Temple. To be honest, I don't know that I've watched any of her movies from start to finish. I only recall watching bits here and there. They were on often, just never appealed to me enough for me to sit through. Not much of a Blondie fan, either, at least in that medium. I used to read the comic strip almost every day, though. My other Sunday morning viewing was usually one of those old Tarzan movies since they were on every week, too.

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    2. The plot of Time of Their Lives is that Lou is a stable boy in Revolutionary times and he and the mistress of the house are mistakenly shot as traitors then the movie jumps 200 years and they return as ghosts to try and prove their innocence with the help of the weekend guests at the mansion, one of which is Bud Abbott-who plays a psychiatrist if I remember correctly. Besides them getting to do something a little different it also has three actresses in the cast that I'm a fan of, Marjorie Reynolds (she was the leading lady in Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire Holiday Inn), Gale Sondergaard (a very prolific supporting actress-and the first Best Supporting Actress winner-before she was blacklisted) and one of my absolute favorites Binnie Barnes (a delightfully droll British actress who specialized in acerbic sidekick roles)

      To be honest if you watch Bright Eyes and Poor Little Rich Girl (which has the bonus of Alice Faye and Gloria Stuart in the cast) from start to finish you will have seen pretty much every Shirley Temple movie she made before she became a teenager!

      However if you've never seen The Bachelor & the Bobby-Soxer you are missing out. Besides a very appealing 19 year old Shirley you get Myrna Loy as her sister who is a judge (them being sisters is a bit of a stretch but because of their skill you forget about it) plus Cary Grant at both his suavest and daffiest as an artist who unwillingly becomes involved with both. There's also a great cast supporting the three. The film is a fun ride with an Oscar winning screenplay. The rest of Shirley's adult films aren't much, excepting Since You Went Away-where her role is small, but this one is a definite must see.

      The Blondie films are strictly B movies but the studio did use them to introduce performers just starting out including Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, Lloyd Bridges and surprisingly enough Shemp Howard. Again if you've seen a couple you've seen them all but it is cool to see those stars at the beginning of their careers and Penny Singleton was a very appealing actress.

      I was never much for Tarzan, though I've probably seen them all, but I did watch reruns of the weekly TV series with Ron Ely fairly regularly.

      Sorry I detest The Three Stooges!

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    3. Hmm...that plot doesn't sound familiar, and not at all like an A&C film. Might have to hunt that one down.

      I do plan on seeing The Bachelor and The Bobby-Soxer at some point. I'll probably continue to pass on the ones from when she was a child.

      I've seen enough of the Blondie films to know that's all I want to see.

      Never much cared for the Tarzan TV series. Besides, the movies were on so much it felt like a TV series.

      It's okay. We'll call it even because I think The Marx Brothers suck.

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  4. The competitiveness between Abbott and Costello to catch girls is pretty funny.
    My favorite quote might be:
    "The moon will rise in 20 minutes, and then I'll turn into a wolf."
    "Yeah, you and about a million other guys!”

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    1. That's just one of many that made me howl with laughter. Howl, get it? Okay, you can stop rolling your eyes, now.

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