Directed by Charles Barton.
1948. Not Rated, 83 minutes.
Lon Chaney Jr.
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.