Before we go any further let’s get one thing straight, in this movie neither Abbott nor Costello meets Frankenstein as it’s the monster they actually meet and not the infamous doctor who bears the name, there, is everyone satisfied? That kind of thing may win you points at pub trivia but not here, so let us have no further discussion on that point, what we will discuss is the accomplishment of this particular Abbott and Costello feature, in bringing together the Universal Monsters for one last hurrah.
Cross-overs in comic books have existed since almost the very beginning of the medium but in the world of film, not so much, franchises were not known for having a character from one franchise meeting up with another – Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes was not teaming up with George Sanders’ The Saint – while today’s audiences are now pretty much inundated with the concept but trust me, this was not the norm, yet back in the early 40s over at Universal Studios, home of the classic Universal Monsters, they did the unheard of and pitted Frankenstein’s monster against Lon Chaney’s The Wolfman, in a film aptly titled Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, and as that team-up was a huge success it eventually led to the crossover to end all crossovers, the release of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, a film that not only included both Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolfman but it had Dracula as well.
The movie follows the misadventures of Chick Young (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello), two baggage clerks who find themselves mishandling two crates which had just arrived from Europe and were to be delivered to McDougal’s House Of Horrors, but the clumsiness of Wilbur so enrages Mr. McDougal (Frank Ferguson ) that he insists that the boys deliver them to his museum so that his insurance agent can inspect them to ensure they have not been damaged. Needless to say, things don’t go too well for Wilbur and before you can “Transylvania 6-5000” the poor bumbling coward is face to face with both Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and Frankenstein’s Monster (Glenn Strange).
McDougal isn’t the only interested party when it comes to these two particular monsters as Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) – aka The Wolf Man – has tracked the legendary monsters all the way from Europe, and he even tried to call and warn Wilbur about the crates but an untimely transformation into the Wolf Man put a kibosh on that. Talbot is adamant that Dracula’s evil plans have to be foiled, but what exactly is the Prince of Darkness planning? Turns out Dracula has no intention of making the same mistake that Victor Frankenstein made, by putting an abnormal brain in the body of a re-animated giant, instead, he plans to replace the Monster’s brutish brain with a more pliable one, such as the one that Wilbur is currently using.
Dracula is aided by Dr. Sandra Mornay (Lenore Aubert), a brilliant surgeon who fled Europe under a dark cloud, and she is also the film’s femme fatale as it’s her job to seduce and lure poor Wilbur into Dracula’s clutches and onto the operating table. But she isn’t the only one with sights set on our tubby protagonist as Joan Raymond (Jane Randolph), an undercover investigator for the insurance company, feigns love for Wilbur in the hopes that he would lead her to the presumably stolen exhibits. A good portion of the comedy stems from these two gorgeous women fawning over Wilbur, much to Chick’s chagrin as he simply can’t understand the attraction these women have for his idiot partner, but an even larger portion of the comedy is provided by Wilbur repeatedly witnesses horrifying goings-on and Chick arriving too late to see anything.
Note: The moving candle routine was originally used in the Abbott and Costello comedy Hold That Ghost only updated here to be sliding across Dracula’s coffin.
• If McDougal was so worried about Wilbur’s clumsiness why would he want him involved any further with the delivery?
• Werewolf movies constantly get the moon wrong and this film is no different, Lawrence Talbot transforms into the Wolf Man on four consecutive nights despite the fact that the moon is only full once during the cycle of its phases.
• I’m not sure how serious a threat the Wolf Man can be considered when he seems to have problems stalking chubby Wilbur across a small hotel room and is even unsuccessful in the woods.
• Frankenstein’s monster is notoriously known for his fear of fire, so what’s with him calmly walking into the flames of a burning dock at the end of this film?
• But the biggest question raised by this film is, “Are the residents of Florida aware that there is a gothic castle off the coast?”
As was the case with many of the Abbot and Costello comedies a logical plot wasn’t as important as the verbal banter and slapstick between the two leads, and questions like “Why was Lawrence Talbot on the trail of Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster and wasn’t Talbot cured of lycanthropy in the last movie?” or “What exactly did Dracula want with the monster in the first place?” are completely unimportant, and I’m sure an eight-foot-tall creature with Lou Costello’s brain would have some uses but I’d love to hear the particular details of Dracula’s plan.
There is no denying the fact that Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is one of the best examples of blending horror with laughs and though the film sports very little in the way of true scares for a modern audience, to the point where some fans of the Universal Monsters accused the film of harming these classic icons of horror, and with Lon Chaney’s The Wolf Man becoming the butt of much of the humour there is some credence to that claim, yet no one can dispute the manic fun the film produces in its 82-minute running time. This is a high-energy comedy and Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were both at the top of their game for this production, despite neither one of them wanting to make it, and thus not only will this film go down in history as one of their best outings but also as one of the best monster mash-ups to date.
Note: In 2017 Universal Pictures attempted to start a shared universe with an updated roster of their classic monsters but it died on the vine after the failure of Tom Cruises The Mummy. I do wonder that if it had succeeded what modern comedy team would have eventually faced off against them?
You can check out my other reviews here: Universal Classic Monsters: A Cinematic World of Horror.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Movie Rank - 7.5/10
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein will go down in history as one of the all-time great comedies, and one certainly can’t dispute the brilliant comedic talents of Bud in Lou in this outing, but it is sad when you consider this would be the last time Bela Lugosi would appear as Dracula.