Some of the most notable and recognizable movie characters are the Universal Monsters from the 1930s to the 1950s. Icons like Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and The Wolf Man are just a few of the well-known monsters that we’ve all come to know and love. To this day, those movies still work and will forever be timeless, as the use of eerie shadows and tranquil illumination make me feel that I can never get enough of them. The first of the monsters movies—Dracula—is nearly 90 years old and it was the one that started them all. Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein soon followed, making Universal Studios monster movies the phenomenon of its time.
Although the title makes it sound like the comics were only going to meet Frankenstein’s Monster (of course, the title is a misnomer, as Frankenstein was the name of the man who’d created the monster, not the name of the monster itself), but two other characters are brought into the mix as well.
Before any further discussion, here’s the plot breakdown of the film…
Two hapless freight handlers, Chick (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur (Lou Costello), find themselves encountering Dracula (Bela Lugosi), the Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange), and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.).
Released in 1948, this was the perfect time for a mishmash of comedy and horror, putting together the genius comedy of Abbott and Costello with the ever-popular and ongoing Universal Studios monster movies. With the recent films of The Wolf Man and House of Frankenstein still popular and going strong, it was a no-brainer to put this together.
The director, Charles Barton, has quite a list of films he’s helmed from the early 1930s until the 1960s, with quite a few popular television series interspersed between. One thing I’d noticed, however, was how many Abbott and Costello films he had directed and that number is eight. Seems that Barton was a good fit with the comedy twosome and Universal Studios had recognized that, giving him the reins to direct the funnymen in all those hits.
By today’s standards, yes, the movie isn’t very scary and might be seen as a bit cheesy. Even the comedy of Abbott and Costello isn’t that great in this flick, but all the components that were brought together for this outing totally makes up for any inconsistencies you may notice. Some of the skits seen throughout this film made me chuckle—one in particular, when Costello needed to grab a table cloth and pulled it off while leaving all the glasses and candleholders in place, he stops to look at the camera, breaking the fourth wall…classic. You’ll see quite a few scenes like that, where Lou Costello chews the scenery. In fact, there are a few YouTube videos you can find where there are some very funny bloopers from this movie, a lot of them having Glenn Strange crack up at Costello’s antics.
First off, one of the biggest misconceptions of all the popular monsters is that Frankenstein is the name of the monster in the film of the same name. Really, the title refers to the doctor who created the creature with it never receiving a name within the film’s story. It’s been a misnomer for years and years, and I’m sure if you were to show a picture of the monster to anyone and asked them to name the creature, they’d reply “Frankenstein.” But here, in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein isn’t in the story, but all this can be overlooked…unless you’re a picky movie enthusiast like me.
You can tell all the cast is having fun, at times not really taking the film seriously, but overall you can tell Universal had struck a gold mine with this concept. In fact, the studio mined the idea four more times with Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949), Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953), and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955).
So…what’s my final “bit” on Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein?
The movie has nearly the same feel as most of the Universal Monster movies, just supplementing some of the light comedy touches from the comic duo. It never feels like a parody of the films from the 30s and 40s—Bela Lugosi as Dracula is just as ominous, Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s Monster is somewhat menacing, and Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man is once again frightening—so, they’re never put in situations that make them look ridiculous. The movie, as a whole, is a good time and fun for all ages.
Thanks for reading!