Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Universal-International 1948.

Before watching the movie:

For a long time I thought I had a distant memory of watching this movie, but it might have just been Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy. Whether I saw it or not, my memories are so dim that this might as well be my first time, so I’m doing it now.

It always struck me as strange that the Abbott and Costello movie that Bela Lugosi reprises Dracula in is “Meet Frankenstein”. It looks like they worked in as many of the Universal Monsters as they could make fit into the script, though I guess that list is longer than I generally think of. I don’t know that they ever paired the duo with, say, the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

After watching the movie:

Wilbur Grey gets a call from London at the Florida railroad station where he works and is begged by Larry Talbot not to deliver the two crates that just arrived for Macdougall’s House of Horrors until he is able to meet with Wilbur. Macdougall turns out to be a very demanding customer who insists that Wilbur and his partner Chick Young make an immediate, after hours delivery. Further, the crates are insured for $20,000 and he’ll be bringing an insurance agent to inspect the contents before he accepts it, because he doesn’t trust Wilbur to not damage them. Macdougall claims that the crates are his very lucky acquisition of the original Count Dracula’s coffin with his remains inside and of the Frankenstein Monster, though Chick tells Wilbur not to be spooked by those old folk legends. While uncrating them, only Wilbur sees Dracula get up and is panicked. Dracula briefly revives the Monster and they leave with Dracula’s coffin before Macdougall and the insurance inspector arrive. Macdougall accuses the pair of stealing his valuable attractions and has them arrested while Dracula meets with Dr. Sandra Mornay, who has studied Dr. Frankenstein’s work. She has agreed to help Dracula give the Monster permanent life, but correct Frankenstein’s mistake by giving it a new brain too simple to rebel, creating a perfect slave. Dr. Mornay has the perfect candidate in mind, she just has to get him released from prison.

There are many ways that one could get Universal Monsters into Abbott and Costello’s world, but “they are real and so close to mundane that some tourist trap museum in Florida would consider their actual nonliving bodies a valued addition to their collection” was not something I had an easy time processing. I also wasn’t sure if it was established why the Wolf Man knows what Dracula is planning to do, but on some reading up on the other Monsters franchise movies, I guess by this point it was taken as read that they all know each other and what they’re about and Larry Talbot is about stopping the evil ones when he’s in his right mind. Additionally, I’m not sure why the Frankenstein Monster needs a more subservient brain if the current one takes every order Dracula gives him. Ultimately the answer to all these questions is “because that’s what the story needs to happen”, but it seems like a lot of logical failings.

When I think of Abbott and Costello, I think about the wordplay of “Who’s On First?” and then it seems like every time I watch one of their movies, it’s all slapstick and Lou getting too scared to do more than babble. Maybe the movies are playing to strengths, but they don’t play to much else. I suppose at that time, new works were more focused on delivering everything audiences had already seen and liked all over again because even if it was recorded or on film, it wasn’t something that would be seen again and again, but today the repetition is a bit tiring, especially the kinds of bits that any double act can do.

I was not expecting much, and what was delivered was even less. It was a better Monsters movie than an Abbott and Costello movie, I guess. I was much more interested in that plot as it developed and a bit annoyed to go back to the comedy schtick bits. There were a lot of moving parts, and not many of them moved well together, but the audience was invited to a house of horrors, and though the hosts may not have been the best, we did indeed get a tour of a house of horrors.


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