It is 1948. The World Health Organization was formed by the United Nations. Honda Motor Company was founded. The first stored computer program was run. And the horror film spoof, “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” brought laughs to families across the country. Although this picture brings together two very different genres of film, they seem to work flawlessly with one another. “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” brings one of Hollywood’s best comedic duos face to face with the famous monsters of Universal Studios. The film stars Bud Abbott and Lou Costello as our unlikely heroes, along with Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman, Bela Lugosi as Dracula and Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s Monster.
Our story starts with two baggage clerks, Chick Young (Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Costello), who are asked to deliver crates that contain the actual remains of Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster to the town’s “House of Horrors.” During this time, Chick and Wilbur are repeatedly warned by a Mr. Lawrence Talbot (Chaney) that these crates are trouble. In fact, Talbot makes it known to the comedic duo that these creatures are still alive. Despite his warnings, Chick and Wilbur deliver the crates that night.
When they arrive to the “House of Horrors,” the monsters escape their crates. When the owner of the house comes to inspect the crates, Wilbur and Chick are thrown in jail for suspected theft. They are released almost right away by an insurance agent, Joan Raymond (Jane Randolph), who is investigating the disappearance of the monsters and also has an interest in Wilbur.
After a few comical scenes involving the duo and the Wolf Man, it is time for the masquerade ball at the lovely Sandra Morney’s (Lenore Aubert) house. Wilbur and Chick are unaware that she has become Dracula’s aid (due to a nasty bite on the neck) and is intent on transplanting Wilbur’s brain with that of Frankenstein’s monster. Soon the moon comes out (on this night it happens to be a full moon), and Talbot who is trying to suppress and put an end to Dracula’s plan changes into the Wolf Man. Chaos ensues, when the monsters, Wilbur and Chick end up at Dr. Frankenstein’s (the man, not the monster) castle.
Throughout the film, Wilbur and Chick find themselves in constant danger. In my opinion this is the most humorous part of the film. The two are constantly, though often unaware, inches away from the monsters. They constantly escape due to pure luck, or in this case their dumb luck. The story of this film is very interesting, because the monsters are not in comedic roles like those of Wilbur and Chick, they are in the roles that they have been playing throughout all of their movies. Although they are starring in a comedy film, the monsters aren’t given a comedic twist. This is what sets this film apart from others like it; the fact that two very different genres can come together and have such chemistry is amazing.
I have seen this film countless times, from when I was a small boy to when I viewed in during a film studies class my senior year of high school, and it has also been one of my favorites and most beloved Halloween films. This film stars most of the original actors that played these monsters in their original films with the exception of Frankenstein’s monster. Boris Karloff declined to play the monster because he didn’t feel as if the monster should be portrayed in a comedy film. Although Karloff did not play the monster in this film, Strange did an excellent job continuing the legacy of Frankenstein’s monster. Lugosi and Chaney Jr. also did an excellent job returning their monsters to film and transitioning them to be portrayed in a comedy. I highly recommend this film for all ages. It is a visual masterpiece and an extraordinarily well written film. It will always be one of my favorite Halloween films of all time.