I hurt my poor wittle head.
PopGap #24: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
While I've surely seen Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein before — it's exactly the kind of movie that I used to watch with my dad on Saturday afternoons in the days before cable TV and movie rentals — I've started it a few times over the last five years with my own kids, only for one or more of us to get distracted before the end of the first half-hour and neglect to return to it in a timely manner. It's a strong opening 30 minutes, with Lou Costello working a few different facets of his appealing cowardly and buffoonish schtick, and straight-man Bud Abbott seizing on his partner's many defects. Now that I've finally made it through the entire movie, it's not hard to see why such a promising start abruptly gives way to apathy.
Abbott and Costello star as shipping clerks tasked with delivering valuable overseas cargo to a House of Horrors attraction. The parcels in question — "corpses" of the real Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and Frankenstein's Monster (Glenn Strange) — have other plans, leading the comedy duo to team-up with occasional Wolfman Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) to stop the famed vampire's nefarious scheme. While the plot of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is mildly amusing — Dracula wants to place Costello's feeble, impressionable brain into Frankenstein's Monster to make the creature easier to control — there's a sense of rushed laziness that causes the movie to sag in between the highlights. The major flaw of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is in how it fails to honor its popular monsters, turning the Wolfman into a klutz with no killer instinct, Dracula into more of a hypnotizing mad scientist than a bloodsucker (and one who reflects in mirrors), and Frankenstein's Monster into a stooge who, bafflingly, walks right toward a fire. If director Charles Barton and his writing team had taken the legacy of Universal's most famous monsters just a little more seriously, they could've provided a sense of danger to heighten the comedy hijinks of their title duo, and honored the monsters rather than reducing them to easy foils. Instead, Costello's constant state of fear and Abbott's dismissal of it exist mostly in a vacuum. Still, the four classic comic set-pieces that are evenly distributed throughout Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein are well worth-watching on their own.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was brought to my Potluck Film Fest by Ty Tag, who can be found on Flickchart under the username goat6boy. He ranks it on his Flickchart at #107 (96%, out of 2763 movies) and third out of the 105 Horror Comedies he's seen. On my chart, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein ranked at #1869 (50%), where it's 47th out of 121 Horror Comedies.
Notes on Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
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