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  Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Monster Fun
Year: 1948
Director: Charles Barton
Stars: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Lon Chaney Jr, Bela Lugosi, Lenore Aubert, Jane Randolph, Glenn Strange, Frank Ferguson, Charles Broadstreet, Vincent Price
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Chick (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur (Lou Costello) are railway station porters in Florida who one day receive a call from London. The caller is Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr) who begs them not to deliver a couple of large crates to the local House of Horrors, but just as he is about to explain, the sight of the full moon transforms Talbot into the Wolfman. A baffled Wilbur hangs up, and that night the duo deliver the crates regardless, as ordered by McDougal (Frank Ferguson), the owner, who claims that they contain the bodies of Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and the Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange)...

By 1948, the Universal horror films were going out of fashion, and after teaming up their monsters with each other in various ways, the studio decided to inject a little energy to the series by joining them up with their top comedy team, Abbott and Costello. The result was a huge success, and the comedians repeated the formula in subsequent films when they met other sinister characters such as the Invisible Man or the Mummy. Sadly, for the monsters, this would be the last we saw of them in their Universal incarnations, but, although a ostensibly comedy, this film ensured that they were sent off in style.

The secret to a good horror comedy, which the writers Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo and John Grant obviously realised, was to keep the bad guys scary and the good guys frightened. Time and again Wilbur is terrified by the villains, usually taking the form of them creeping up on him, Wilbur calling "Chick!" and the villians retreating before Chick catches sight of them. Yes, it's a perfect example of the eternal struggle between the credulous and the sceptical, with cynical Chick disbelieving the supernatural goings-on, but Wilbur, of course, being justified in his worries. It's like an X Files episode, except this time the sceptics change their minds.

Nowadays, Abbott and Costello are an acquired taste. Their humour is broad and repetitive, with Bud as the bad tempered, bullying straight man, and Lou as the childish, whimsical funny one; both are equally cowardly, but Bud hides it beneath his bluster. However, because their routines often lapsed into the engagingly bizarre, their over-reactions are ideal for this type of horror, especially in the face of the actors who play their bad guy roles to the hilt. Chaney's Talbot is remorseful as ever, but his violent alter ego erupts amusingly in such scenes as when he admits, "Every night when the moon is full, I turn into a wolf," and Lou responds, "You and twenty million other guys!"

Lugosi's smoothly menacing Count is the mastermind behind the scheme to put Costello's more suggestable brain inside the head of the uncontrollable Frankenstein Monster, which leads to a night of mayhem with a lot of running about. The gags are strong, both visual (see the barricading the door scene) and verbal, with enough good one-liners (Chick, mystified at what Wilbur's girlfriend sees in him, "Frankly I don't get it!" Wilbur's girlfriend: "Frankly, you never will!") to keep the story racing along and cover up the cornier dialogue. If you like this type of thing, you'll like it a lot, and if you don't, you could be pleasantly surprised. Yeah, they don't meet Frankenstein, but never mind. Music by Frank Skinner.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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