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ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)
By Dan Cziraky
June 11, 2000
Anyone who thinks they are sitting on the script for the ultimate horror film spoof needs to watch this film about thirty times, then TEAR THEIR SCRIPT UP! After a bit of a drop-off at the box-office, Abbott & Costello regained their kings-of-comedy crowns with this hysterically funny send-up of Universal Pictures' own classic film monsters. Florida baggage clerks Chick Young (Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Costello) deliver crates to McDougal's House of Horrors, containing the genuine 'remains' of Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and the Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange). The 'exhibits' are the real deals, and they promptly escape! It turns out Wilbur's girlfriend, luscious European scientist Dr. Sandra Mornay (Lenore Aubert), is in cahoots with Dracula, and they intend to replace the Monster's brutish brain with poor, dim-witted Wilbur's! When Lawrence Talbot, a.k.a. The Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.) arrives to stop Dracula's plan, he convinces the already frightened Wilbur of the monsters' reality, including his own lycanthropy. 'When the moon is full, I turn into a wolf,' Talbot admits mournfully. 'Yeah, you and twenty million other guys,' Wilbur cracks.
The boys are in great form, the jokes are screamingly funny, and the monsters are treated with the dignity they deserve. Although loosely tied into Universal Monsters mythos (after all, Chaney was CURED at the end of 1945's HOUSE OF DRACULA), the story would still be good if all the comedy elements were removed. Lugosi plays Dracula for only the second (and last) time on film in his career; although over sixty and a bit pudgy, he still has the animal power and menace to make it convincing. His transformations into a bat are done via dissolves to elaborate, hand-painted cel animation, pre-dating computer 'morphing' by some thirty years (rumored to have been executed by WOODY WOODPECKER's Walter Lantz, who may also have done the impressive opening credit sequence). Strange speaks for the first time as The Monster (he was mute in HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and HOUSE OF DRACULA), and there is a priceless cameo by Vincent Price as The Invisible Man at the film's end. Originally titled THE BRAIN OF FRANKENSTEIN, the first draft of the script also included The Mummy and Count Alucard!
Although the duo would later MEET DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE, MEET THE MUMMY and MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN, those efforts paled next to MEET FRANKENSTEIN. This is the best, the unequaled horror spoof (although Mel Brooks' YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is a very close second-best) of all time, period. In 1998, Jeff Rovin wrote a book sequel, THE RETURN OF THE WOLF MAN, that wisely did NOT attempt to match the comedy elements, but was a straightforward (and pretty decent, too) horror offering that picked up right where MEET FRANKENSTEIN left off.