Universal // 1948 // 83 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // August 23rd, 2012
"Oh Chick! CH-CH-CH-CHIIIIIIICK...!!"
Stuart Gordon, director of the cult classic Re-Animator, once noted horror movie audiences are the ones who like to laugh the most. He also noted that if you don't give them something to laugh at, they'll eventually just laugh at your movie. Gordon was right, of course; horror movie lovers don't just love a good scare, but also a hearty chuckle to go along with their chills. Thankfully, Universal understood this concept more than seventy years ago when they took two of the days hottest comedic teams and paired them up with some of their classic monsters. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is now available on Blu-ray to terrify and tickle your funny bone!
Clumsy delivery men Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello, Buck Privates) and Chick Young (Bud Abbott, Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man) are about to come face-to-fang with some of the most terrifying monsters ever to roam the planet! When a couple of crates are delivered to their warehouse, Chick and Wilbur make a delivery to a local wax museum of horrors. What they don't realize is that their delivery is actually the real life remains of Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi, Son of Frankenstein) and Frankenstein's monster (Glenn Strange, House of Dracula)! Dracula has a plan to revive the monster, though he'll have to contend not only with the lunatic bumblings of Chick and Wilbur, but also the persistent Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr, High Noon), AKA the terrifying Wolf Man! Throw in a comely and vivacious insurance investigator (Jane Randolph, Cat People) and an old dark castle, and you've got a side splitting comedy that will scares you to pieces!
By the mid 1940s, the original Universal monster movie craze had begun to wane. The studio had great success bringing pure terror to the screen. Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, and The Mummy were all huge hits, as were most of their sequels (well over a dozen were produced in the 1930s and '40s). Although interest wasn't high for the monsters at the time, it was for comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Someone had the brilliant idea to put the duo and some of cinema's most famous monsters in the same movie and -- presto! -- Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was born!
I have tremendous affinity for this film, which feels like a love letter to classic horror fans. In a way, it was a final love letter; historians consider Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein to be the last entry in Universal's golden age of monster movies. Although more classics surfaced (including my favorite, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, which Abbott and Costello spoofed on TV years later), this would mark the end of an era that gave movie lovers some of the screen's most memorable monstrosities.
One of the reasons Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein works so well is that, while the film itself is rather silly, it never gets laughs at the expense of the monsters. A lot of Abbott and Costello's best known bits are featured in here, including a very amusing introduction to Dracula's coffin. Director Charles Barton (The Shaggy Dog) deftly balances Abbott and Costello's shenanigans with the horror of the monsters. As an audience, we laugh at Bud and Lou's reactions, mugging to Dracula and company, not at the monsters themselves.
Abbott and Costello are a joy to watch. Abbott is the straight man who spends most of the film reacting to Costello's zany antics (usually panicking, as he's about to be ensnared by Dracula or Frankenstein). Each plays off the other perfectly with Lou's sweaty, sputtering one liners stealing the show.
Although they look older, Lon Chaney Jr. and Bela Lugosi still shine in the roles they will forever be identified with. Chaney's Larry Talbot is still a sad sack tryinh to warn everyone of impending doom; not just the evil of Dracula and Frankenstein, but his own curse as the Wolf Man. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein would be the second and last time Lugosi would don his Dracula cape; a bit weathered and worse for wear, Lugosi still menaces as the classic vampire. The only thing that would have made the film perfect would have been seeing Boris Karloff reprise his role as The Monster (and throw in Elsa Lanchester as The Bride, while we're at it). While Glenn Strange (who took over for Karloff in House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula) is serviceable in the role, Karloff's portrayal is sorely missed.
With a run time of an hour and a half, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is brisk, light entertainment. The movie has few (if any) slow spots and all three monsters are given equal time to shine. In a way, it feels like making new friends while revisiting old ones. Plus, Bud and Lou's youthful exuberance is a nice compliment to the classic style of Universal's legendary monsters.
Presented in 1.33:1/1080p full frame high definition, Universal has done a wonderful job with this transfer. The film has never looked so fresh, clear, and just plain great. The black and white image sports a very warm, filmic quality. There is a small layer of grain, but that's to be expected considering the age of the film. Although this transfer isn't perfect (there are a few minor imperfections in the print), it's a huge upgrade from the previous DVD release.
The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track is equally as good. A fancy, expansive 5.1 remix wasn't required for this film, and I'm happy Universal decided to preserve the original mono recording. While it's not dynamic in range, it features crystal clear dialogue, music, and sound effects. Also included Dolby 2.0 Mono tracks in English and Spanish, as well as English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
To my knowledge, most of the extra features on this Blu-ray are ports from the DVD release, including a half hour documentary titled Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters, a feature commentary with film historian Gregory W. Mank, and the film's theatrical trailer. Also included are two short featurettes ("100 Years of Universal: The Lot" and "100 Years of Universal: Unforgettable Characters") celebrating Universal's 100th anniversary. Finally, there is also a bonus copy of the 2000 DVD release, as well as a digital copy of the film.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is a funny, witty, frightening homage to classic horror, performing a perfect balancing act of allowing us to laugh while still retaining the gothic undertones of Universal's legendary monsters. I highly recommend it to anyone with a deep seated love of horror or classic films.
Not Guilty. Hey ABBOTT!!!
Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame (1080p)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 1948
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy