Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fabulous Films of the 1940's Blogathon: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

When trying to choose a film from the 1940's for this blogathon, I found it hard to pick. I adore Bette Davis, so The Letter, The Little Foxes, and Now, Voyager all came to mind. Then, I considered a film from the Sherlock Holmes series starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. I finally decided to go with a film I got for Christmas on Blu Ray from David -- Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.



As a kid, I loved the Abbott and Costello Meet... movies. My favorite was always  Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. As I've gotten older, I have continued to love this film. It is a unique blend of comedy and horror. The premise is an interesting one. Chick Young (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello) are baggage clerks at railroad station in Florida. Wilbur receives a call from a Mr. McDougal who owns "McDougal's House of Horrors." He is calling to warn the clerk about a dangerous shipment containing Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and Frankenstein's Monster (Glenn Strange). However, it isn't Mr. McDougal, it is actually Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) aka The Wolf man calling from London. During the phone call, Talbot turns into the wolf man because there is a full moon. Wilbur hangs up, thinking it is a crank call.

Part of the opening sequence.

Shortly after Talbot's call, the real McDougal (Frank Ferguson) arrives to claim his exhibits for his wax museum. Apparently, he was the lucky winner chosen to display these unusual exhibits. He demands that Chick and Wilbur deliver his prize exhibits immediately and safely. During this opening sequence, Wilbur's beautiful girlfriend Sondra Mornay (Leonore Aubert) is introduced. Strangely, she seems to know who McDougal is. It is decided that McDougal and an insurance agent will meet Chick and Wilbur at "McDougal's House of Horrors" to inspect the crates containing Count Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster.

Opening credits cartoon

The delivery does not go smoothly. Wilbur can't seem to convince Chick that Count Dracula is alive. Dracula is able to escape with Frankenstein's Monster while Chick is elsewhere in the wax museum. Obviously, McDougal is furious that his prize exhibits are missing. Chick has no explanation and Wilbur's story seems ridiculous. How could Dracula arise from his coffin and take the monster with him?

Dracula awakens Frankenstein's Monster

Dracula has a destination and plan for Frankenstein's Monster. Dracula arrives at the castle/laboratory of Dr. Sondra Mornay. Apparently, Sondra has been posing as Wilbur's girlfriend so that she can lure Wilbur to her private island. Once Wilbur is there, Sondra will transplant his brain into  Frankenstein's Monster. Since Wilbur is viewed by Sondra as simple, Dracula will be able to control the monster if it has Wilbur's brain.

Dracula brings the monster to Sondra

Meanwhile, Larry Talbot has arrived in Florida and found Chick and Wilbur. Talbot confirms Wilbur's belief that Dracula is alive (so to speak) and up to no good. Larry hopes to stop Dracula's plan. Unfortunately, as the wolf man, Larry's abilities to do this are limited. He tries to tell Chick and Wilbur of his curse, but neither seem to believe him. In the meantime, another beautiful woman seems to be interested in Wilbur. Joan Raymond (Jane Randolph) tells Wilbur she would love to go to the masquerade ball with him. He agrees even though he has already promised to take Sondra. Chick is hoping Wilbur will share one of his dates with him. However, Wilbur seems to be enjoying the center of attention so he makes no promises.


Wilbur, Chick, and Joan go to Sondra's island to pick her up and take her to the masquerade ball. Sondra is irritated that Wilbur has brought others with him, he was supposed to come alone. Sondra invites Joan to her room so the two can get ready for the ball. Joan snoops around Sondra's room and finds the journals of Dr. Frankenstein. Sondra sees Joan going through her things and returns the favor. She searches Joan's purse and finds that Joan is an insurance investigator. Meanwhile, Sondra's assistant Professor Stevens (Charles Bradstreet) seems suspicious of Sondra's work. In addition, Stevens is attracted to Joan and vice versa.

Joan is ready for the masquerade party.

While the girls are getting ready for the party, Wilbur answers the phone. The caller asks for Dr. Leighos. The caller is Larry Talbot who warns Wilbur that Leighos is Dracula. Chick and Wilbur decide to search around the castle. Wilbur, once again, happens upon Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster multiple times. However, every time he tries to find Chick and show him, the two monsters exist, Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster disappear.

Wilbur stumbles across Frankenstein's monster.
After all the intrigue, Chick, Wilbur, Joan, and Sondra meet in the entrance way so they can leave for the masquerade party. As they prepare to leave, Dr. Leighos (Dracula) comes downstairs to meet them. Leighos is thrilled to see Wilbur and recognizes that his brain will be perfect for his scheme. Leighos encourages the four to go and enjoy the party. However, Sondra sends the others away, claiming to have a headache. Dracula confronts Sondra privately about not going to party. Sondra tells him about Joan and expresses concern about proceeding. Dracula decides that Sondra can not be left to think for herself any longer. He bites her and turns her into his slave.

Sondra becomes Dracula's slave.
Eventually, Dracula brings Sondra to the masquerade party. He and Sondra will bring Wilbur and Joan back to the island and the brain transplant will take place. The party winds up being the perfect opportunity to kidnap Wilbur and Joan. Unfortunately, Larry Talbot is also at the party and he creates the distraction Dracula needs when he turns into the wolf man. Now, it is up to Chick and Talbot to go back to the island and rescue their friends.

Larry becomes the wolf man.
Will Chick and Larry save Wilbur and Joan? Will professor Stevens help them? Can Dracula and Frankenstein's monster actually be destroyed? WATCH Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein TO FIND OUT!

I was lucky enough to see this film on the big screen at Loews in Jersey City during Halloween weekend of 2011. I was amazed at the power of Lou Costello to make people laugh so easily. His sight gags and ability to mimic his co-stars remain timeless. Often, comedy can seem dated. However, Lou's regular guy put in an irregular situation still makes for great comedic moments.


I also absolutely love the cartoon opening. It tells us that yes this is a horror film, but it is also a comedy. This film walks the fine line between horror and comedy very well in my opinion. Bud and Lou know how to play it for laughs while Aubert, Chaney, and Lugosi play it straight. It is a good way to introduce younger children to monsters because Bud and Lou do manage to get out of dangerous situations. Additionally, it is not bloody or filled with on screen acts of violence. This film has something for everyone making it an example of why the films of the 1940's were fabulous!  

32 comments:

  1. The guys crack me up and Larry Talbot always breaks my heart. I love Chick's utter disbelief that these women keep throwing themselves at Wilber. Such a fun movie. It's great to hear that audiences still get a kick out of Lou.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! I know that some would say NJ audience is swayed toward Lou as local boy made good, but I think he has a genuine timelessness.

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  2. Gilby, I agree this is an excellent film to introduce young children to monsters. I showed it a few times to my 5th & 6th grade students (along with the original Frankenstein). They loved it. Nice pick--sort of original, too. LOL!

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    1. Kim, I love that you showed it to your students. That is the only way these films continue to live. That's why it was so cool to see young kids with their families watching this flick at the Loews. Thanks for reading my blog!

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  3. Yes , the films of the forties were and are fabulous ! And so is this well written and entertaining article honey !! :)

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  4. Gilby, I'm glad to catch up with you and David after all the Hurricane Sandy agita! I very must enjoyed ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (and friends!). Even the animated credit sequence sounds well worth the price of admission in itself! What a fun post and movie; so glad you guys are back!

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    1. Thanks Dorian. David and I have also been busy doing Comic and Sketch Cons. His artwork is becoming popular around here.

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  5. Abbott and Costello are for me a childhood pleasure that I've retained into adulthood. My favorite film of theirs is "Hold That Ghost," but this one is certainly one of their most entertaining and probably the favorite of most fans. I watched it a few months ago for the first time in many years and was greatly amused by it. For this concept to work, the other actors must play it absolutely straight, and they do, letting the comedy spotlight shine on Lou Costello, in what might be his finest hour.

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    1. I must agree -- Lou was in top form. As I mentioned, the Loews' audience really responded to him. Glad you enjoyed the article.

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  6. Yippee! Best Bud & Lou ever! I'm a bit of a sucker of "The Time of Their Lives," but this one has it all. What would the 40s have been without them? I think they do stand the test of time and smile just at the thought of them. Thanks for a very entertaining post!

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    1. "The Time of Their Lives" is a close 2nd in my book. It was my dad's favorite Abbott and Costello movie so we watch over and over once he got the VHS. You're right when you say what would the 1940's have been without them. We forget that they were hugely popular and filled a need for laughs during some dark years of WWII.Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. I am jealous you were able to see this on the big screen, but am so pleased to hear the audience reactions.

    I'm also really glad you chose an Abbott & Costello film for this 40s blogathon. This even wouldn't have been complete without it. :)

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    1. Thanks for your continued support! I'm very glad I picked Abbott and Costello because they were a pick part of 1940's film and pop culture.

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  8. Like R.D. I have love A&C since childhood and also like R.D. my favorite A&C film is HOLD THAT GHOST wit this film and BUCK PRIVATES running right behind them. It's one of their finest and the actual sets used from the original Frankenstein films just add a real nice touch.

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    1. I agree that the fact that this was made at Universal on the same sets from Frankenstein adds the right atmosphere. In addition, Lugosi had some great moments here!

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  9. How wonderful that you were able to see this on the big screen.

    I'm not very familiar with Abbott and Costello films. So, I'm glad that you choose it for your 40's blogathon contribution.

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    1. Dawn, I highly recommend this film and "The Times of Their Lives." As always, thanks for supporting my efforts!

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  10. I can't remember the exact dialogue, but its something like Chaney saying, When the moon is full, I turn into a wolf.

    Costello says, yeah, you and 20 million other guys.

    One of the greatest lines of dialogue ever.

    Thanks for reminding us what a fun movie this is. I never get tired of it.

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    1. I agree, that exchange is priceless. The fact that Chaney is so serious and Lou is not makes it even funnier. Glad the article brought back happy memories.

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  11. This one, A&C MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN, and THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES are my favorite Abbott & Costello pics. But this one is the tops when it comes to the premise: Dracula WANTS to be put Lou's brain in the Monster. That just cracks me up!

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    1. I have to agree Rick -- the scene on the stairway where Lugosi is thrilled to meet his brain donor is a crack-up! Clearly, Dracula idea of the perfect brain is different than most!

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  12. Hi, Gilby!
    I have to admit that I've questioned Bela's movie role decisions but I've come to realize that when you're an aging vampire, you still need to put food on the table. It used to make me sad that he and Boris starred in these films that really were a parody of their characters, made fun of them but over time I've softened.

    I'm not the biggest Abbott and Costello fan but I did find humor in this film, because of Bela and Chaney Jr. It was a lot of fun and quite funny in parts.

    I really enjoyed your review.
    Page

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    1. I think Bela was frustrated, he was a gifted stage actor who could not shake his villain/vampire image. Karloff was more successful getting to do quality stage work like "Arsenic & Old Lace" & playing Captain Hook in "Peter Pan." I always recommend "The Time of Their Lives" to people who are not big fans of the duo because it is a total departure from the norm -- they are not a team in that one. But for fun, I love this film. Thanks for coming by.

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  13. A really fun movie, and glad you selected this one. So few people selected comedies for this blogathon!

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    1. I really wanted to do something from Universal. Despite being viewed as a lesser studio during Hollywood's heyday, their films are still fun to watch.

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  14. Gilby, What a fun choice for the '40s blogathon - though I don't think Miss Bette Davis would be amused at losing out to Abbott & Costello. I haven't seen this movie since - well, so long ago, I don't dare count the decades. Have always loved Bud & Lou and so glad you gave them a well-deserved nod in the blogathon.

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  15. My idol Miss Bette Davis would not be amused. However, I really wanted to highlight a film from Universal and it was a toss up between two great duos: Abbott & Costello and Holmes & Watson. Since I got this film on Blu Ray for Christmas, I decided to go with Bud & Lou. I also felt they deserved some attention.

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  16. I'm glad you decided to go with a Universal film for your blogathon choice since I think it shakes up the field a little. And I agree with Classicfilmboy that we needed some comedies. I have to admit I've never seen this movie and clearly I'll need to take care of that in short order.

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    1. I'm glad you liked my choice. It truly is a fun movie and really shows why Bud and Lou were so popular in the 1940's -- hope you get to see the film sometime soon.

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  17. Hi Gilby! I've been absent for a while, and I'm thrilled to return to an article about one of my favorite comedies. I LOVE this movie! It makes me laugh every time I see it, even though I could probably quote the dialogue word for word. Lou Costello was just marvelous, and of course Abbott was the perfect straight man. I loved seeing Lugosi and Chaney. Fine piece about a hilarious movie!

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    1. Glad you're back. It is one of those movies that once it grabs you, you love forever. I've watched at least 3 times since I got it for Christmas!

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