ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN—-Larry Talbot/The Wolfman: “I know you’ll think I’m crazy, but… in a half-hour the moon will rise and I’ll turn into a wolf.” Lou Costello: “You and twenty million other guys.”
Of the 37 films they’d caper through between 1940 and 1956, this 1948 favorite stands as the most cherished and durable Abbott & Costello outing, a box-office hit and a TV perennial for years.
Slickly produced at a cost of $792,000, directed by Charles Barton (the best of the nine A&C epics he steered—what a job that must have been!) this merrily zips through 93 minutes as the two wiseguys are pitted a trio against Universal’s most beloved monsters. It made for a champion kiddie entertainment and has a strong nostalgic pull for grownups who loved it back in a distant, simpler age.
Hulking, slinking and prowling through well-appointed, excellently photographed sets (Charles van Enger on the lensing) are Lon Chaney Jr., Wolf Man anguish intact; vampire idol and camp-champ Bela Lugosi as Dracula, with some nifty transformation scenes (how does that tux fold into bat wings? the answer must lie in physics); and Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein monster—towering, clumsy and too strong for his own good.
Add fog, castle, a sly dame (Lenore Aubert is the sinister doctor helping Dracula), a suitably eerie Frank Skinner music backup and the razor-timed gags & patter that made Bud & Lou so popular. Those man-to-bat animations were the work of Walter Lantz, the fiend behind Woody Woodpecker–can you hear that laugh? What’s here is undiluted fun in a mix of comedy & creepy that has held its silly spell for nearly seven decades. $3,200,000 and change clinked into Universal’s crypts.
With Jane Randolph, Frank Ferguson, Charles Bradstreet and Joe Kirk. My favorite moment is when Costello pauses while being chased down a hallway in the riotous climax and does the old vaudeville trick of whipping a tablecloth out from under candelabras and looks at the audience for approval. “He can’t get in here!”