Thursday, October 29, 2015

Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein - 1948

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) is an example of that minor genre – sub genre – miniscule or microscopic genre generally known as horror/comedy. I don’t know if any film critic or historian has ever compiled a list of them, or waxed philosophic on this kind of movie. But we know it when we see it, and Abbott and Costello fans seem to consider this movie one of the duo’s best.

This is our entry in the Universal Pictures Blogathon hosted by the Metzinger sisters at Silver Scenes.

I confess to not being a diehard Abbott and Costello fan myself – I’ve always found them less witty than other knockabout duos like Laurel and Hardy, and though I probably saw this film as a child (Universal monster movies were a favorite then) my most recent reintroduction to this film was this candid publicity photo taken on the Universal lot at the time the movie was in production.  We posted it here a couple years ago as a preview to the Year of Ann Blyth series.

Here we see Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein monster transporting Ann as her mermaid character in Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid (1948) covered here, which was also filming at the same time. This photo is really a kind of tribute to the work of Bud Westmore, head of the studio’s makeup department, who was responsible for these, and so many other imaginative creations.

Universal, as pretty much any old movie buff can tell you, cornered the market on monster movies. It gave us Dracula, Frankenstein, a slew of wolfmen and their victims, sequels, and progeny. It is interesting to have Universal turn their cash cow on its ear by putting their most famous monsters in a comedy feature to play second fiddle to Abbott and Costello.

To be sure, Bud and Lou were huge stars in the 1940s, top box office draws, and perhaps the studio felt it could give the monsters a little more exposure, a new life, by hooking them up with the new kids on the block.

Some monster movie purists feel this destroyed the genre when all the bullets, burning windmills, and stakes to the heart could not.

Then again, with the atomic age and a host of new “sci-fi” creatures coming to a theater near you, perhaps the days of patiently waiting for the mummy to lumber close enough to get to the horrified archaeologist was as good as – you’ll pardon the expression – dead.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is an homage to the genre, even if it exploits it. Bud and Lou are freight delivery guys who attempt to deliver the crated monsters to a wax museum, and when the monsters get out, and Bud spends most of the movie trying to get someone to believe him that he saw them. There are some mildly amusing gags, but it is the monsters and their actors – Bella Lugosi’s Dracula, and Lon Chaney Jr as the Wolfman that bring an unusual panache and dignity to the proceedings. Lon Chaney Jr, bearing the burden and angst of morphing into a werewolf treats this less as a curse and more as an affliction. It strikes me as a very modern perspective.

Glenn Strange is the newbie as the Frankenstein monster. Taking over from Boris Karloff, he has big shoes to fill.

Sometimes I just crack myself up.

He has the most arduous makeup and the least amount of lines and acting to do. Most of Mr. Strange’s roles throughout his career were uncredited. He had a bit part in All the Brothers Were Valiant (1953), covered here, also with Ann Blyth – the only time they worked in the same film, despite taking a stroll around the Universal sound stages with the mermaid in his arms.

One delight of the film, for me anyway, is seeing dependable Frank Ferguson as the wax museum gallery owner, perpetually in a state of having a nervous breakdown because Bud and Lou haven’t delivered his monsters.

My other favorite part was the animated cartoon opening title and credits.

And a special treat (run screaming in the night from the Spoiler) is the voice of Vincent Price as the invisible man behind Bud in the rowboat as the boys row frantically away from the burning dock on which the Frankenstein monster is meeting his demise.  Again.

Bud and Lou were not done with monsters. They would run into more of them from time to time including Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff in the following year 1949, but by then nobody took a curse seriously anymore. Not with flying saucers, ray guns, and giant radiation-infused insects on the horrible horizon.

Universal has done its own magical morphing through the decades – the theme park, of course – and the vault – or crypt – where so many movies, from Universal and Paramount studios, are held back from us. Truly horrific.

Please check out the other great posts participating in the Universal Pictures Blogathon at Silver Scenes.

"Lynch’s book is organized and well-written – and has plenty of amusing observations – but when it comes to describing Blyth’s movies, Lynch’s writing sparkles." - Ruth Kerr, Silver Screenings

"Jacqueline T. Lynch creates a poignant and thoroughly-researched mosaic of memories of a fine, upstanding human being who also happens to be a legendary entertainer." - Deborah Thomas, Java's Journey

"One of the great strengths of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. is that Lynch not only gives an excellent overview of Blyth's career -- she offers detailed analyses of each of Blyth's roles -- but she puts them in the context of the larger issues of the day."- Amanda Garrett, Old Hollywood Films

"Jacqueline's book will hopefully cause many more people to take a look at this multitalented woman whose career encompassed just about every possible aspect of 20th Century entertainment." - Laura Grieve, Laura's Miscellaneous Musings

"Jacqueline T. Lynch’s Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. is an extremely well researched undertaking that is a must for all Blyth fans." - Annette Bochenek, Hometowns to Hollywood

Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. 
by Jacqueline T. Lynch

The first book on the career of actress Ann Blyth. Multitalented and remarkably versatile, Blyth began on radio as a child, appeared on Broadway at the age of twelve in Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine, and enjoyed a long and diverse career in films, theatre, television, and concerts. A sensitive dramatic actress, the youngest at the time to be nominated for her role in Mildred Pierce (1945), she also displayed a gift for comedy, and was especially endeared to fans for her expressive and exquisite lyric soprano, which was showcased in many film and stage musicals. Still a popular guest at film festivals, lovely Ms. Blyth remains a treasure of the Hollywood's golden age.

The eBook and paperback are available from Amazon and CreateSpace, which is the printer.  You can also order it from my Etsy shop. It is also available at the Broadside Bookshop, 247 Main Street, Northampton, Massachusetts.

If you wish a signed copy, then email me at and I'll get back to you with the details.

My new syndicated column on classic film is up at, or check with your local paper.


Caftan Woman said...

"You and twenty million other guys." You don't even have to know the lead in to chuckle at that line.

I hope whoever first thought of teaming A&C with the monsters got a raise, or at least a slap on the back. It prolonged the life of both teams and is a treat for fans of horror and probably created many fans for the original scary movies.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

CW, I think fans of Bud and Lou know that line by heart -- and several others just from this movie. You may be right about this comedy leading new fans to the original flicks. I hadn't thought of that.

Yvette said...

I love this movie, Jacqueline. Loved it as a kid and still love it now. In fact, I'm hoping to introduce my grandkids to it soon as they get a little older. :)

There are so many favorite lines and moments and while, like you, I was not a big Abbott and Costello fan, I can't imagine anyone playing their roles (though they were probably written with them in mind) in this film monster frolic. It is just pure nonsense from start to finish.

Thanks for writing about it.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thanks for stopping by, Yvette. It seems this one is an old favorite of many. So nice to revist this movie with you all.

John/24Frames said...

A&C were never the critics favorites like Laurel and Hardy. They were seen as too low brow I guess. That said, they had impeccable timing. Bud Abbott was one of the best straight men ever. I grew up on these guys. In NY they were on ever weekend with a different movie. This along with Buck Privates and Hold That Ghost remain favorites.

The Metzinger Sisters said...

We grew up watching this film on Big Chuck and Little John ( legendary Saturday Matinee tv hosts in Cleveland ) and have always had a soft spot for it, but even with that childhood affection we find A&C's "Hold that Ghost" ( and even "Who Done It?" ) to be better comedies. However, you can't beat seeing all the monsters in one film. Great line : Frankenstein is meeting his demise. Again. Ha! How true! Thanks for contributing such a swell entry to the blogathon.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

John,I know the boys had their fans, and I remember going to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York where a bunch of us stood around a screen playing their famous "Who's on First" routine, which undoubtedly, we were all familiar with but laughed our heads off anyway. I confess to liking the Three Stooges more, though, and they were certainly much more lowbrow. I don't think that's it. I'm inclined to say when Bud and Lou had their routines, they were great, with great timing, as you say. But I think some of the movie scenarios straightjacketed what might have been more fluid as a nightclub routine. I don't know. I still tip my hat to their great success.

AND THIS JUST IN....John informs me -- "Glenn Strange and Ann Blyth were in another film together, technically. The film was Brute Force. Strange had small bit part and no scenes with Ann." Thanks, John, for correcting my remark in the post that they were together only in one film.

Metzinger girls - HOLD THAT GHOST seems to be getting a lot of votes. That might be a good one for a future Halloween. Thanks for hosting such a swell blogathon.

Rich said...

I've always wanted to see this. I find nothing wrong with mixing horror with comedy, and I wish more modern horror films would engage in it once in awhile. Didn't know Bela and LCJ were in this too.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Hi, Rich. I don't know whether it's on DVD -- it may be, but my brother had recorded it off TV some years ago, so I was lucky to have easy access to it. Bela and Lon were great. Like old friends showing up at the party.

Quiggy said...

RE: "I don't know whether it's on DVD"

It is. By itself, and in a collection (Best of A & C Vol 3.) My local library has the former and I have the latter. Personally I love the A & C treatments of the classic monsters. Always like my humor and comedy mixed. I found this entry entertaining.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thanks, Quiggy, for passing the info along about the DVDs. I'm glad fans will be able to continue to enjoy this movie.

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