Movie Night: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Year: 1948

Director: Charles Barton

Production Company: Universal International Pictures

Leads: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello

Well that’s gonna cost you overtime ’cause I’m a union man, and I work only sixteen hours a day.

A union man only works eight hours a day!

I belong to two unions.

51F4U16LZjL._SX500_Oh my, this was too long in coming. After too many Jackie Chan and superhero movies, it was time to introduce Little Satis to the birth of comedy.

His first impression of course was, “Ew…black and white?”

I tried to explain to him that yes, they did have color back then, but they just didn’t use it very much. I also tried to explain to him that just because it was in black and white didn’t mean it wasn’t any good.

It turned out I didn’t need to do much explaining. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is a showcase of the duo at their very best, in an absolute farce of a movie with more holes than plot, and whizz-bang cracks every two seconds. What’s so amazing to me in watching these movies is the feel of spontaneity and dynamism that exists throughout; you almost feel as if you’re watching a stage comedy performance. Yet at the same time, every joke and pun fits perfectly into the plot (which is, of course, a joke of its own), and never feels over-rehearsed or generic.

In a nutshell, Dracula travels to the United States with the Frankenstein monster, hoping to find a new brain to revive him and make him his servant. The Wolfman is hot in pursuit, but of course can’t go around at night, because of the full moon (which apparently rises every night). Dracula sets himself on Lou Costello’s brain, of course, it having “no will of its own, no fiendish intellect to oppose his Master.”

Through a series of frankly bizarre and calamitous events Abbott and Costello manage to defeat Dracula, blow up the Frankenstein monster, toss the evil assistant out of a window, and save the girl, who is inexplicably attracted to Costello.

I don’t get it. Out of all the guys around here that classy dish has to pick out a guy like you.

What’s wrong with that?

Go look at yourself in the mirror sometime.

Why should I hurt my own feelings?

However, above the comedic gold, perhaps the true gem of this movie is the chance to see Bela Lugosi return to his infamous role as Dracula (as well as, to a lesser extent, Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman). He is to me the epitome of Dracula (I’m so sorry, Christopher Lee), and to this day when someone mentions the name Dracula, I hear Lugosi’s lilting and sinister Hungarian accent, and see his cape folded over his face. His stone-faced demeanor is such a contrast to the shenanigans of Abbott and Costello that he brings if anything more of a chill than were it a serious movie. His character observes the two as though they are the world’s greatest fools; there’s a moment early on where the expression on Lugosi’s face is priceless:

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 11.29.23 PM

Oh, what a joy this film is; and of course the goal was achieved: opening Little Satis’ eyes to movies that were made before he was born.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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