Review Date: March 23, 2001
Released by: Universal
Release date: 8/29/2000
Region 1, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1
Chick Young (Bud Abbott
) and Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello
) are two deliverymen working for a Florida-based shipping company. One day Wilbur receives a phone call claiming to be a from a Mr. MacDougal, asking if two large crates addressed to his nearby "House of Horrors" exhibit have arrived at the shipping office. Wilbur confirms that they have, and the man starts to ask them to hold the crates and not deliver them under any circumstances, when he begins making strange, growling noises, and Wilbur hangs up. It seems that the caller was not Mr. MacDougal at all, but Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.
), a.k.a. "The Wolfman", who had been calling from London when suddenly the moon came out and caused him to transform into the beast.
Almost immediately, the real Mr. MacDougal (Frank Ferguson
) shows up and demands delivery of the crates. He's got the greatest attraction his show ever had in them, none other than the remains of Dracula and the original Frankenstein monster. Chick and Wilbur go to load the crates into their truck, but the bumbling Wilbur almost smashes one of them open, causing MacDougal to announce that he'll have an insurance inspector there when they deliver the crates to make sure the two haven't screwed them up.
The two men are finally able to pack up the crates and get them down to MacDougal's building, when they go inside to wait for him and the insurance inspector, but the lights go out. They bring one of the crates in and open it by candlelight, revealing it to be a coffin bearing Dracula's crest. Chick goes back to the truck to get the other crate, and Wilbur picks up a write-up on Dracula that MacDougal left lying around. As he reads, the coffin slowly begins to creak open. Wilbur starts screaming, but by the time Chick comes the coffin has closed itself again. After this happens several more times, Chick finally brings the other crate in and they begin to open it, but MacDougal and the insurance man show up and Chick goes to help them with the fuse box. As soon as he leaves, out of the coffin pops none other than Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi
), who temporarily hypnotizes Wilbur, then opens the other crate and escapes with the Frankenstein monster (Glenn Strange
). When he realizes that his exhibits are gone, MacDougal has both Chick and Wilbur arrested for stealing them.
Meanwhile, Dracula turns into a bat and flies to a small island off the coast, where the beautiful Dr. Sandra Mornay (Lenore Aubert
) is conducting research at her private castle. Dracula shifts back into human form, and he is greeted by Sandra. It seems that the two are in cahoots - Sandra will make the Frankenstein monster, which is in a weakened state, powerful again, and Dracula will use his supernatural powers to help Sandra. They take a boat to the swamp where Dracula has hidden the monster, and Sandra takes it back to the castle. The creature will need a brain transplant immediately, from a donor of low intellectual capacity who will follow orders without question. Sandra already has a brain picked out - that of her boyfriend, Wilbur Grey!
After spending several days in jail, Chick and Wilbur are finally bailed out by "some dame". They assume it was by Sandra, but it was actually by Joan Raymond (Jane Randolph
), a woman who is actually an undercover insurance investigator working on MacDougal's claim. She pretends to be madly in love with Wilbur as a means to get his confidence and find out what happened to the exhibits. Meanwhile, Larry Talbot flies in from London and seeks out the two men at their apartment, but neither of them take his story seriously. He's rented the apartment across the hall, and since it's going to be a full moon soon, he orders Wilbur to lock him in it while he goes through his transformation. Wilbur agrees, but goes back later to bring Talbot his luggage, and doesn't even realize it when the transformed Talbot nearly sneaks up and attacks him.
The next night, Wilbur is scheduled to go to a masquerade ball with Sandra, but he ends up taking both her and Joan along as his dates. Chick and Larry also tag along, but Dracula is getting impatient - he plans to use the event to lure the unsuspecting Wilbur to the island for the brain transplant. Can the vampire king be stopped before he can destroy what little brain power Wilbur still has?
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
is without a doubt one of the funniest combinations of horror and comedy ever put on screen, and it can easily hold it's own today alongside such modern horror-comedy classics like Evil Dead 2
and Braindead/Dead Alive
for it's laugh power. Obviously, one of the main reasons why it's held up so well is because of the talents of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello themselves, who, amazingly, were never too keen on making it in the first place. The two men were gifted with incredible talents for both physical and verbal comedy, and they don't waste either here. One of great example of this is a scene where the two of them are searching the basement of Sandra's castle for the monsters, of which Bud has yet to be convinced exist. Lou discovers a revolving door in the wall where Dracula and Frankenstein are hiding, but when Lou takes Bud through the passageway the monsters get on the other side of the door and end up in the other room. Lou goes through the revolving door again, leaving Bud to search around, and he sees the monsters. He goes back through it to get Bud, but when the two go through the door together, the monsters again get on the other side. Finally, Bud gets so upset that he starts yelling at Lou for letting his imagination get out of control. The scene works wonderfully in both it's staging, and in the two men's perfectly-delivered recations to one another. It's a great example of their mutual chemistry.
Although Bela Lugosi tends to (not undeservingly) get the lionshare of the attention when it comes to the movie's horror aspects, no less worthy of praise is his co-star Lon Chaney. The wolf man was the only of the Universal monsters to ever be played by just one person, instead of two, three or even four different actors. Unlike Dracula, the mummy, the Frankenstein monster and the rest, Larry Talbot is an actual character, with a true dual nature. He could be a vicious beast at one moment, a sympathetic or even heroic character at another. In this movie, Talbot is the only monster to actually really interact with Bud and Lou, and Chaney is obviously enjoying himself, even though he seems to have lost a lot of his youthful energy (or maybe it's just acting - in his last portrayal of Talbot, 1945's House of Dracula
, the character was supposedly cured once and for all of his affliction, but now it seems it came back - that's gotta be a pretty depressing).
Even if you're not a fan of older horror films, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
is still a movie that deserves to be in your collection. It's still funny and it still holds up beautifully, even after 53 years. If you haven't seen it yet, shame on you! Go check it out at once!
The film is presented full-frame at 1.33:1, slightly cropped from it's original 1.37:1 ratio. The transfer looks better than any version of the film that I've ever seen, with deep blacks and an overall great level of detail. But considering that this movie is 53 years old, it's not surprising that the film elements are not in perfect condition. There are quite a few scratches on the print, and light to moderate speckling is a problem as well. Unfortunately, there is also quite a bit of grain noticeable, which is at times distracting. Although overall I'm pleased with the presentation, a little bit more restoration work on the part of Universal would have been welcome.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby 2.0 Mono. No major complaints here, every line of dialogue can be easily heard, and every sound effect is reproduced flawlessly. There is some distortion in the form of occasional hissing and popping, but this is far from unheard-of with an old movie like this. Optional English and French subtitles are included.
Like Universal's other releases of their classic monster films, there's are quite a few goodies here. First off, there's a commentary track with film historian Gregory W. Mank. Like many of these film historian tracks, it sometimes seems more like a lecture than a commentary, but usually Mank is very fun and informative to listen to. He covers virtually all facets of the production, including it's production history and the various antics that occurred on-set, it's budget (and even how much some of the sets and special effects cost), and a fair amount of background on Bud and Lou and the rest of the cast, including the very sad stories of both Bud Abbott's and Lon Chaney's struggles with alcohol.
Next off, there's a great 33-minute documentary hosted by David J. Skal. Although the commentary and the documentary cover some of the same areas, the documentary features a wealth of information on it's own. It includes interviews with Lou Costello's youngest daughter Christine, film historian Ron Palumbo, Bela Lugosi Jr. and monster enthusiast Bob Burns, who shows off several pieces of Glenn Strange's Frankenstein costume from his collection. The documentary also contains several rare outtakes that are a treat to watch.
Finally, there's the standard extras assortment - a re-issue trailer, a 9-minute still gallery set to music, production notes, talent bios, and a DVD-ROM link to Universal Studios' monster website.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
is a helluva great movie, and it's gotten a great release from Universal, with an acceptable transfer and a lot of goodies in the supplemental department. This is definitely a must-have DVD.
Movie – A
Image Quality – B-
Sound – B
Supplements – A-
- Running Time - 1 hour 23 minutes
- 1 Disc
- 18 Chapter Stops
- Dolby Mono 2.0
- Commentary with film historian Gregory W. Mank
- Still gallery
- Production notes
- Talent bios
- DVD-ROM link