Thursday, September 3, 2015

Collection Recommendation #4: Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters

Originally released on laser disc (and divided up among separate box sets since then), "Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Monsters" makes its long overdue premiere on DVD, and boy, oh, boy, do we have four special ones contained, kicked off by the granddaddy of all monster-rally comedies: "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein".

The 1948 team-up classic, directed by Charles Barton, was a bittersweet farewell for Universal's classic monster series and gave a much deserved boost to Bud and Lou. Though more comedic than horror-based, the story finds the boys (under the script's aliases) working at a wax museum: a front for peculiar experimentation that includes the Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange), Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.). For whatever odd reason, Lou's brain is intended for transplantation into the Monster's skull: a mad concept that churns lots of laughs. (For what it's worth, the movie's pre-production title was, in fact, "The Brain of Frankenstein").

Lou's frantic reactions to the monsters, and Bud's straight-man responses make this film more enjoyable with each and every view, and Strange, Lugosi and Chaney are in tip-top form: towering, menacing and sympathetic, even in light of the boys' contagious comedy.

Also in the set is "Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man": the 1951 entry the first in a series of three directed by Charles Lamont. The boys had actually met the Invisible Man (thanks to Vincent Price's voice) at the end of "...Meet Frank", but here we're not offered a direct sequel, but rather another Dr. Griffin companion piece, which had become a common approach to sequelization in the franchise. (Claude Rains, however, does make a cameo in a photograph.)

There's also detective and boxing motifs in this one, with Sheldon Leonard and William "Fred Mertz" Frawley in a supporting roles, and in the "transparent" lead, Arthur Franz, whom horror/science-fiction fans will know from "Atomic Submarine", "Invaders from Mars" and "Monster on the Campus". (On a side note: James Best, of "Killer Shrews" fame, was Franz's stand-in.)

As is only expected, Bud and Lou take it to the hilt interacting with their H.G. Wells offspring: the invisibility factor a clever device off which the duo gains loads of hilarious mileage.

Next up is "Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1953), with Boris Karloff as their new nemesis (though the duo did encounter him previously in "...Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff".) Karloff's screen time is more extensive, though, in this Robert Louis Stevenson knock-off, but some find Karloff's Jekyll unnecessarily unscrupulous, though others maintain that the doctor's actions are refreshingly faithful to that of the classic novella. The Hyde make-up (used at one humorous point for Lou's characterization) is, on the other hand, more bestial than anything Stevenson implied, but all the same memorable as such. (Interestingly enough, this Hyde design would resurface four years later in Jack Arnold's "Tarantula".)

It should also be noted that legendary stuntman, Eddie Parker occupies the Hyde persona throughout most of the picture, with horror favorite John Dierkes as Batley, Jekyll's mesmerized assistant, and Craig Stevens, of "Peter Gunn"/"Deadly Mantis" fame, as the film's gallant lead. There's also an awkward women's lib subplot, led by the lovely Helen Westcott, which initiates the movie, but at least doesn't spoil the boys' kick-off shenanigans.

Last but not least is "Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy" (1955). In this case, the Mummy is named Klaris (a play upon Kharis), supported by Richard Deacon (in a George Zucco nod), Michael Ansara and Mel Welles, with lovely Marie Windsor and Peggy King glamorizing the gaps.

Stuntman Eddie Parker is back as the lead monster. Parker had stood in for Chaney in the Kharis films, but here sports a different, bandaged design: a quasi-swathed, wrinkled face. Also, his spunky characterization complements the boys' antics.

This one may also be the funniest next to "...Meet Frank", if only for Lou's famous "midget mummy" reference in one, joyous scene. 

"Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters" is a treat for any monster and/or comedy fan. It's also good, clean fun for the entire family, offering a breezy, chuckle-filled form of escape that's nearly nonexistent among today's so-called humor. If you don't believe me, slip in a disc and see for yourself. In little time, you'll be immersed in a carefree world of good, old-fashioned, monsterized fun. (Incidentally, "...Meet Frankenstein" comes with Gregory W. Mank historical commentary, and "...Meet Jekyll/Hyde" comes with such from Tom Weaver and Richard Scrivani: insightful supplements that film buffs will relish to no end.)


  1. Great synopsis MH. Wish it came in DVD set.

  2. Thanks, my friend. Actually, it is on DVD: 2 discs included in the set. It was released on 9/1/15.