Lucky viewers will get to see the film as a kid and enjoy it once more when they’re older.
Director Charles Barton
Screenplay Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo, John Grant
Starring Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Lon Chaney, Jr., Bela Lugosi, Glenn Strange, Lenore Aubert, Jane Randolph, Vincent Price
Watching Abbott and Costello’s Universal comedy horrors as a kid had exactly the effect it should have had. I was delighted by the comedy and spooked by the monsters of Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolfman. As a product of its time, the story, special effects and comedy worked well enough to make the lagging Universal monsters division come alive for another decade.
As a movie, even today, the combination works almost as well. The comedic duo had been through some rough times earlier in the decade, fighting health issues, a decline in drawing power and even one another for a time. The lure of the combination with Universal’s other big attraction helped to make the duo a force again. It also helped cement the Hollywood tradition of merging corporate entities that continues to this day.
The story has Dracula (Legosi) and Frankenstein (Strange) being delivered to McDougal’s House of Horrors in Florida. Chick Young and Wilbur Grey (Abbott and Costello) are the delivery men, and they are implored by Lawrence Talbot / Wolfman (Chaney, Jr.) to not open the boxes. Of course this goes unheeded.
Dracula, meanwhile, has worked a side deal with some peripheral “Doctors” to remove Frankenstein monster’s brain and replace it with Wilbur’s. Things go awry for everyone at some point or another.
The whole schtick of Abbott and Costello is that Costello always notices the anomaly, Abbott misses it and never believes his partner. This routine is effectively employed thoughout the film. There’s an especially fun scene with a secret door, and even better one as the duo tries to escape the monsters at the climax.
The film still looks great in digital form, with effects that rival even the best of the Universal montster films for its time. The dialogue is snappy and actually quite sharp. It ranges from Dad jokes to dual meanings that resonate even today.
This film should appeal as a gateway horror and comedy for pre-teens. It will work with adults who don’t pride themselves on being cynical. It’s 82 minute running time prevents any of the routines from wearing out their welcome. Lucky viewers will get to see the film as a kid and enjoy it once more when they’re older.
(**** out of *****)