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Monday, March 14, 2011

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

It smells but it sells.  Universal had a sure fire hit on their hands when they combined the comedy talents of Abbott and Costello with three of their legendary monsters:  Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot/The Wolf Man, and Glenn Strange as Frankenstein's Monster.  [Although Boris Karloff played the Monster originally, Strange appeared as the Monster in House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945).]  Lou Costello did not want to film the movie, declaring, "No way I'll do that crap. My little girl could write something better than this." A $50,000 advance in salary and the signing of director Charles Barton, the team's good friend and the man whom some call their best director, convinced him otherwise.  It's no big surprise that the movie became Universal's second highest grossing film that year.
So, does it survive the transition to 2011?  Yes and No.  Even if you don't care for the humor of Abbott and Costello, no one can deny they are comedy legends.  I didn't bust a gut, but I did giggle from time to time.  I also admired Abbott's physical comedy work and his expert delivery of even the most ridiculous of dialogue.  Personally, I think  Mel Brook's Young Frankenstein (1974) makes the transition to modern audiences better than this one does.
How are the monsters?  Lugosi seems a little lost in this picture.  Not exactly his strongest performance.  You're not sure if he's playing the role completely straight or trying his best to be a little humorous.  Chaney is great and channels the tortured soul of Larry Talbot like nobody else can.  He takes his role seriously and it works for him rather well.  Glenn Strange was always the weaker version of Frankenstein's Monster.  I always preferred Karloff.  However, he gives a decent performance that is on par with his portrayal of the monster in previous films.
Make up effects legend Jack Pierce is MIA on this film and is definitely missed.  The monsters are a little bit off but I think the audience who came to see it could have cared less.  It's hard to rate this one because it is a well made film with nice sets, very good performances and there's even an end scene cameo by Vincent Price for good measure.  It's not a scary film, but it is kind of fun.  Enjoy it for what it is.
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

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