Abbott & Costello Meet the Monster Movies
Throughout the 1940’s Universal Studios had two main box office draws. First, was their Universal Monsters film series featuring the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein’s creation, the Mummy etc. Even though the new studio owners saw these horror films as beneath them, the shear demand for them meant they had to keep giving audiences the monsters. The second draw was the slapstick comedy of the duo Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Having been smashing successes in both vaudeville and the radio, it only made sense to bring their act to Hollywood. Starting with 1941’s Buck Privates alongside the Andrews Sisters, but it was their work later that year which would inspire the studio heads. In Hold That Ghost, Lou Costello demonstrated the ability to be absolutely hysterical while scared.
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948): An undisputed comedy classic sees the comedians cross paths with Dracula, the Wolf-Man, and Frankenstein’s monster. As luggage clerks delivering props to a house of horrors, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, as Chick and Wilbur, accidentally stumble across Dracula’s scheme to resurrect Frankenstein’s creation to be his servant. The only thing the count needs is the brain of a simpleton, just like the one in Lou’s head. Along the way the duo cross paths with the Wolf-Man who is trying to stop Dracula while in his human form, but once the moon is full adds to the horrific chaos. For many this is the last Hurrah! of the gothic Universal Monsters and while Abbott and Costello provide the funnies, the integrity of the monsters is not compromised. To this day, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein is regarded as a horror/comedy masterpiece.
Abbott & Costello Meet the Killer Boris Karloff (1949): While Boris Karloff did not reunite with his horror actor colleagues Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. in the previous film, Karloff the Uncanny did get his meeting with the screwball duo. This time Bud takes on the role of Casey, a hotel detective, while Lou is a recently-fired bellhop Freddie. Staying at their hotel is a famed criminal defense attorney who is prepped to release a tell-all book….until he is murdered. Narrowing down the suspect is made all the more difficult by the hotel guests being a number of colorful killers, including Karloff as Swami Talpur. Abbott & Costello Meet the Killer Boris Karloff gives Lou Costello plenty of spotlight and he truly makes the most of it in one of the funniest performances of his career. In the film’s funniest scene, Costello displays incredible comedic chemistry alongside the Karloff which is bound to make viewers wish the horror legend had worked more with the vaudeville pair.
Abbott & Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951): Hoping to start new careers as private detectives Bud and Lou find their first client in a boxer falsely accused of murder. Being a wanted man, the box needs to remain hidden and as luck would have it, his fiancée’s uncle had access to Dr. Jack Griffin’s infamous invisibility serum. This leads to the two bumbling aspiring investigators to chasing down leads and even having Lou step into the ring for a particularly memorable scene. All the while they have to race against time as Griffin’s serum has the tendency to turn Invisible Men crazy. Once again as with the other Invisible Man movies Universal produced, Abbott & Costello Meet the Invisible Man proved to be an excellent showcase for special fx.
Abbott & Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953): While Abbott and Costello do not get to work with a traditional Universal Monster in this flick, they do get to reunite with co-star Boris Karloff and director Charles Lamont. This horror/comedy sees Bud and Lou in Victorian London as American police men Slim and Tubby hoping to learn British law enforcement methods. While wackiness sees their career in law enforcement cut short the two do cross paths with Dr. Henry Jekyll. As anyone who has ever heard the concept of dual personalities discussed knows, Dr. Jekyll has developed a formula that transforms him into the monstrous Hyde. Seeing a chance to get their police jobs back, Bud and Lou set out to capture the monster terrorizing London to hilarious results. While often overlooked by monster fans and Abbott and Costello fans, Abbott & Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is an underrated and hilarious entry in the pair’s various meetings with monsters.
Abbott & Costello Meet the Mummy (1955): It is largely believed by the time Abbott and Costello had faced the Egyptian undead their act was on the downhill trajectory. Getting lost in Cairo, Abbott and Costello agree to help an archeologist with watching over the newly discovered mummy. However, the archeologists is killed leaving the two screw-ups in charge of the undead Klaris as his followers bring him to life. Cue the slapstick as those who wonder who is on first have to deal with the Mummy. This would be the final movie the comedian duo would make with Universal, while it is not their strongest effort (check-out 1944’s Lost in a Harem for a superior Bud and Lou in the desert flick) Abbott & Costello Meet the Mummy is still solid entertainment.