Plot: What’s it about?
Chick Young (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello) are simple baggage handlers for a railroad company, but soon they will find themselves in the middle of a supernatural adventure. It seems a most strange shipment is on the train and Chick and Wilbur are to make sure it arrives safe and sound at a house of horrors. The shipment includes the remains of Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and Frankenstein’s Monster (Glenn Strange) which seems very odd, especially when the crates arrive and turn out to be totally empty. It turns out Dracula woke up and decided to escape, but he took the weakened monster with him and has plans to transplant a new brain to revive him. Meanwhile Chick and Wilbur on hot on their trail and arrive at the secret location and find out about the scheme, when a mad scientist and his beautiful assistant kidnap Wilbur with plans to use his brain inside the monster. Soon though Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) shows up to stop the hideous plot and helps Chick try to find Wilbur before it is too late. But when the full moon rises, Larry turns to the Wolf Man and now the island is crawling with monsters. Can Chick locate Wilbur in time and save him from the terrible fate of having his brain transplanted into the monster?
This release poses an interesting situation for me since I love the Universal Classic Monsters, but don’t really like the antics of Abbott & Costello. I guess I am more of a 3 Stooges fan because Abbott & Costello just don’t ring my bell very often, but since this involves some monsters, I went ahead and did this review. I’ve seen this movie several times before and while it never dazzles me, I do think it is much better than I expected it to be. This film features Abbott & Costello at the peak of their success so they even pull some laughs from me from time to time, which always surprises me. The main reason I watch (and now own) this movie though is the monsters and their interaction with Abbott & Costello are hilarious, since it shows us a unique side of the monsters. I love to watch Dracula work his mojo in his own flick for sure, but it is also fun to watch him in a comedic film where he is out of his element. So whether you’re a fan of the Universal Classic Monsters or Abbott & Costello, this is one film you will not want to miss. I recommend this release as a rental to first time viewers, but fans will want to purchase this loaded disc as soon as possible.
This classic horror/comedy film was directed by Charles T. Barton, who directed a plethora of movies in his career, as well as several successful television shows. Barton had experience with comedic cinema before and I think that shows in this film, as he lets the on screen action speak for itself most of the time. With a film like this I think that style works very well, as you don’t want to distract from the actors by being too aggressive with the camera movements or placements. So in the end we get a solid, but simple directing turn that lets the actors and storyline handle the movie and this allows for the best results in this situation, I believe. If you want to see more of Barton’s movies I recommend The Phantom Submarine, Africa Screams, Buck Privates Come Home, Zorro The Avenger, and The Shaggy Dog. As I mentioned above I am not a big fan of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, but in this movie they click better than ever and perhaps were more of their films like this one, I would call myself a fan. Their verbal skills come across very well and they also showcase their physical comedic skills as well. As always Bela Lugosi (The Phantom Creeps, The Raven) and Lon Chaney, Jr. (The Mummy’s Curse, One Million B.C.) play their characters to perfection, while Glenn Strange (The Red Badge Of Courage) seems stable in his role as Frankenstein’s Monster. The supporting cast includes Jane Randolph (Railroaded!, Cat People), Charles Bradstreet (The Unfinished Dance), and Lenore Aubert (Passport To Destiny).
Video: How does it look?
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein is presented in a full frame transfer, which retains the original aspect ratio of the film. This movie is over fifty years old so I didn’t expect a picture perfect transfer, but I am very pleased with the treatment Universal has given it. Aside from some nicks and other debris on the print (which is to be expected), this is a terrific print and exceeded all of my expectations. This is a black & white movie, so of course contrast is vital and this release sports a wonderful balance between shades. I never saw any blooming areas, nor any overly dark regions which means detail is high without being overexposed. The image is very sharp and clear, while the compression is totally flawless. Given the age of this film, Universal has issued a fine looking visual presentation.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release uses a mono track which sounds better than I expected, but still has the usual limitations of the format. I was pleased to find the absence of the annoying hiss that usually appears on mono tracks, unless the volume is raised beyond a normal listening level. The music is well done and sounds impressive in this mix, I was surprised with how little distortion was present also. The sound effects are more wacky than powerful, so you won’t miss the surround use that much. The dialogue is at a nice level and sounds very crisp at all times, never is it overpowered by the other elements. This release also includes English captions and French subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The usual production notes, talent files, and theatrical trailer have all been included, but that’s just the beginning of the bonus features on this release. A terrific slide show of production photographs has been included and is much like other slide shows on Universal’s Classic Monster discs. This one contains over one hundred photos and takes a while to get through, but it well worth the time to check them out. You’ll see advertisements, promotional materials, publicity photos, and even some behind the scenes shots. Next up is an audio commentary track with film historian George W. Mank which is loaded with information, but can become somewhat tedious to listen to. Mank has a dull voice and despite his efforts to remain lively, just seems to fall into monotone too often for my tastes. But fans will still want to seek out this track as it is filled with insight into this picture, just make sure to take some caffeine pills before you start the track. Rounding out the extras is Abbott & Costello Meet The Monsters, a featurette which offers a glimpse behind the scenes of this motion picture. The piece runs over half an hour and contains interviews, as well as some rare on the set footage. Fans of Abbott & Costello will discover a wealth of information in this featurette and will not want to miss it.