Cast & Crew
Charles T. Barton
Lon Chaney [jr.]
In London, at the stroke of midnight, Lawrence Talbot calls Wilbur Grey, a bumbling American post office employee, and tells him to delay the delivery of two crates to McDougal's House of Horrors wax museum until he arrives. After the call, however, McDougal appears and demands that Wilbur and his co-worker, Chick Young, immediately deliver the crates, which contain the bodies of Count Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster. As Wilbur and Chick bring the crates to the creepy McDougal house, a lightning bolt causes the electricity to go out, and although Wilbur witnesses the vampire begin to rise, Chick does not believe his story. Wilbur then opens the Monster's case and is terrified by the scarred face, at which point Dracula hypnotizes him long enough to escape with the Monster. Just then, McDougal arrives, sees the empty crates and accuses Wilbur and Chick of robbing him. As the men argue, Dracula spirits the Monster away to his island castle, where he and Sandra Mornay, the woman Wilbur believes to be his girl friend, discuss their plans to implant Wilbur's malleable brain into the weakened Monster, whom they can then use to carry out their evil deeds. Later, Talbot, who has rented a room at Wilbur and Chick's apartment house, informs the two men that, to his horror, he is the Wolfman, and that they must help him stop Dracula from carrying out his evil plan. He then convinces them to lock him in his room for the evening, so that when he turns into a werewolf, he cannot harm anyone. The next day, Joan Raymond, the beautiful insurance invvestigator hired by McDougal, visits Wilbur and flirts with him as part of a plan to find out where he has hidden McDougal's stolen displays. She convinces him to take her out that night, although he already has a date to take Sandra to a costume ball. That night, when Chick brings Wilbur and Joan to meet Sandra at the castle, Joan flirts with laboratory assistant Dr. Stevens. While they wait for Sandra to put on her costume, Talbot calls Wilbur at the castle to warn him that Dracula and the Monster are in the building. Wilbur tells Chick, who insists that they search the basement to prove that nothing is there, and although Wilbur finds the ghouls, each time the ghouls chase him, Chick is out of the room and does not see them. Upstairs, Sandra discovers from Joan's identification card that she is an investigator who might uncover their plan and so runs downstairs to dissuade Dracula, now disguised as a doctor, from stealing Wilbur's brain that night. Dracula, who does not want to postpone his scheme, bites Sandra, and she becomes a vampire under his spell. Later, at the ball, Sandra tries to lure Wilbur back to the castle, while Dracula hypnotizes Joan. At the same time, Talbot transforms into the Wolfman and attacks McDougal, who assumes that Chick, who is wearing a wolf costume, is the culprit. Chick and Wilbur run from the police into the woods, and when Joan follows, Dracula abducts Wilbur and Joan as Chick faints from fear. When he wakes, Chick finds the now-human Talbot and brings him to the castle, just as Sandra prepares the operation to transplant Wilbur's brain into the Monster. Chick and Talbot burst in just in time to save Wilbur, but soon the moon rises, turning Talbot into a werewolf again. The Monster, meanwhile, frees himself from his bonds, grabs Sandra and throws her out the window. Chick and Wilbur run from the Monster while the werewolf pursues Dracula into the ocean, where they both drown. Joan wakes from her hypnosis and helps Dr. Stevens set the Monster on fire, allowing Chick and Wilbur to escape by boat. They set sail, not realizing until they hear a disembodied voice that the Invisible Man is riding with them.
Charles T. Barton
Lon Chaney [jr.]
Leslie I. Carey
David S. Horsley
Joseph E. Kenny
Frederic I. Rinaldo
Charles Van Enger
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
The tongue-in-cheek plot of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein features Bud and Lou as Chick and Wilbur, respectively, two railway porters who end up transporting a pair of mysterious crates to a wax museum. Inside the crates are the Frankenstein monster (Glenn Strange) and Dracula (Bela Lugosi) who is in league with evil female scientist Sandra Mornay (Lenore Aubert). Together Dracula and Mornay plan to use the monster for their own nefarious purposes but he proves to be uncontrollable so they decide to give him a smaller brain. And guess who the perfect donor is? Wilbur soon finds himself being alternately stalked by Dracula and seduced by Mornay with Chick oblivious to any danger until the duo is trapped in Dracula's castle. Luckily they have an ally in Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.), who has just arrived from London where he had previously tracked the crates. The only problem is that Talbot is as much a threat as Dracula or the Frankenstein monster during a full moon.
The idea of Abbott and Costello parodying horror films certainly wasn't a highly original concept at the time Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was made. After all, the comedy team had already appeared in Hold That Ghost (1941) and other comedians had made similar forays into this territory with Wally Brown and Alan Carney in Zombies on Broadway (1945) and The Bowery Boys (starring opposite Bela Lugosi) in Ghosts on the Loose (1943). The actual script for Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein went through as many transformations as Lawrence Talbot. First, screenwriter Oscar Brodney (The Glenn Miller Story, 1953) came up with a story outline and then Bertram Milhauser, who penned numerous Sherlock Holmes's films for Universal, delivered a more detailed treatment which recycled plot elements such as a search for some secret microfilm from his Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943) screenplay. That was abandoned in favor of a new scenario from writers Frederic I. Rinaldo and Robert Lees, who later stated in Abbott and Costello in Hollywood by Bob Furmanek and Ron Palumbo, "You know it was a very complicated plot for an Abbott and Costello picture. We had two women - one was a heroine and one was a villain. And nobody could figure out why these two beautiful girls were after Costello." But Lees and Rinaldo eventually delivered a screenplay (the working title was "The Brain of Frankenstein") that pleased everyone - except Costello. "Lou hated the script," [producer] Robert Arthur recalled. "In fact, he came charging in the office one day and said, "My [five-year-old] daughter could write a better script than this. You're not serious about making it, are you?" Arthur managed to convince him by appealing to his financial interests and promising him his favorite director, Charles Barton.
The making of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was highlighted by card games, exploding cigars, and daily practical jokes on the set. It was just Bud and Lou's way of battling boredom and having fun with the cast and crew. Not everyone enjoyed the horseplay, however, according to Barton (from Bela Lugosi: Master of the Macabre by Larry Edwards): "To be honest, there were times when I thought Bela was going to have a stroke on the set. You have to understand that working with two zanies like Abbott and Costello was not the normal Hollywood set. They never went by the script and at least once a day there would be a pie fight. Bela of course would have nothing to do with any of this. He would just glare at those involved with his famous deadly stare and the only emotion he would show physically was one of utter disgust." Lugosi, for his part, took the role very seriously and told The New York Times, "There is no burlesque for me. All I have to do is frighten the boys, a perfectly appropriate activity. My trademark will be unblemished."
Unlike the comedy team's previous films, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was a big-budget production, costing almost $800,000, a hefty sum for a Universal B-movie. Part of the expense went toward the atmospheric sets such as Dracula's castle, a cartoon title sequence, special effects (the scene where Dracula changes into a bat was created by animator Walter Lantz of "Woody Woodpecker" fame), and makeup. Instead of going with Jack Pierce's original monster makeups for Frankenstein and the Wolf Man, which were too time-consuming and uncomfortable for the actors, makeup artists Bud Westmore and Jack Kevan used rubber sponge masks that could be applied in an hour and still retained the monsters' famous look. "One day, Lenore Aubert, wrapped in a mink, put a leash on Strange and, accompanied by Bud, Lou, and Lon in full make-up, took the Monster out for a stroll on the lot just in time for the studio tour tram." Bud and Lou also allowed their children to visit the set and meet the "monsters" which made quite an impression on the kids. Paddy Costello recalled, "Glenn Strange was so sweet - 'Frankenstein' was always walking around with a smile. I always got a big kick out of that...seeing the monsters between scenes, sitting in a chair reading a newspaper or chewing gum, or laughing and smoking like regular people" (from Abbott and Costello in Hollywood by Bob Furmanek and Ron Palumbo).
When Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was released, it received possibly the best reviews of any of their films. The Variety review set the tone when it said "The comedy team battles it out with the studio's roster of bogeymen in a rambunctious farce that is funny and, at the same time, spine-tingling." The Hollywood Reporter proclaimed it "a crazy, giddy show that combines chills and laughs in one zany sequence after the other" and the New York Star commented that "Nobody excels Costello at strangulated, speechless terror. Nobody can top Abbott at failing to see the cause for it. Nobody can beat Frankenstein, Dracula, The Monster, and Dr. Moray at engendering it separately and together behind Abbott's back, but always in Costello's full view." Not everyone was a fan though, and the New York Sun complained that "it was a grand idea, but it was too bad that it could not have been attended to by persons capable of satire rather than pie-throwing comedy." While Bud and Lou and director Charles Barton never made any claims about the film's status as a masterpiece, it was nevertheless selected in 2001 for future preservation by the National Film Registry. And the film's cult status continues to grow over the years; Quentin Tarantino is a big fan and at one time both Elvis Presley and Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia counted it as one of their favorite movies.
Naysayers who blamed Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein for killing off the horror film are simply misinformed. The much maligned genre became the rage again in the late 1950s with the arrival of Hammer Studios' The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Horror of Dracula (1958), films which once again put the horror back in horror films and transformed Hammer into a cottage industry for a time.
Producer: Robert Arthur
Director: Charles Barton
Screenplay: Robert Lees, Frederic Rinaldo, John Grant
Cinematography: Charles Van Enger
Film Editing: Frank Gross
Art Direction: Hilyard Brown, Bernard Herzbrun
Music: Frank Skinner
Cast: Bud Abbott (Chick Young), Lou Costello (Wilbur Grey), Lon Chaney, Jr. (Lawrence Talbot), Bela Lugosi (Count Dracula), Glenn Strange (The Frankenstein Monster), Lenore Aubert (Dr. Sandra Mornay).
BW-83m. Closed captioning.
by Jeff Stafford
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Young people making the most of life - while it lasts.- Dr. Lejos/Dracula
I don't get it. Out of all the guys around here that dame has to pick a guy like you.- Chick Young
What's wrong with that?- Wilbur Grey
Why don't you go take a look at yourself in the mirror.- Chick Young
Why should I hurt my own feelings?- Wilbur Grey
Well that's gonna cost you overtime because I'm a union man and I work only sixteen hours a day.- Wilbur Grey
A union man only works eight hours a day.- McDougal
I belong to two unions.- Wilbur Grey
Mr. Talbot, and I thought you were such a nice man. Look at you, you're a mess.- Wilbur Grey
Last night I went through another one of my horrible experiences. Many years ago I was bitten by a werewolf. Now, whenever the full moon rises I turn into a wolf myself.- Larry Talbot
That's alright; I'm a bit of a wolf myself!- Wilbur Grey
You don't understand. Every night when the moon is full, I turn into a wolf.- Larry Talbot
You and twenty million other guys!- Wilbur
Glenn Strange was playing the Frankenstein monster, but during shooting one day he tripped over a camera cable and broke his ankle. Lon Chaney Jr. (playing the Wolf Man) wasn't working that day, so he put on the Frankenstein makeup/outfit and filled in for Glenn in one scene where Dr. Mornay gets thrown through the window. So Lon Chaney wound up playing two monsters in this movie.
Originally titled "The Brain of Frankenstein".
As a favor, Boris Karloff did behind-the-scenes publicity work for this film. In several photos taken by Universal's publicity department, he is seen standing in line purchasing a ticket at a theater in New York City where the film is playing, and in other stills, he is shown admiring the poster art for the film outside the theater lobby.
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 he and Bud Abbott's good friend Charles T. Barton, whom some call the best Abbott and Costello director, convinced him otherwise.
During the final chase scene, when Bud and Lou are standing in front of a door and the Frankenstein monster punches through it, Lou was off his mark and got hit on the jaw.
The working title of this film was Brain of Frankenstein. The entry date for the film in the Catalog of Copyright Entries: Motion Pictures 1950-1958 reads: "8 September 49 (in notice: 48)." Although the onscreen title reads "Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein," all other sources refer to the film as Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The opening credits include an animated sequence in which the title is spelled out in cartoon bones, and cartoon figures of the Wolfman, Mummy, Frankenstein's Monster and Lenore Aubert walk across the screen over normally printed credits. Although Vincent Price is not credited onscreen, he is the voice of the Invisible Man in the last scene of the film, a role that, according to a March 1948 New York Times article, was originally slated for Glenn Strange. Strange played "the Monster" in the picture.
According to a January 1948 Hollywood Reporter news item, Ella Raines was cast in a role originally offered to Dorothy Hart, but neither actress appears in the final film. Modern sources report that Bela Lugosi, who had appeared as "Count Dracula" many times, wrote his autobiography on the set of the film. Universal production notes reported that prior to shooting, Abbott suffered three broken ribs while on vacation, and during production, Strange broke his foot when he threw Lenore Aubert's character out of a window, and Lon Chaney replaced him briefly. In addition, modern sources claim that both Abbott and Costello had been suspended by Universal before production began when Costello demanded a $25,000 increase per picture, but regardless of these issues, shooting began and proceeded as scheduled. For more information on Universal's monster films, please consult the Series Index and see the entries for Frankenstein (AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40, F3.1465); Dracula (AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40, F3.1121); The Invisible Man (AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40, F3.2148); and The Wolf Man .
Released in United States 1948
Released in United States 1998
Shown at Film Forum Universal Horror Festival (Closing Night) in New York City October 30 - November 12, 1998.
Selected in 2001 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.
Released on laserdisc December 1988.
Released in United States 1948
Released in United States 1998 (Shown at Film Forum Universal Horror Festival (Closing Night) in New York City October 30 - November 12, 1998.)