• Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein

    Released by: Universal Pictures

    Released on: August 28, 2012.

    Director: Charles Barton

    Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Glenn Strange

    Year: 1948

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    The Movie:

    This beloved mix of monsters and mayhem directed by Charles Barton follows two baggage handlers, Chick Young (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello), who take receipt of two large cartons for a Mr. MacDougal (Frank Ferguson). The operator of a house of horrors attraction, MacDougal is unusually anxious to get his hands on the crates which he claims contain Dracula and his coffin and the body of the Frankenstein monster, two artifacts he can’t wait to get into his attraction. Before they hand over the goods, Wilbur gets a phone call from Europe from a man named Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) who tells them what’s inside and not to hand them over to MacDougal but before the two can finish their conversation Talbot starts to change into something not quite human.

    MacDougal, concerned that our heroes have damaged the goods, insist the they deliver and unload them for him so that he can have an insurance inspector on hand to make sure everything is as it should be. They oblige and soon find out that Talbot wasn’t kidding about the contents. Wilbur sees Dracula (Bela Lugosi – the only other time he’d play Dracula in a film outside of the 1931 original) come out of his coffin and later sees the Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange) lumbering around but Chick doesn’t believe him. Eventually Dracula turns into a bat and flies to a castle where he meets Dr. Sandra Mornay (Lenore Aubert), who has been flirting with Wilbur to coerce him into helping her and who is going to help him put a new brain into the Frankenstein monster and in return Dracula will help Sandra out with her work. Complicating matters further is the presence of Joan Raymond (Jane Randolph), an insurance investigator who has also been flirting with Wilbur to get him to help her, which sends Chick into a bit of a spat. When all involved wind up a masquerade ball held at Sandra’s castle, just as Talbot flies across the Atlantic from England, the monsters run amok!

    Eighty minutes of screwy physical comedy, snappy dialogue and creepy monsters, Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein remains one of the greatest horror comedy hybrids ever made. While some might lament the fact that Glenn Strange dons the Frankenstein’s monster makeup for the film (no Karloff, of course he famously declined the offer), he does a fine job lumbering around and smashing through things while Lugosi is, not surprisingly, great as Dracula and seemingly having a lot of fun playing the part. Chaney is great as the Talbot/Wolfman character, playing his part completely straight here but eventually getting involved in a funny chase gag with Wilbur, while both Lenore Aubert and Jane Randolph are beautiful as the two female leads. The real stars though? Abbott and Costello, of course. Pairing them with the most recognizable movie monsters of all time was a great idea and the two really get the chance to show off their collective knack for slapstick and clever, funny conversations and arguments.

    The film shows a fair bit of style in certain spots – the animated introduction (courtesy of Walter Lantz) involving a pair of skeletons is charming and quirky as are the bits of animation used in the movie to show Dracula turning into the bat. The castle sets are shadowy and dark, making for the perfect spot for a pair of goofballs to mix it up with some monsters – and of course, there’s that revolving door that proves to be such a pain. There are plenty of sight gags throughout the movie, be it Wilbur’s balancing act atop a giant carton Chick is trying to level on the floor or Wilber’s demonstrations of Dracula’s hypnosis technique, and they all just add to the fun. The movie flies by at a very quick pace, a relentlessly entertaining picture that has lost none of its charm and quirky appeal.


    Universal presents Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein in an AVC encoded 1.33.1 fullframe transfer that looks pretty good considering the film’s age. The black and white photography holds up well in high definition and shows good detail and contrast and fairly strong black levels as well. Close up shots, such as when the camera zooms in towards Dracula’s eyes, show the most detail and texture but medium and long distance shots fare well too. There’s a fair bit of grain throughout the presentation, just as you’d expect, and some softness here and there that stems back to the original photography but increased texture is evident in shots like the one showing the pillow in Dracula’s coffin and the scenes in which Larry Talbot transforms into a werewolf. Some minor noise reduction might have been applied but it's not distracting nor does it eliminate the abundance of grain. There isn’t much in the way of serious print damage to note, just a few minor specks here and there and a couple of ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ scratches, while the animated bits that appear in the film, primarily the opening scene but also the scenes in which Dracula turns into a bat, show strong, clean lines.

    The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono track, though optional subtitles are provided in English SDH, French and Spanish. The audio is a bit on the flat side but otherwise fine – it’s probably about what you’d expect from an older mono mix. Hiss and distortion are never a problem and the levels are well balanced. The score sounds good and the dialogue is easy to understand. It’s not a particularly complex mix, but it doesn’t need to be and it suits the movie just fine.

    Some of these extras are going to look familiar to those who have owned the previous DVD release, as they’ve been carried over from that disc. First up is a commentary from film historian Gregory W. Mank who does a very strong job of exploring the history of the film and providing loads of detail on those who made it. He covers the involvement of the various cast and crew who worked on the production, relays some interesting stories about things that happened on the set during the making of the movie and offers up quite a bit of interesting trivia about the film as well as providing some fun details about the makeup and effects work that we see in the feature.

    Also carried over from that DVD release is the documentary Abbott And Costello Meet The Monsters: The Making Of Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein, which clocks in at over half an hour and is hosted by David J. Skal. Primarily made up of interviews with Lou Costello's daughter Christine, film historian Ron Palumbo, Bela Lugosi Jr. and filmmaker/monster man extraordinaire Bob Burns this documentary does cover some of the same ground as the commentary but has the added bonus of the visuals, so we get a good look at some of Burns’ memorabilia from the film and very cool stills and clips.

    Rounding out the extras are the film’s original theatrical trailer and two of the Universal 100th
    Anniversary featurettes that have been included on some of the other releases in the line: 100 Years Of Universal: The Lot and 100 Years Of Universal: Unforgettable Characters. Menus and chapter selection are also included as is a digital copy and a standard DVD copy. For those interested in the packaging, the Blu-ray case fits inside a nice slipcase (that flips open to provide some basic trivia on the film and the studio) featuring identical front cover and slightly different back cover art

    The Final Word:

    While it would have been nice to see some more extras included here, Universal has otherwise done a pretty respectable job bringing this classic horror comedy to Blu-ray. The transfer is a nice step up from the previous DVD release and the film holds up incredibly well, more than a half a century after it was made.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mike Howlett's Avatar
      Mike Howlett -
      That just jumped to the top of my need-it list!