A Very Special Monsters & Memories #19: Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Greetings Groovy Ghoulies! Oh, how I have missed your screams and whimpers in the night!

Welcome to those newcomers to the crypt and to those daring to return; you are all a brave lot!

At HavenPodcasts.com and Monsters & Memories, we pay homage to all the great classic horror and sci-fi movies that we grew up with. Yes, I am a huge Monster Kid still! Each week, I throw a movie up on the crypt wall, and then review for you all. I also try to find some tasty morsel toy or something from my youth to share with you too.

So, where have I been the last few months? I thought I would share with you how we got back down here, as it helped me decide whether I was going to continue with this column. Back in 2012, Papa Ghoulie was diagnosed with lung cancer. I spent a lot of time with him as the initial prognosis was not good. So, I tried to bring myself down here to enjoy the classics and at that time, the horrors out there seemed bigger and scarier than the ones in here, and it was tough to find the words to do these films the justice they deserved. I still watched but somehow felt detached from them. Prior to this, Groovy Ghoulie #1 and myself were doing a bang up job as foster parents to little Drooly Ghoulie. She was a wee little creature and needed a lot of attention. Things improved. Papa Ghoulie is a fighter, and managed to beat his prognosis, and I am happy to report doing well. And we just learned that our plans for little Drooly Ghoulie look permanent, and I’ve started to form a nice little spot next to me for when she’s old enough to help me review these things. So, it has all worked out well, but this Ghoulie was tired. And then it’s started to itch deep inside, like a worm poking around my brain. Watch them! Review them! Get back to your Groovy ones! And well, here we are…

There are some slight changes to our format. I will be jumping around the ages a bit, to break it up. I want to get to the Hammer and Toho classics! I want those early slasher films of the 80’s. So, we’re going to have a good time and I am looking forward to some Technicolor blood! Ahh, to see it in bright red rivers again! So, I hope you will all stick around for the ride. It is going to be lots of fun! I am planning to check out Fantacon 2013 in Albany, NY on Saturday, September 14th. Check out www.fantacon.com for details on that. A full report will be coming! And the night before, at the Palace Theater in Albany, they will be holding a screening of the original Friday The 13th on Friday The 13th with the original Jason, Ari Lehman, in attendance and his band, First Jason doing a set afterwards. So, lots of fun stuff on the horizon. Not to mention whatever Uncle Death can come up with. If they can find him…

So, let us get back into it! Let’s jump out of our skin and into the greatest Horror/Comedy film to ever spill out onto the screen: in my opinion, “Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein”.

This fine film was released in 1948, and starred Bub Abbott and Lou Costello. I am a huge fan of theirs! When I was little, I spent many Sunday mornings with them, The Little Rascals, and the Three Stooges. Just like I hoped for a Godzilla movie on Creature Double Feature, I couldn’t wait for this movie to come back around in the rotation of Abbott and Costello films.

We were lucky enough to not just have one Monster, The Frankenstein monster played by Glenn Strange, but also Dracula and The Wolf Man! Dracula was reprised by the man who owned the role at that time, Bela Lugosi. The Wolf Man was played by Lon Chaney Jr. It would have been nice to see Boris Karloff as the monster but he was leery of the mix of comedy and horror.

Glenn Strange made many of the characteristics that we associate with the Frankenstein Monster today. The shuffling walks with the arms hanging out, and I think he does a fine job at the lumbering beast. His voice reminds me of Karloff’s when he talks too. Bela seems to be having fun as Dracula here. We get plenty of shots of those haunting Lugosi eyes and many of his hand gestures. Those fingers still looking like spider legs attached to his hands. Obviously, he is older here than his first screen appearance as Drac, but he doesn’t miss a beat with the characterization. It’s his role, and he knows it. Lon Chaney Jr spends a lot of time looking to the night sky, much like I do. That darn full moon keeps changing him into a werewolf. The stop motion transformations are pretty flawless. Bud Westmore and Jack Kevan were in charge of the make-up for the film, but I am more of a Jack Pierce man when it comes to The Wolf Man.

Abbott and Costello do a great job here. I think they had such a great on-screen chemistry and once they got into their roles, you can’t help but smile. The early scenes in McDougal’s House of Horrors are pure Costello magic! I also love the exchange when Abbott is trying to get Costello to give him one of his dates. I can’t do it justice but will try to post it on my Facebook page.

The sets are pure Universal Horror goodness. I just would like to know how Count Dracula found a castle off the coast of Florida. It’s pretty eerie looking and I wonder why the board of tourism hasn’t mentioned this before. I love mad scientist labs and this one has Tesla coils, electronic zappy stuff and all kinds of goodness.

The story is good. Bud and Lou work as baggage clerks. They have to deliver the bodies of Dracula and The Frankenstein Monster to McDougal’s House of Horrors. Of course, the monsters escape! Meanwhile, Dr. Sandra Mornay, played by Lenore Aubert, wants Lou’s brain for the Frankenstein Monster. Add in an insurance investigator played by Jane Randolph looking for the missing bodies, and it turns into a big, fun movie! Of course, all of the monsters get into a big battle royal at the end and we even get a cameo from the Invisible Man voiced by Vincent Price.

All in all, this was such a fun movie! It’s a great one to watch with the little ones as I don’t think it is that scary. The hijinks will make them laugh and not focus too much of the scariness of the monsters. This was the swan song for the original Universal Monsters. I would love to see a new movie stay true to the simplicity of these early monsters and put them all together again. Van Helsing almost got it right. I thought Monster Squad did a good job of it. Maybe someday! You listening Universal?

For our toy this time around, I decided to pair one of my favorite movies with one of my favorite play sets from my childhood. The Star Wars Death Star! Kenner released this huge play set back in 1978. I think I received it from the Easter Bunny in 1979. I loved this thing! Papa Ghoulie didn’t like putting it together, but Mama Ghoulie enjoyed watching me play with it. It had three awesome levels of play! A big gun, an elevator, and how can we forget the neon green trash compactor monster that I’m sure was cousin to the Loch Ness Monster! The trash compactor actually closed and had tiny black foam pieces for you to lose all over the house.

This was the first major play set Kenner put out for the franchise, and I would love to see it one more time. I look for it toy conventions and it’s always out of my price league. But, I have the pictures to go back and look at. It was quite the cool toy to have and I’m sure it doubled as the Bat Cave and the Cylons even invaded it once.

Well, it looks like Dawn is creeping through, and it’s time to go raid the bin for another gem for next week. Make sure you check out www.havenpodcasts.com for more great horror! The Fright Channel and The Insomniac Drive-In are also on Facebook, stop by and like us! Send your feedback to havenpodcasts@gmail.com and put Monsters & Memories in the subject! At least say boo! Hope you all enjoyed this trip though the Monsters & Memories and we’ll be together again soon; because I’ll know where you are!

Until then Groovy Ghoulies, keep watching the skies!

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