Monday, December 11, 2017

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein - 1948

Perhaps the greatest spoof of horror films began life as a screen treatment called THE BRAIN OF FRANKENSTEIN. Contemporary reports said that the plot concerned the search for the Frankenstein monster's brain, eventually locating it in comedian Lou Costello.  Doesn't make much sense, does it? Well, they worked on the premise a bit and eventually decided that the film should instead be about looking for a new brain for the monster, eventually deciding on comedian Lou Costello's. Still doesn't really make sense, does it?  Oh well. It really works. Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were the most popular movie comedy team of the 1940's, appearing in about 20 films (mostly for Universal Pictures), and this film is arguably their best one. During this same decade, Universal had combined all of its popular monster characters in several films, such as FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and HOUSE OF DRACULA. What would be more natural than combining the monsters with the comedians? Apparently, Costello hated the idea initially, but finally relented. Bela Lugosi, who hadn't appeared on screen as Dracula since the 1931 original, had to postpone a stage tour to do the film. Lon Chaney, Jr. had just appeared as Lawrence Talbot/Wolf Man in the aforementioned extravaganzas, and Glenn Strange had taken over the role of the Frankenstein monster from a series of actors, including Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Jr. and Bela Lugosi! The film went into production in late 1947.

In February 1948, the above publicity item appeared in the press, making it appear that the Invisible Man would take his place alongside the other famous monsters. Instead, his 'appearance' was merely the punchline at the climax of the film, after Bud and Lou had seemingly vanquished Dracula, the Wolf Man and the Frankenstein monster. Just as they are catching their breath while sitting in a small boat, a cigarette appears in mid-air to be lit by an invisible hand. A velvety voice says: "Oh, that's too bad. I was hoping to get in on some of the fun. I'm the Invisible Man." Bud and Lou jump overboard and swim away. The Invisible Man laughs. And it's a familiar laugh. Vincent Price, who had appeared as the Invisible Man in the 1940 Universal film THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS, was brought in to record the voice cameo. Price was under contract at the time to Universal and was appearing in at least two of the company's films, so he was easily gotten. And though it is a cameo, his presence adds weight to the film.

Lenore Aubert (Sandra) and Bela Lugosi (Dracula) examine the weakened Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange).

Lou Costello finds himself alone with the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.).

Dracula (Bela Lugosi) commands the monster (Glenn Strange).

Dracula (Lugosi) hypnotizes the hapless Lou Costello.

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