Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, Dracula, And The Wolf-Man (1948)

The original crossover blockbuster, horror-comedy blend, & swan song for the big three of The Universal Monsters, ACMFWMAD is pure, bold, ambitious, groundbreaking live-action cartoon fun with hilarious gags, macabre, brand-promotion, & blockbuster legacy. 9.4/10.

Plot Synopsis: In the first of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’s horror vehicles for Universal Pictures, the inimitable comic duo star as railway baggage handlers in northern Florida. When a pair of crates belonging to a house of horrors museum are mishandled by Wilbur (Lou Costello), the museum’s director, Mr. MacDougal (Frank Ferguson), demands that they deliver them personally so that they can be inspected for insurance purposes, but Lou’s friend Chick (Bud Abbott) has grave suspicions.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

Official CLC Review

A Bold New Box-Office Pitch

The Trinity Of Classic Universal Monsters & Biggest Comedy Duo On Their Final Sunset – A Final Gamble: A Multi-Genre Crossover?

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

70+ Years Before Avengers: Endgame coming out in 2019 or Justice League in 2017, one film had the big bold big-ticket blockbuster idea: take a franchise with multiple properties struggling on its own and have them all team-up for one major box-office crossover smash. Everyone from Ghosts to Sons to Daughters to Brides of each of The Classic Universal Monsters had come to-screen & buried their father beneath an avalanche of pointless capitalism sequels and franchise mega-evils that spawned waning public-interest, a sentiment shared by once-iconic NYC-underdog comedy-duo Abbott & Costello releasing multiple films every year. Could they bring these basically-dead-undead icons back to life like Dr. Frankenstein did his amalgamated corpse-creation? The answer is a [resounding]: YES! The original crossover blockbuster, horror-comedy blend, & swan song for the big three icons of The Universal Monsters, ACMFDWM is pure, bold, ambitious, groundbreaking live-action cartoon-thematized fun with some of the funniest gags ever, macabre-juxtaposition, brand-promotion, and a big-ticket evolution of blockbuster scale/stakes.

A Cartoon-In-Motion

Befit With A Fitting Classic Looney Cartoon Opening, The Film Literally Feels Like A Live-Action One – The Definition Of Fun

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

The opening flickers of the film mix right into a cartoon feeling straight out of the archives of early cartoons like Fantasmagoire, Steamboat Willie!, or WB’s Looney Tunes – a fitting prologue that echoes the thematizations of the film’s major aesthetic and feel. ACMFDWM is, if I had to boil it down to a three-word description: a live-action cartoon. That cereal-sugarcrazed Saturday-morning animation-adventure cartoon feeling you remember as a child growing up is the exact nostalgia-riddled feeling I got watching this film on a [now-memorable] 10/31. People throw around the term ‘fun’ in cinema far-too-often: anything that remotely makes you crack a smile or giggle now-and-then is shielded behind the term as a one-all deflector of any criticism. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, Dracula, And The Wolf-Man is the pinpointable definition of the exorcized-descriptor if I’ve ever seen one; the film evoked such a goofy grin on my face, it put me on a contact-high of optimistic airiness/joy throughout the rest of my day. The film achieves this magic of tonalization and aestheticism through its comedy, technicalities, and performances – of course of its classic monster cameos, but most notable of the batch: a better-than-ever Abbott & Costello.

The Comedy Icon-Duo, Revitalized

From NYC Burlesques To ‘Who’s On First?’ To The Highest Paid Entertainers Of The WWII-Era, Abbott/Costello Recapture Magic

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

The iconic duo of comedy is back: Bud Abbott & Lou Costello. From NYC Burlesques to the breakout stardom of legendary comedic sketch ‘Who’s On First?’ to becoming the highest-paid entertainers of the WWII-Era, Abbott’s poker-faced versimilitude and Costello’s pudgy happy-go-lucky charm rose them all the way to the top of Hollywood’s stars. The archetypal troupe of burlesque comedy, rapid-fire jabber, and physical slapstick, their entire careers and experiences led up to a film as big as this. I’ll admit: ACMFDWD is the first Abbott & Costello movie I ever saw, but even after watching others – it’s the best and certainly most important. There is such a zip and X-factor in watching the two of them that I haven’t seen in any modern comedy since; it’s an inexpressible joy to watch the two of them light up the screen, here as night guards at a security company who happen to stumble into the delivery of a lifetime to McDougal’s House-Of-Horrors: two of the most terrifying monsters to ever walk the Earth; Count Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster.

A Masterclass Of Comedy

A Mix Of ~Every Comedy Type & Careers: Slapstick, Body/Sex, Self Deprecation, Dbl. Entendres, Scaredy-Cat, & Black Comedy

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

The masterclass in comedy is easily its biggest pro: a traversal of ~every comedy type and trick in the book for one of, without superlative, one of the funniest films of all-time. There’s classic slapstick from the first scene the luggage bags fall on a clumsy Costello. There’s refreshing self-desprecation that endears bigger-than-life stars to the audience by humbling themselves still by lines like ‘Look in the mirror. Why should I hurt my own feelings?’ and ‘It’s a bad deal Frankie, I’ve had this brain for 30 years and it’s never worked right once!’. There’s incredible joke construction [one of the few films I’ve ever seen with a constant wave wherein every single one hits] like in the bridgework/no-teeth sketch, argument-reversal, and moon turning guys into wolf all-over London beyond just the wolf-man. There’s body/sex comedy as well as black comedy in the film’s major arc of Costello gettign manipulated and ego-flattered by women and the monsters wanting to use him as a chubby/full-figured pig for their experiments but him being a teenage-girl in love with girls he’s constantly reminded are way out of his league. Finally, there’s scaredy-cat comedy that mixes perfectly with the film’s horror themes for one of the most groundbreaking genre-blends of cinematic history.

A Groundbraking Horror/Comedy Blend

Just As Scary As It Is Funny, The Film’s Legacy Is Potent: One Of Cinema’s Best Genre-Mixes – & Epic Big-Ticket Crossovers

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

The Trinity Of Universal Monsters is back as well; the film would’ve been great even-if just a comedy with these performances but gets an extra star-power boost to push it into All-Time great categorization. The films scripts a great major plot weaving its three big baddies well: the original, bold new idea to crossover major separate franchise properties in events that lead to a big final showdown in the fantastic dark castle island setting it uses as a backdrop. The crew is all here: Lou Chaney’s bashful-turned-animalistic The Wolf-Man, Bela Lugosi’s blood-curdling death-stare Count Dracula, and a Glenn Strange Frankenstein that’s not the original Boris Karloff version [sadly, one of the film’s only disappointments, why’d Karloff not reprise in a film this big? One of the biggest mistakes in blockbuster history] but fits the bill as the colossal amalgamated corpse of the hour as The Wolf-Man tries to stop an overpowered team-up villain plan between the other two for world domination. The scares and multiple casualties/prey of the team in pursuit of their goals mixed with the old-world supernatural island aesthetics that also manage to fit in the three monsters iconic backdrops: The Wolf-Man’s jungle/bog, Frankenstein’s mad-science lab, and Dracula’s coffin/castle is also squeezed for maximum comedy potential.

Flaws

No Boris Karloff & A Non-Capitalized B-Arc Do Little To Subtract From The Blockbuster Spectacle & Fantasticism Of Fan-Service

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

The scaredy-cat gags and high-pitch girly screams of Costello when it bears sight of the macabre and monsters is absolutely sensational and something that evokes pure silly grins from ear-to-ear every time I witnessed it. The aforementioned dark plot of manipulation by the beautiful femme-fatales/dames coaxing Costello into a false-sense of teenage-girl lovedom only so he can be guinea-pigs to their villainy and mad science experiments is also hilarious – and one I wish was slightly better handled. Lenore Aubert and Jane Randolph are clearly the weak-links in the acting ensemble and somewhat-deteriorate their B-arc into a bit of a muddy slog, but it’s easily-overlookable in what’s otherwise a masterclass of horror-comedy for the history books and one that proof-of-concepted both horror/comedy blends and blockbuster team-ups/crossovers on the big stage. The legendary final plot-twist of a 5th franchise inclusion in a cameo by The Invisible Man is the same type of fan-service and lead-in to sequels the MCU, DCEU, Bond, Transformers, AVP, Harry Potter, & other franchises serve now 60-70 years later.

Conclusion

The Crossover Of The 20th Century

The Original BlockbusterTeam-Up, Horror-Comedy Blend, & Swan Song For Icons Of Their Genres – Pure, Bold, Ambitious, Groundbreaking Live-Action Cartoon Fun

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

Overall, ACMFWMAD is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen – and one of the biggest fan-service blockbusters to-date over 70+ years later. The panache and craftsmanship it must’ve taken to create a big box-office feature this diverse is a lost art you certainly won’t find anymore in the everpresent team-up/crossover films today that owe their presence to this for proof-of-concepting the trend. Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Wolf-Man all share the screen shockingly-well – befit with the same icon performances by bashful Lou Chaney, death-stare Bela Lugosi, and a good Boris Karloff-fill-in GS that made them our favorites of The Universal Monster Franchise. The castle island setting is macabric enough to work and somehow manages to fit all three’s legendary folklore settings nicely, set action pieces epic in the finale going all-out-brawls between the monsters, and horror-comedy blends groundbreaking as it cruxes around a revitalized funnyman duo for the WWII-era history books: Abbott & Costello. The pair traverse this difficult-to-balance screenplay with surgical precision from across their careers and land neverending hit-jokes; the film is one of the funniest I’ve ever seen to-date – mixing slapstick, self-deprecation, double-entendres, scaredy-cat, body/sex, and black comedy seamlessly as the plot manipulates and fattens up the ego of Costello unbeknownst to him. The original crossover blockbuster, horror-comedy blend, & swan song for the big three icons of The Universal Monsters, ACMFWMAD is pure, bold, ambitious, groundbreaking live-action cartoon-thematized fun with some of the funniest gags ever, macabre-juxtaposition, brand-promotion, and a big-ticket evolution of blockbuster scale/stakes.

Official CLC Score: 9.4/10