AS I’VE stated before on this website, whoever it was who first came up with the idea to mix horror and comedy should be celebrated with a parade—a really weird parade with comedians and monsters and people in gorilla suits. And while we’re at it, let’s also celebrate Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, the guys who taught us all how to make a horror comedy that really works.
THERE’S EVIDENCE of that to be found in Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters, a nice repackaging of four titles from the A&C catalogue wherein the boys shared the marquee with names from the Universal Monsters canon. Their encounters with The Mummy (1955), The Invisible Man (1951), and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953) are a mixed bag, thematically speaking, all very entertaining as Abbott and Costello films, but varying wildly in terms of how closely they hew to the monsters for whom they’re named.
But the exception, of course, is the oft-celebrated Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)—a nearly perfect cross between a Universal Monsters picture and a golden age buddy comedy. It features not only the titular monster-made-from-body-parts (played by Glenn Strange), but Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.) as well, along with a most notable voice-only appearance by Vincent Price.
It’s the crown jewel of the collection, and the magic is in its construction. As countless observers have pointed out, what makes the film work so well is the fact that it plays both the comedy and the horror absolutely straight, so that whenever the lines converge your brain finds itself in uncharted territory, which is both thrilling and unforgettable. Noted physicist Leonard Susskind once shared that the film may have actually helped him choose a career. “At 5 years-old, I saw Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and I was so scared when Costello sat himself down in the lap of the monster, not realizing where he was,” Susskind said. “My friends teased me. They were older, 8 years-old, and my goal was to become a mad scientist and get back at them.”
No word yet on whether or not Susskind ever got back at his friends, but if we can take anything away from his story it’s the possibility that this DVD collection might very well change your life. Short of that, it’s certainly the quickest and most economical way to collect all four of Abbott and Costello’s monster outings in one glorious shot.
The set includes theatrical trailers for all four films, as well as feature commentaries for Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll nd Mr. Hyde.