During the 1940s and early ’50s Bud Abbott and Lou Costello reigned as Hollywood’s top comedy team. In 1948 Bud and Lou made one of their all-time classic movies, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, with Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr. and Glenn Strange in monstrous support. Oh Chick!
Charles T. Barton Directs Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Originally titled The Brain of Frankenstein, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was written for the screen by Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo and John Grant. Frank Skinner delivered the appropriate manic-horror music score.
When he first saw the script, Lou Costello refused to do the movie, telling the producers, “No way I’ll do that crap. My little girl could write something better than this.” The portly Costello, however, eventually came around, enticed by a $50,000 salary advance and the signing of the venerable Charles T. Barton as director.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Cast
Bud Abbott (1895-1974) plays Chick Young with Lou Costello (1906-1959) as Wilbur Grey. Portraying the three monsters are Bela Lugosi (Dracula), Lon Chaney Jr. (Larry Talbot/The Wolf Man) and Glenn Strange (The Frankenstein Monster).
Others appearing in the film include Lenore Aubert (Dr. Sandra Mornay), Jane Randolph (Joan Raymond), Frank Ferguson (Mr. McDougal), Charles Bradstreet (Dr. Stevens), Howard Negley (Harris, the insurance man) and an uncredited Vincent Price (Voice of The Invisible Man).
Abbott and Costello Filmed in Hollywood
Budgeted at $800,000, Abbott and Costello was filmed from February 5 to March 26, 1948, at Universal Studios, Universal City, California.
Not all went according to plan during filming. When Glenn Strange tripped over a cable and broke his ankle, Lon Chaney Jr. stepped in, donning the latex headpiece designed by Chris Mueller and playing the Frankenstein Monster for one scene until Strange could return and finish the movie in a cast.
Stars Abbott and Costello engaged in a spat with director Charles Barton. When Barton instructed writer John Grant to freshen up an old Abbott and Costello routine dubbed “Pack and Unpack,” the duo refused to do it, opting to perform the old one instead. Following a sarcastic exchange, Bud and Lou boycotted the set for three days, finally returning on the fourth where they did the new routine.
Bela Lugosi, who was paid $15,000 for his services, helped to liven things up off camera, engaging in pie-throwing contests with Abbott and Costello and fellow movie monsters Chaney and Strange.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, The Wolf Man and Dracula
Abbott and Costello opens in London, where a frantic Larry Talbot phones a moving company back in the States. He reaches an employee, Wilbur Grey, instructing him not to open two wooden crates destined for McDougal’s House of Horrors Wax Museum. During the call, Talbot is transformed into the Wolf Man, prompting Wilbur to comment, “You’re awful silly to call me from London just to have your dog talk to me.”
Arriving from Europe, Talbot informs freight handlers Wilbur and Chick that Dracula plans to revive the Frankenstein Monster. Aiding the Count in this endeavor is Dr. Sandra Mornay, who wants to transplant the brain of the weak-willed Wilbur into the monster in order to make the big guy more compliant.
Joan Raymond, an investigator for Shippers Insurance, Inc., eventually becomes involved. The contents of the two missing crates entrusted to Wilbur and Chick – the ones harboring Dracula and the monster exhibits – were insured by her company for $20,000.
A masquerade ball, an island castle and a full moon provide the ideal background as all of the principals meet in a horrific climax. “You still want your exhibits?” Wilbur asks McDougal as they flee the castle with the Frankenstein Monster in hot pursuit. “Well, here comes one of ‘em now!”
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Release, Reviews, DVD
- Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was released in the United States on June 15, 1948.
- Bosley Crowther of The New York Times (7/29/48) viewed the production as basically a “one laugh” movie, that being Bud and Lou running afoul of the Frankenstein Monster.
- Abbott and Costello performed well at the box office, reportedly occupying the #2 position on the list of Universal-International’s top moneymaking films of 1948.
- On DVD: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Universal, 2000).