Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Glenn Strange
Extras: Commentary Track, Documentary, Photo Gallery, Production Notes, Trailer
Among all horror comedies ever made, "Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein" undoubtedly stands out as one of the most memorable highlights. Although the film itself is very good and incredibly funny, the reason for the honor has a lot to do with the fact that in this particular film we get to see the "real" horror icons of classic horror cinema make fun of themselves. We don’t get replacements of the real deal, but none other that Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr. and Glenn Strange reappear in the parts of the monsters that made them famous. Although Boris Karloff was the ultimate Frankenstein creature, Glenn Strange had made multiple successful appearances in Jack Pierce’s trademark make-up in films such as "House Of Frankenstein" and "House Of Dracula" before appearing once again in this comedy. With this assembly of genre defining cast members, "Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein" became the undisputed authority in the field of horror comedies.
Chick Young (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur Gray (Lou Costello) are railroad baggage clerks who receive a strange shipment. Two large crates have arrived and have to be delivered to the local House of Horrors, They buckle up and take the crates down to this horror wax museum and begin unpacking the goods. But what they find chills them to the bone. In one of the crates they find Dracula’s coffin – complete with the count’s body (Bela Lugosi) – and the other crate houses the original Frankenstein creature (Glenn Strange). Chick is a rationalist and is sure that these are imitations made of wax, but every time he leaves the room, these creatures come alive and Wilbur is at their horrific mercy. But before long the creatures disappear into the night.
In the meanwhile Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) appears and tries to convince Chick and Wilbur that these creatures must be destroyed. Not knowing that Talbot is in actuality the Wolfman, they all travel to a remote island where a mad scientist is at work to give the Frankenstein creature a new brain, and as it turns out Wilbur’s brain would suit his needs just perfectly. What follows is a furious and hilarious slapstick comedy with scares and laughs mixed at the same rapid pace.
"Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein" is as funny as it must have been over 50 years ago. With slapstick and the Abbott and Costello stick millions have come to love, the film hinges around these two talented comedians. However with the addition of the famous monsters and the fact that they are made fun of in the way they are, elevates the movie into a league of its own. For many, this movie was the first contact with the Universal classic monsters given the film’s rather family friendly content and many a new horror fan has been born from watching this atmospheric comedy.
Universal Home Video releases "Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein" under a new "Comedy Legends" line which has been brought over from their VHS releases. The film is presented in its original 1.33:1 full screen aspect ratio on this DVD. Although the film’s signs of age are clearly visible, the general quality of the presentation is quite good. Scratches and dust are evident in the transfer on occasion and there are surprisingly little registration problems, and noise is also at a minimum. Some grain is evident, which is hardly surprising given the movie’s considerable age and the result is a pleasant video presentation of this classic movie. Contrast is also very good and ranges from the deepest blacks to the brightest whites. The transfer renders all shades of gray very nicely and gives the movie a balanced look. Given the movie’s considerable age the presentation on this DVD is beautiful and never distracting. No edge-enhancement has been applied to the transfer and the result is an image that never feels overly sharpened and instead always nicely film-like. The compression is without flaws and nit a hint of a compression artifact can be found anywhere on the disc.
The movie’s original monaural audio track is contained on the disc, in a 2-channel mix. With a low noise floor the track is surprisingly clean and clear. Although some noise reduction must have been applied to the track, it is never noticeable and also leaves the high end of the audio fully intact without cutting of important sounds, or creating a muffled impression. A bit of sibilance is evident in the track but that is hardly surprising in a film of this age, and the narrow frequency response gives the audio a bit of a harsh quality. Considering the circumstances however, I was very pleasantly surprised how well the audio of this film actually held up.
The DVD features a running length <$commentary,commentary track> by film historian Gregory W. Mank. It offers a great look inside the production of the movie. Mank is familiar with every bit of the movie, form the almost forgotten anecdotes, to comments the actors made during the production, all the way to technical aspects of the movie’s development. He even manages to nail down exact dates, times and shooting locations of most scenes we see in the film. Although this may not be the most entertaining way to learn about the movie, this commentary is jock-full of information that will satisfy even the most die-hard fan of this classic and beloved horror comedy.
Film historian and filmmaker David J. Skal has contributed another one of his great documentaries to this release. Hosted and narrated by Skal, this 30-minute documentary is filled with extremely valuable details and background information. Whether it’s the origins of Abbott and Costello as a comedian unit, to the politicking that went on to bring the well-known actors and monsters back into the movie, all the way to the revolutionary new make-up techniques, the idiosyncrasies of the actors and countless other issues, this documentary gives the most complete coverage of the film I have ever come across. Extremely knowledgeable and colorful in its presentation of the many interviews, make sure to take a look at this documentary.
The disc also contains a very nice and colorful gallery of posters and lobby cards for the movie. They are followed by an assortment of still images from the movie, as well as promotional and rare behind-the-scenes photos. It has all be assembled in a fluid self-running gallery that runs for 10 minutes. Together with the production notes and cast and crew biographies, this informational section also covers a lot of ground and becomes a valuable addition to the DVD. And then of course, there is the movie’s original theatrical trailer that will give you a good idea how the movie was promoted back in 1948, which is priceless in its artificial pathos.
Once again Universal Home Video has wrapped up a nice bundle for this classic horror comedy for all fans of classic fright films. Not only is it one of the best horror comedies of all times, it is also that last film that brought out all the infamous monsters out together before making room of the atomic science fiction of the 50s. While the presentation of the movie itself on this disc is absolutely beautiful, I found myself once again intrigued with the extremely well-researched bonus materials found on this disc. After listening and seeing all the bits of information about the film and the people who made it, I am sure, you too will walk away with a renewed respect for the film. But what am I talking about? Make sure to make an appointment already so that you, too, get to meet Frankenstein!