Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Charles Barton / U.S., 1948):

The comic note is derived, rightly, from Groucho’s appreciation of a straight man who isn’t in on the joke. Not just the Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange), but also Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.) play collective Margaret Dumont to the contortions of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. The first clash between Old World horror and Yankee vaudeville takes place at the Florida baggage station where the fellas work: Chaney’s metamorphosis happens over the phone, the Wolf Man growls on one end of the receiver and Lou barks back on the other. Lights go out at the horror house’s storage room, Dracula’s coffin creaks open and a pale claw reaches out. "That’s just the wind." "It should get oiled." The comedy is well-built and satisfyingly low, riffing on the questionable improvement of a brain transplant between the Creature and Lou ("so full-blooded, so round, so firm"), who here fancies himself a lothario between a comely scientist (Lenore Aubert) and a fraud-investigating blonde (Jane Randolph). Universal’s fondness for its macabre icons suffuses the horror, from the tragic fiery end awaiting Strange’s Creature to Aubert’s furtive smile as the Count sinks his fangs into her jugular ("You can have her, but make sure you’ve got plenty of bandages," Lou warns). Quentin Tarantino is supposed to have first learned about blurring genres from this irrepressible monster mash; The Fearless Vampire Hunters, Young Frankenstein and Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things are a few of the other beneficiaries. Directed by Charles Barton. With Frank Ferguson, and Charles Bradstreet. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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