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Film / Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

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Abbott and Costello Meet Frankensteinnote  is a 1948 Horror Comedy film directed by Charles Barton. It is a crossover between Universal's Monster Mash horror films and its Abbott and Costello series of comedies.

Detaching itself from the continuity of the previous Universal Horror films, this movie instead centers around the Lovable Coward Wilbur (Costello) and his no-nonsense pal Chick (Abbott), who work as railway baggage clerks. One day they receive an order to take two boxes, which have just come from London to the States, to McDougal's House of Horrors. The boxes contain the purported remains of Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and Frankenstein's Monster (Glenn Strange), who turn out to be very much alive and soon escape the place... after scaring Wilbur out of his wits, of course.

Seems Dracula arranged this little charade to come abroad in hopes of getting a newer, more obedient brain for the Monster. He is working with scientist Sandra Mornay (Lenore Aubert) to accomplish this task, and she has found the perfect candidate for the "donation": Wilbur.

But that's not all; Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.), The Wolf Man himself, soon joins our heroes to stop Dracula. Too bad he happens to turn into a werewolf at the most inconvenient times...

One of the favorite films of Quentin Tarantino, who's noted that its successful genre-blending helped inspire his own style. It also proved a turning point for the comedy duo, whose film series would get further into fantasy, often with other Universal Horror monsters.

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    Tropes A-M 
  • Absurdly Ineffective Barricade: At one point Chick and Wilbur slam a door in the face of the Monster and try barricading it. Alas, they forgot that it opened the other way and get a very nasty surprise.
  • Affably Evil: Dracula, especially in his "Dr. Lejos" persona.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of Universal Horror, while at the same time remaining within the (very loose) canon of the 1930s-40s series.
  • Animated Credits Opening: Done by Walter Lantz, of Woody Woodpecker fame.
  • Artistic License – Space: The moon cannot be full two nights in a row. But then again, when is the moon ever not full when it comes to werewolves?
  • Aside Glance: At one point while fleeing from the Monster, Wilbur briefly pauses to pull off a successful Tablecloth Yank, which prompts him to grin at the camera with a pleased "ta-daa!" expression before remembering himself and fleeing again.
  • Asshole Victim: McDougal, who is bitten by the Wolf Man, but lives.
  • The Atoner: After spending the last three movies trying to find a permanent way to die, Larry Talbot has finally given up and decided that since he can't die or be cured, he'll spend his days hunting other monsters, hoping to balance out the murders he'll inevitably commit by taking out Dracula and his ilk.
  • Axe Before Entering: The Monster breaking through a door.
  • Behind the Black: When Wilbur finds the secret room with the Monster and Dracula in it, he doesn't notice anything at first because of this.
  • Berserk Button: Wilbur cracking "wolf" jokes is this to Talbot.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolf Man, although Dracula is the true Big Bad.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Larry's transformation occurs just in time to fight off Dracula.
  • Bookcase Passage: Chick discovers some in the House of Dracula.
  • Bowdlerise: Almost every scene involving a monster had to be removed before the Australian film board would allow its release.
  • Breaking the Bonds: The Monster breaks his operating table bonds in the climax.
  • Bullying the Dragon: At one point, Sandra tries to badger Dracula into delaying their plans in order to avoid arousing suspicion. She even has the gall to tell him not to bother mind-controlling her because (and I quote) "[her] will's as strong as [his]". She forgets she's talking to the king of all vampires.
  • The Cameo: Vincent Price voices the final line of the film:
    "Allow me to introduce myself: I'm The Invisible Man! Hahahahaha!"
    • While the duo actually would encounter an Invisible Man in a 1951 movie, it would be a different character and actor (and Bud and Lou themselves play different characters), keeping this from being a true Sequel Hook.
  • Carpe Diem: The advice "Make the most of life, while it lasts" becomes a lot more ominous when pronounced by Dracula.
  • Casting Gag: Again, Vincent Price's cameo could be seen as this, since he had once previously played an invisible man.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: Chick attempts to hit Dracula with a chair in the climax, but hits Sandra instead. Later Dracula picks up one when he is fighting Wolf Man.
  • Comic Trio: The movie has Chick as the Schemer (irate, tries to muscle in on Wilbur's Love Triangle), Wilbur as the Dingbat (Idiot Hero and Butt-Monkey), and Talbot as the Only Sane Man.
  • Crossover Punchline: The movie ends with the Invisible Man appearing. Or not appearing, as the case may be.
  • Dem Bones: Our heroes are portrayed as skeletons in the animated opening sequence.
  • Destination Defenestration: The Monster throws Sandra through a window in the climax.
  • Disney Villain Death: Sandra, Dracula and the Wolf Man.
  • The Dragon: The Monster and Sandra are this to Dracula.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Larry Talbot's reaction to Chick putting on a Wolf Man mask at the costume ball.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: In this film, a famous comedic duo encounters a lumbering reanimated monster. If you have to ask which ones, you've not been paying attention. note 
  • Evil Is Not a Toy:
    • Dr. Mornay dismisses Dracula's threats on the grounds that her willpower is strong enough to resist his Mind Control powers. She is proven wrong a minute later.
    • This is why Dracula is seeking Wilbur's brain. Rather than reanimate an unthinking brute, he wants the Frankstein Monster to have the mind of someone more easily cowed, and Sandra believes Wilbur to have just that.
  • Evil Laugh: The Invisible Man delivers one at the end, courtesy of Vincent Price.
  • Fainting: Both Wilbur and Chick faint when they see Dracula turning from bat to humanoid form in front of their eyes.
  • Fake Shemp: Glenn Strange suffered a leg injury during production (likely one reason he spends a lot of time shown sitting or lying down in this film). For the scene in which the Monster throws Sandra out the window, Lon Chaney (who had previously played the Monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein) put on the make-up and the suit and did the shot in his place.
  • Fat and Skinny: Did we mention this is Abbott and Costello?
  • Fight Dracula: The Wolf Man does this in the climax.
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself:
    • When Dracula joins the costume party where our protagonists have gone, he is dressed as a Classical Movie Vampire.
    • Defied by Larry Talbot, who considers the idea of dressing as a Wolf Man for Halloween to be extremely offensive.
  • Foreign Remake: There's two; The Egyptian Haram Alek and the Mexican Frankenstein, el Vampiro y Compañía.
  • Funny Phone Misunderstanding: In one scene, Mr. Talbot tries to call Wilbur when he starts turning into a werewolf. As Wilbur hears growling on the other end, Wilbur tells him to stop gargling and keep his dog away from the phone.
    Wilbur: You're awful silly to call me all the way from London just to have your dog talk to me. (barks into the phone)
  • Fur Against Fang: Wolf Man's brief fight with Dracula. Dracula is clearly outmatched and tries to turn into a bat and fly away as a last resort. It doesn't work.
  • Genre-Busting: A Slapstick Monster Mash.
  • Ghost Butler: When Wilbur and Chick search the basement, the door closes behind them.
  • Grand Finale: It may not have been intended this way, but this ended up being the final entry in the "main" Universal Horror series that had begun in 1931 with the original Dracula and Frankenstein films. Although Universal Horror movies continued to be produced with characters like The Mummy - who got his own A&C film a few years later - those films had no narrative connection to the Dracula, Frankenstein and Wolf Man films. as such this marks the final canonical appearance of the versions of Dracula, the Wolf Man and the Monster as originally played by Lugosi, Chaney and (initially) Boris Karloff.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Talbot gets one (possibly unintentional) when, as the Wolf Man, he leaps off the balcony to stop Dracula from getting away. Being Larry Talbot, he probably survived.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Wilbur and Chick. They even live in the same apartment together.
  • Hidden Harasser: One Running Gag is when the monster scares Wilbur and he tries to warn Chick, but the monster is nowhere to be seen and Chick thinks Wilbur is just seeing things.
  • Horrifying the Horror: Lou, of all people, does this to the Monster when they first meet.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Dracula hypnotizes Sandra with his eyes to ensure her obedience. Then later bites her and drinks her blood to make absolutely sure. Sandra attempts it on Wilbur, but he's Too Dumb to Fool.
  • Implacable Man: The Monster relentlessly pursues the heroes for much of the last act of the film. This film is actually the first - and one of the only - films to actually depict the Monster as embodying this trope, even though the concept of the Monster being an implacable man is one of its most enduring stereotypes.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifter: Per the usual lore, Larry Talbot turns into the Wolf Man whenever the full moon comes out, which of course happens at the least convenient times here.
  • Kavorka Man: What Wilbur seems to be, easily getting the attention of the beautiful Sandra and Joan. It turns out that both of them have their own agendas, and simply think that Wilbur is the more pliable of the two.
  • Kill It with Fire: In the end when Frankenstein's Monster is occupied with throwing stuff at escaping Wilbur and Chick, Stevens sets the pier on fire with gasoline, thus burning the Monster.
  • Large Ham: While the film takes place in a World of Ham, Wilbur (Costello) stands above the rest with his hysterical freak-outs over any appearance of a monster.
  • Lightmare Fuel: For all the monsters who show up, the movie is pretty lighthearted. Indeed, the Frankenstein Monster himself generates one of the film's funniest moments when Wilbur frightens him.
  • Lovable Coward: Wilbur is another in a long line of Costello characters of this type.
  • Love Triangle: Wilbur is chuffed to think that he is in one with Sandra and Joan. However, he has failed to consider The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction.
  • Mad Scientist Laboratory: Dr. Mornay sets one up in the House of Dracula.
  • Meaningful Name: Dracula's alias, Dr. Lejos. "Lejos" is Spanish for "far", and Talbot described Dracula as having a "faraway look in his eye".
  • Monster Mash: Abbott and Costello meet not only the Frankenstein monster but Count Dracula, the Wolf Man, a brain-swapping mad scientist, and a cameo from the Invisible Man— with most of the action taking place in the House of Dracula!
  • Missing Reflection: Averted; Dracula's reflection can be clearly seen at least once in a mirror behind him. However, no one comments on this in story.

    Tropes N-Z 
  • Non-Indicative Name / I Am Not Shazam: They don't meet the actual Frankenstein, only his creation. At least the dialogue is careful to identify him as "the Frankenstein monster," but this doesn't carry over to the title.
  • Open Sesame: Desperate to escape back through a secret door that opened onto the Frankenstein Monster, Wilbur resorts to yelling "Open sesame! Open sesame!" Weirdly enough, it works.
  • Only Sane Man: Poor Larry Talbot. Everyone else in the movie is either evil or an idiot. Naturally, they all think he's nuts... except for Dracula, who knows the truth, but acts like he thinks Talbot is nuts just to tick him off.
  • Officially Shortened Title: The on-screen title is "Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein," while the poster reads "Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein." It's much better known as "Abbott and Costello..."
  • Say My Name:
    • Wilbur repeatedly screams "Chiiiiick!"
    • On one occasion, trapped with only Sandra and the Frankenstein monster around to rescue him, Wilbur alternates between screaming "SANDRAAA!" and whimpering "Junior?"
  • The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction: Neither Wilbur nor Chick is smart enough to suspect that the multiple gorgeous women coming onto Wilbur, of all people, might possibly have ulterior motives. (Joan is working as an insurance investigator, and Sandra wants to steal his brain for the Frankenstein Monster.)
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Poor Wilbur does this many times, inevitably leading to You Have to Believe Me!.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: When Talbot tells Wilbur over the phone that he's in Dracula's castle, Wilbur doesn't even bother hanging up before bolting for the exit.
  • Secret Passage: Wilbur stumbles into one accidentally.
  • Slapstick: As would be expected in an Abbott and Costello movie.
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: Very much on the comedy side of things, with Bud and Lou hamming it up and wisecracking to perfection, but the Universal Horror monsters are quite real and played just as straight as in their own movies, so there are several genuinely scary moments.
  • Straight Man and Wise Guy: You remember this is an Abbott and Costello movie, right?
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Wilbur and the Monster during the brainswitch operation.
  • Suddenly Speaking: The Monster has the ability to speak again after being silent since the end of The Ghost of Frankenstein.
  • Taking You with Me: As the Wolf Man overwhelms him, Dracula retreats to the castle balcony and transforms into a bat to escape, but the Wolf Man grabs him in mid-air, either not knowing or not caring that they'll both plummet into the moat below. Return Of The Wolfman claims that they survived (and so did Frankenstein's Monster), but the novel's canonicity is debatable, and in the film itself, there's no indication that the fall was anything but fatal.
  • Tap on the Head: When Steven starts asking too many questions, Sandra gives him a whack in the head with a fire extinguisher.
  • Tempting Fate: Chick's final line about there's nothing more to frighten our heroes, which of course summons up The Invisible Man.
  • Terms of Endangerment: Affably Evil "Dr. Lejos" compliments Wilbur by telling him, "What we need today is young blood and brains!" He also advises him to "Make the most of life, while it lasts."
  • This Is Reality: While reading the placards at the Museum, Chick points out all the "bunk" written about Dracula and Frankenstein's legends and dismisses it as superstitious nonsense McDougal uses to fool gullible customers.
  • Transformation Sequence: Talbot turning into a werewolf and Dracula turning into a bat.
  • Villain Protagonist: Larry Talbot (the Wolf Man) is on the side of the good guys here... at least, until the full moon comes out.
  • We Meet Again: Talbot says this to Dracula when they meet at the costume party. Dracula feigns ignorance.
  • What Does She See in Him?: Chick's reaction to Sandra choosing Wilbur as a "boyfriend" early on.
    Chick: I don't get it. Out of all the guys around here, that classy dish has to pick out a guy like you.
    Wilbur: What's wrong with that?
    Chick: Go look at yourself in the mirror sometime.
    Wilbur: Why should I hurt my own feelings?
  • What's He Got That I Ain't Got?!: Chick asks Sandra this question verbatim about Wilbur. Sandra’s answer: “Brains.”
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Talbot attacks somebody, and the guy lives through it. We never find out if he becomes a wolf himself, though. (In fact, throughout the movies we never find out if Talbot's bite transfers the curse; his wolf form is substantially different than the one that bit him, and it's not clear that he can pass it on.)
    • The last time we see Talbot, he's falling off a cliff fighting Dracula. The movie doesn't bother to indicate what happens after they land. However, the 1998 novel Return of the Wolf Man eventually answered both questions. McDougal became a murderous werewolf, and both Talbot and Dracula survived their fall. So did the Frankenstein's monster.
  • World of Ham: Nobody in this movie is going for subtlety.
  • Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: Reading a placard about the creation of the Frankenstein Monster, Chick scoffs, "Who would be dumb enough to believe that?" Wilbur laughs, then confesses, "Me."
  • Would Hit a Girl: The Monster could not care less what gender Sandra is. Having a female villain die - and rather horrifically, too - was rather rare for 1940s cinema, so this also applies to the movie in general.
  • You Have to Believe Me!:
    • Poor Wilbur spends a good bit of the movie trying to convince Chick that he's seeing the monsters.
    • And, of course, Larry Talbot trying to convince Chick and Wilbur that he's the Wolf Man.
  • Your Other Left: As they're escaping the castle, Chick tells Wilbur to run to the Left. Wilbur pauses, considers his hands, turns and runs smack into the wall.


Video Example(s):


A&B Meet Frankenstein

Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, opens with a brief animated opening done by Walter Lantz, of Woody Woodpecker fame.

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