Don’t bother calling the Ghostbusters when Dracula, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s Monster knock on your door.
Chick and Wilbur can handle it.
“Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein” graced theaters decades before the sweet science of the horror comedy came into vogue with “Tremors,” “An American Werewolf in London” and “Shaun of the Dead.”
The iconic comedy team nailed the genre without fancy effects, big budgets or even the greatest actor to wear the Monster’s neck bolts – Boris Karloff.
The 1948 film hits Blu-ray this week, and the technical gurus at Universal deliver another gorgeous spit polish on a classic film.
Chick (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur (Lou Costello) are hardly working at a freight handling company when two humanoid-shaped packages arrive at their store. The boxes contain new exhibits for McDougal’s House of Horrors – Frankenstein’s Monster (Glenn Strange) and Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi).
Poor Wilbur gets the scare – or three – of his life while prying the containers open one dark night, but he really should fear a plan to swap out his modest brain with that of Frankenstein’s “abbie-normal” model.
“Frankenstein” gives us the banter we expect between the legendary leads as well as monsters who don’t desecrate the memory of their previous horror creations. Plus, we’re hammered by punch lines that will never lose their zip, each told as if every millisecond mattered. Abbott and Costello couldn’t tell ’em any other way.
Larry Talbot: You don’t understand. Every night when the moon is full, I turn into a wolf.
Wilbur: You and twenty million other guys.
Lon Chaney, Jr.’s transformation into his hairy alter ego relies on antiquated time lapse effects, but it wasn’t a distraction back in 1948 and it’s still not a deal breaker now.
Frank Skinner’s outstanding score serves as the ultimate connection between the horror and comedy elements. And no wonder, given the prolific composer’s previous work scoring both “The Wolf Man” and “Son of Frankenstein.”
Abbott and Costello proved they were box office attractions with 1941’s “Buck Privates,” their first major feature as a comedy team. That Army spoof lurched from one sparkling set piece to the next, wrapping its story in perfunctory fashion.
“Frankenstein” stands as a far more polished piece of entertainment down to its killer final line from an invisible cast member.
The Blu-ray’s pristine picture quality should render any price point sufficient, but the package also arrives with a commentary track with historian Gregory W. Mank, the film’s trailer and “Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters,” a look at how the film’s success spawned a small series of horror comedies.
Follow Christian Toto on Twitter @TotoMovies