I honestly can’t think of a better film where the opposite spectrum of film come together so seamlessly, it’s absolutely flawless. Abbott and Costello were always that comedy pairing that could walk in to any situation and find themselves in peril, but teaming them with Universal monsters is a gamble. It’s one that thankfully pays off in to one of the funniest horror comedies of all time. While I tend to like “Hold that Ghost” a little more, “Meet Frankenstein” is spectacular just the same.
Chick Young and Wilbur Grey are two baggage clerks that are asked by the local owner of the “House of Horrors” to deliver two crates to his attraction. Despite the warnings of the tortured Lawrence Talbot that the crates contain the actual bodies of Count Dracula and Frankenstein, Chick and Wilbur deliver the crates so the owner McDougal can inspect them with an insurance agent. Despite their skepticism, Dracula and Frankenstein are in fact alive, and escape the crates, prompting Chick and Wilbur to be arrested for theft. They’re released from jail by the lovely Joan Raymond, who is an insurance agent feigning interest in Chick, to see if they’ve stolen the merchandise. Meanwhile, as the local masquerade ball rolls around, Chick and Wilbur arrive at Wilbur’s girlfriend’s house, unaware that she’s actually a brain surgeon intent on removing his brain and transplanting it to Frankenstein.
Chaos ensues when Talbot begins transforming in to the wolf man, prompting an inevitable clashing. Most of the film is centered on the more horrific elements of Dracula’s master plan, as he retreats to his castle in hopes to gaining control of Frankenstein and looking for new victims to prey on, all the while characters Chick and Wilbur barely escape thanks to their hilarious numbskullery and pure dumb luck. Though they never know it, Chick and Wilbur are constantly inches away from the Universal monsters, and the events unfold dramatically as they attempt to preserve their own well being. What’s so interesting about the film is that Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf man aren’t given a comedic twist, and are completely straight faced menaces. This is especially true during the scene where Wilbur sneaks in to Talbot’s hotel room, completely unaware he’s in the next room in the form of the vicious wolf man. There’s also the hysterical bit where Wilbur is reading the display sign of the origins of Dracula, as he slowly trickles out of his coffin, prompting various bouts of hysteria from Wilbur.
There are numerous moments of pure hilarity within the film that still inspire me to laugh out loud, including Wilbur being stuck in an underground lair as Dracula and Frankenstein approach, Wilbur being strapped to a stretcher as Dracula and The Wolfman do battle, and Wilbur’s attempts to fool Frankenstein in to thinking he’s Dracula. The added treat is that Bela Lugosi appears once again as Dracula, while Lon Chaney Jr. reprises his role as the tragic Larry Talbot who becomes the Wolfman. Though Karloff declined to play Frankenstein, replacement Glenn Strange gives a solid performance. It’s not much of a shift in actors, since Frankenstein is mainly there as a plot device, but that doesn’t bring the film or comedic momentum down in anyway. Despite having a gallery of comedy films with various mad cap adventures, Abbott and Costello really top themselves with “Meet Frankenstein,” a masterpiece filled with raucous laughs, great spooks, and a wicked final scene.