Classic Monster Team-Ups

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein – 1948, US, 83m. Director: Charles Barton. Streaming: N/A

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man – 1943, US, 73m. Director: Roy William Neill. Streaming: Peacock

House of Frankenstein – 1944, US, 71m. Director: Erle C. Kenton. Streaming: N/A

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948) Two bungling baggage handlers in the form of radio and television stars Bud Abbott and Lou Costello get wrapped in a supernatural plot involving Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Wolf Man. Abbott and Costello—here called Chick and Wilbur—intercept two crates containing the bodies of Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and the Monster (Glenn Strange) en route to a wax museum called McDougal’s House of Horrors. Chick and Wilbur are told by Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) that Dracula wants to steal his brain and implant it in Frankenstein’s Monster and requests the two lug nuts help him foil Dracula’s plan. Perhaps the best of the Universal Monster team-ups, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is a towering achievement because it works as both a horror flick and a comedy—it never feels as if the filmmakers, or Abbott and Costello themselves, are making fun of the characters. They’re not laughing at them but with them, and believe me, folks—there’s a difference! In many ways this is a better monster movie than many of the legitimate horror releases that came before it, and it delivers the monster action in spades, especially during its breathlessly paced final fifteen minutes. The last-minute surprise appearance by another famous character will leave you in stitches. A must-see for any monster lover. A

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943) The first of Universal’s Wolf Man sequels (but the fourth for Frankenstein), this picks up four years after the events of The Wolf Man (1941) with sad sack, and presumably dead, Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) being resurrected from his coffin when a couple of dimwitted grave robbers remove the bedding of wolf’s bane. Talbot, still unhappy to be saddled with his curse, seeks help from Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), whose son was the werewolf which turned Talbot into a monster. Believing Dr. Frankenstein can put Talbot to death permanently, Maleva brings Talbot to the doctor’s castle, where they discovers the body of the Creature (Bela Lugosi) beneath the ruins of the place. One of the first of the monster mash-ups that were popular in the forties—the trend would peak with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948—and featuring a terrific turn by Chaney Jr., who only hinted at his potential in the original film. Unfortunately, Lugosi’s reputation precedes him in a performance that displays his obvious discomfort in the role of the Creature. To be fair, however, Lugosi’s overuse of outstretched arms is because of story continuity error—this version of the Creature was originally written as being blind, an element later excised from the finished film. Despite its limitations, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is a whole lotta fun and delivers plenty of monster mayhem for the avid fan. B+

HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944) Boris Karloff returns to the Frankenstein universe, not as the Monster but as murderous scientist Gustav Niemann, who after escaping from prison promises his deformed assistant, Daniel (J. Carrol Naish, later stepping into the role of Dr. Frankenstein in the Al Adamson crap classic Dracula vs. Frankenstein), a new body by using Dr. Frankenstein’s formula for creating life. This plan is really a ruse for Niemann to exact revenge on the people who put the doctor in jail for grave robbery years earlier—his devious plot is to give the men who testified against him Lawrence Talbot’s (Lon Chaney Jr.) werewolf curse. Talbot, along with Frankenstein’s Monster (Glenn Strange), are exhumed from the rubble of Castle Frankenstein (which was destroyed at the end of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man) and with the help of gypsy woman, Ilonka (Elena Verdugo), undergo Niemann’s experiments so they’ll come under his control. Ilonka eventually falls in love with Talbot, which sends the smitten Daniel into a jealous rage. Dracula (John Carradine) makes a brief appearance early on and offers the film the most excitement in the form of a spectacular carriage chase. Talbot’s ongoing moping over his werewolf curse continues, but here it’s not as interesting, or as fleshed out, as in the previous Wolf Man sagas. House of Frankenstein has the dubious feeling of being nothing more than a flashy byproduct of ideas stitched together from other movies. But for most of its short runtime, the movie is a welcoming way of passing the time, especially for the monster maniac. B

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