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Abbott and Costello Meet the Universal Studio Classic Monsters

My first taste of Bud and Lou was watching their television program at five years of age that ran from 1952 until 1957. Then there were those old movies turning up on television during the 1950's like 1941's "Buck Privates" with the Andrew Sisters, Patty, LaVerne and Maxine. Featuring the Sister's hit song "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B". Here's that song from the film and its a classic:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qafnJ6mRbgk

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Of course when you think of Bud and Lou themselves this is the routine "Whose On First" that initially comes to mind:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTcRRaXV-fg

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My last taste of their comic genius was after Bud and Lou bitterly split up. In 1959 without his long time partner Bud. Lou looking tired did the motion picture "The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock" with Dorothy Provine . The parody of those 1950's Bert I. Gordon giant monster movies has Lou as an inventor who accidentally causes Provine to grow to enormous proportions, Thus predating Walt Disney's "Honey I Blew Up the Kid" by 33 years and his previous "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" with this idea.

Here is the trailer for "The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFJItlEFXE8

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This article in not about Bud and Lou's long time partnership, or as with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis later their sad and angry split. There are four movies the Comedy Duo made where they took on the stable of Universal Studio's classic monsters plus one other "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". A short look at each of these four films makes up this article. Along with a television appearance that adds one more of those Universal Classic Creations.

Each of these four motion pictures contain the word "Meet" in the title after the Bud and Lou's names. Additionally three other films by the two comedians meeting other characters make up a series of seven motion pictures. I will just mention, at the proper place, these other three.

The first of Bud and Lou's Classic Monster movies is arguably the most famous. Also perhaps the most known of all the Comedy Duo's 36 motion pictures today.

Released on June 15, 1948 this first motion picture started an interesting trend that appeared in all seven films, but one.Why this happened I have no clue.

The poster for the motion picture reads: "Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein".

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While the on screen title dropped the word "and" and you have: Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein.

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However the motion picture is simply known as: "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein".

Whichever title you choose in 2000 the American Film Institute's "100 Years ...100 Laugh's" rated the motion picture number 56, In 2001 the Library of Congress chose the film for preservation and in 2007 Readers Digest elected the film as one of the "Top 100 Funniest Films of All Time" and I would agree.

The motion picture can be viewed on three levels.

The first is as the title implies simply another Bud Abbott and Lou Costello comedy film that the potential audience knew what they were going to see. The second as the last motion picture appearance, officially, of three of the most famous of the Universal Monsters. Whose popularity had dropped off with the public, but in 1957 would suddenly make a come back. As a result of  a syndicate television package put together not by Universal Studios, but Screen Gems a subsidiary of Columbia Pictures. The third level is related to the second as you have Bela Lugosi recreating his role as "Dracula" for the first time, Lon Chaney, Jr. recreating his role of  Lawrence "Larry" Talbott aka: The Wolfman and "B" Cowboy actor Glenn Strange recreating his role from the last of the original "Frankenstein" series as the Monster.

This motion picture had a working title of "The Brain of Frankenstein" referring to the fact that Count Dracula wanted to use Lou's brain in the Frankenstein Monster. The simple set up has Bud and Lou as workers for a shipping company that deliver two crates to the "McDougal House Of Horrors" a local wax museum, The crates are suppose to contain wax figures of Count Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster, but instead contain the real thing. The lovely Dr, Sandra Mornay to the surprise of Bud's Chick has fallen for Lou's Wilber. In reality she has been working for Dracula in locating a brain for the monster and has chosen Costello's. Attempting to warn the duo is Lon Chaney, Jr.'s Lawrence Talbott.

Obviously Universal was glad for the success of this comedy title as it opened up an avenue to the other six "Meet" motion pictures in the series. Lou Costello is alleged to have hated the script at first saying his five year old daughter could have written something better, but he is suppose to have "warmed" to it as shooting continued. The public apparently did not agree with Costello's first assessment. The film had a final budget of $792,270 dollars and as of 1991, according to the book "Abbott and Costello in Hollywood" by Bob and Ron Furmanek had made $3,2 million on Universal's investment.

Here are a few behind the scenes stills:

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Apparently Glenn Strange had problems keeping a straight face during shooting from Costello's jokes and some scenes were re-shot as many as six to seven times. Between shooting there were on set pie fights, but Bud and Lou made sure the actors, when in make-up, were not hit.

What could be an interesting comparison to the American release is viewing the Australian release of "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein". Apparently the Australian censors wanted almost all the scenes with a monster in them removed from the film. Otherwise they would not let the movie be shown in that country. One wonders what was left and what the film's story line sounded like without the three monsters being seen?

As I wrote in another article on my blog "Universal's 'Frankenstein' VS Hammer's 'Frankenstein': A Tale of Two Studios". There were a lot of people besides the actors involved in the making of "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" such as Boris Karloff, who of course originated the Universal Frankenstein Monster, that believed this motion picture ended Universal's Classic Monster films of the 1930's and 1940's in a bad way. Eventually "Critic" Boris Karloff gave in and co-starred in two of the remaining six entries in the series.

However, I think the strongest argument that this film did not end the enjoyment of those Classic Monster films actually happened in 1957 with Screen Gems packaged "Shock Theater". A new generation, mine, discovered these 1930's and 1940's Classics we never knew existed. Additionally that syndicate package led Forrest J. Ackerman and James Warren to create in 1958 "Famous Monsters of Filmland" to feed the frenzy, so to speak, "Shock Theater" was causing. I know just turned 11 year old Lloyd spent a night in October 1957 reading comic books after seeing that first program the 1931 "Frankenstein". Not being able to sleep, or turn the lights in my bedroom off.

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This is a link to the entire motion picture and the others in the series:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xlrtsa_abbott-and-costello-meet-frankenstein_shortfilms

By the time shooting was being completed on "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" it was decided to film  another Monster meeting and the sequence in the boat with Vincent Price's voice as the Invisible Man was designed as a set up for the next film. However, that motion picture was placed on hold and in 1949 audiences saw Boris Karloff  appear in "Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Killer" which was the on screen name.

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The posters for the motion picture read "Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff". So from that poster was the "Killer" named Boris Karloff? Please note the comma used between the word "Killer" and "Boris Karloff".

Karloff played the part of "Swami Talpur" on of the suspects and possible victims. The "Killer" was veteran actor Alan Mowbray as Melton. Three years earlier audiences had seen Mowbray play Colonel Sebastian Moran in the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movie "Terror by Night". As with the changes between the poster titles and the screen titles as you will read. The placement of both the "comma" and the name of "Boris Karloff" remains a mystery.


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Released March 19, 1951 again with the posters and screen titles being different was "Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Invisible Man" aka: "Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man".

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The plot of the film has Bud and Lou as newly graduated detectives who help a middle weight boxer named Tommy Nelson played by Arthur Franz (1953's "Invaders from Mars" and 1958's "Monster on the Campus". Who has been framed for his managers murder. Nelson's girlfriend wants her Uncle to inject Tommy with an invisibility serum he recently invented so Nelson can discover the truth about the murder. The Uncle is reluctant as the serum's original inventor John Griffin went insane. To get at the bottom of all of this Lou becomes a boxer with the invisible Tommy throwing the real punches.

Before the real murderer is finally brought to justice and Tommy cleared/ He has been shot and needs a blood transfusion. Lou volunteers and Nelson is returned to normal while Lou has a side effect of going invisible. The gag being when he becomes fully visible again Lou's leg's are on backwards.

In the scene were Dr. Griffin is mentioned a framed photograph of Claude Rains is seen. Rains played Griffin in the James Whale classic in 1933. "Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man" is actually the fifth Invisible Man film from  Universal and the second comedy version. After Claude Rains originated the part in 1933. Vincent Price appeared in 1940's "The Invisible Man Returns". The next film also in 1940 was a comedy starring Virginia Bruce and John Barrymore called "The Invisible Women". This was followed by the fourth entry with John Hall fighting the Nazi's in 1942's "The Invisible Agent".

An inside gags in the film were Bud and Lou's character's names: Bud Alexander and Lou Francis. Alexander and Francis were the comedy duo's real middle names.

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The next film in the overall series was "Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd" in 1952 and surprise the film title and the poster's title finally matched. The only film that this occurred on.

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As you can  tell it was also the only entry in the series in color. Charles Laughton played the same part as he did in the 1945 movie "Captain Kidd" and seemed to be in on the joke stealing scenes from the two stars and very much enjoying himself.

Boris Karloff returned for his second appearance and Universal International returned to the poster and screen title not matching. The posters said this 1953 film was "Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde".

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While as could now be expected the screen credit was back to "Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde".

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Boris Karloff' played Dr. Jekyll and has screen credit for playing Mr.Hyde. Actually once the transformation was completed on screen. Karloff's stunt man Eddie Parker took over the role without be acknowledge a quirk, at the time, in his profession.

Back in 1931 Paramount Pictures did an Academy Award winning version of Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr, Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" starring Frederick March, March would receive the Oscar for the dual role. The make up for Frederick March's transformation was created by Wally Westmore. Twenty-two years later his brother Bud Westmore did the make up for Boris Karloff.

Below Bud with Boris and Bud with all the masks used for the other actors including the kitten face for Lou Costello.
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Look at these transformation sequences with March on the Left and Karloff on the Right.

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Close up of Wally Westmore's make up for Frederick March.

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Bud Westmore's for Boris Karloff and the homage to Wally by Bud is clearly seen.

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The movie's plot has Bud and Lou playing two American Policemen assigned to Scotland Yard to learn British techniques. A rash of murders are being committed. Abbott and Costello meet a young women whose guardian is the kind Dr. Henry Jekyll who of course is also the murder Edmond Hyde.

Playing a newspaper reporter who starts to fall for Dr. Jekyll's ward is Craig Stevens. Stevens would be seen in 1957's The Deadly Mantis and became Peter Gunn on a major 1950's detective television series create by Blake Edwards.


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By the time the murders are solved Costello would be injected with the Hyde serum, bite the police officers and turn them also in to Hyde's for the films concluding scene. They believe he is the real murder, because he has been injected with the serum and looks like Hyde.

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Two of the main complaints about the film are interesting. One is that the script wasn't strong enough and when compared to both "Meet Frankenstein" and "Meet Captain Kidd" the same could be said about "Meet the Invisible Man".

The other complaint is that there is nothing in the film to show that Henry Jekyll is concerned over what Edmond Hyde is doing as a murder, Some viewers think the motion picture seems to say Jekyll might have approved of Hyde's action making him as evil. That thought is contrary to the character created by Robert Louis Stevenson and shown in every other version filmed. I never got that deep when watching the film as I was laughing to much, but it is a well grounded point to be made.

1955 would have the last two of the "Abbott and Costello Meet the" series from Universal. Starting in January with the Keystone Kops. Keeping with the posters vs screen title:

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Universal Studios originally wanted to call this motion picture "Abbott and Costello Meet the Stunt Men" as they considered the "Keystone Kops" as outdated and largely forgotten by the movie going public. Even though they were going to have their creator Mack Sennett do a cameo.

On June 23, 1955 a film was released that was both the last one in the actual "Meet the" series and the 28th and final Abbott and Costello film made and released by Universal International. Bud and Lou first started in films on November 15, 1940 in Universal International's "One Night in the Tropics" in which the two played very minor roles, but managed to steal the entire film leading to a contract and the motion picture "Buck Privates". Their total motion picture output as a team  would number 36 films.

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"Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy" was the first of the series I actually saw at the Pickfair Theater during one of those kids matinee's. I also think it has some of the funnest bits and uses a more slapstick comedy format including some of the duo's original routines seen in other earlier motion pictures. The sequence were Bud is dressed as the Mummy, Michael Ansara as one of the crooks, Charlie, is dressed as the Mummy and the real Mummy are all running through the tomb is pure laughs.

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Stuntman Eddie Parker was back playing the Mummy here called "Klaris" not "Kharis" as in the Lon Chaney, Jr. films also doubled by Parker. Unlike in "Abbott and Costello Meet Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" Eddie Parker received the screen credit he deserved, but billed as "Edwin" Parker.

There are still people who view all four of the Classic Monster comedies as sacrilege. They believe the films cheapen Jack Pierce's creations. I disagree fully with that position, because through Bud and Lou's films as with the 1957 "Shock Theater". Pierce's creations were introduced to another group of viewers who may never have known they existed, or if they did might never have gone to a "Horror" movie.

I personally enjoy both the original Universal Horror films and these four comedies. Both series entries are classics on their own of varying degrees.

My title mentions "Plus One and a Half". The "One" was Dr, Jekyll, but what was the "Half"? Turning to television we find a fifteen minute skit known today as:


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The skit was part of "The Colgate Comedy Hour" from 1953. Here is the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-j-VlKTIRo

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