Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (the film's poster title), or Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (the onscreen title) (1948) was directed by Charles Barton and starred the hit comedy team  Abbott and Costello along with three of Universal's classic monsters, Dracula, Frankenstein's creature and the Wolf Man.  It is the first of several films in which the comedy duo meets classic characters from Universal's horror films. Later films would pair the duo with the Mummy, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the Invisible Man.  The film was an encore performance of sorts for the Universal’s "Big Three" horror monsters. Their last film House of Dracula (1945) had proved to be the low point of their reign in the horror realm.

Just as Universal classic monsters found themselves on a downward spiral Abbott and Costello where at their zenith. The comedy duo had appeared in over twenty films from 1940 to 1948 when production began. In fact they were making films at such a rate that the joke going around at that time was, “It’s slow in Hollywood…Abbott and Costello haven’t made a picture all day.”

Boris Karloff was approached to play Frankenstein’s creature, a role that he had played three times before. Karloff declined believing that the mix of comedy and horror would be an insult to horror movies. Karloff apparently changed his mind, for he would later appear in Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949), and again in Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953).

The role of Frankenstein’s creature went to Glenn Strange who would make his third appearance as the creature and Lon Chaney Jr. would once again play the role of Lawrence Talbot/The Wolf Man.

Despite Lugosi’s close association with the role of Count Dracula this was only the second time he played the role; his first being 17 years earlier in Dracula (1931). Ian Keith who had been
originally considered for the role of Count Dracula in Dracula (1931) was once again a strong contender for the role because Universal had no intention of hiring Bela Lugosi.  But, Lugosi's manager went to Universal and shamed the studio into giving Lugosi the role that had made him famous saying, "He is Dracula! You owe this role to Lugosi!".  

The original title for the film was to be The Brain of Frankenstein, but the name was changed before production began, which ran from February 5 through March 20, 1948. The film was originally budgeted at $759,524 but went $32,746 over. Despite the budget overrun the film was still Universal’s second least expensive film for 1948. Surprisingly it was its second highest grossing film of the year.

 Costello reportedly hated the script, stating “No way I'll do that crap. My little girl could write something better than this."  However a $50,000 advance in salary and the signing of director Charles Barton, the team's good friend convinced him to do the film. Costello would later warm to the film during its production.

 It was reported that the studio hired two comedians to add laughs between takes on the set.
Apparently they were not needed because, Glenn Strange found Costello so funny he would often break up laughing, requiring many retakes. There were also a number of pie fights between takes as well, but Abbott and Costello were always careful to make sure that no pies were thrown toward the three monsters in their makeup.

During filming Glenn Strange tripped over a camera cable, causing the camera to fall and break his foot. Lon Chaney Jr., who had played the creature in Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), took over the role of the creature while Strange recuperated.

Vincent Price made a cameo in voice only in the final scene, which hinted that he would appear in Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951); Price had appeared in The Invisible Man Returns (1940). However he would not return for Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951).

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) was released on June 15, 1948 and was a huge success inspiring future pairings of Abbott and Costello with other horror icons. Today Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) is considered to be one of the comedy duos better films and served as a final farewell to the “Big Three” Universal monsters. With the dawn of the nuclear age and Cold War, vampires, werewolves and other things that go bump in the night would be dethroned by flying saucers and nuked up multi-limb creatures during the 1950’s.

No comments:

Post a Comment