Thursday, October 2, 2014

20 Things You May Not Have Known About Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

A Halloween season without Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is like a Christmas without A Christmas Carol or a Thanksgiving without that movie about Thanksgiving. So this year before you sit down to munch a bowl of brains and laugh yourself stupid while watching Bud, Lou, Drac, Frankie, and Wolfie’s antics, shove this information into your brain hole, a tasty heap of tidbits I call 20 Things You May Not Have Known About Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein!

1. As The Brain of Frankenstein could have easily been the title of any of Universal’s more serious monster movies, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’s meeting with the Frankenstein Monster was wisely retitled.
2. As they themselves trumpet, the opening credits sequence of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was animated by Walter Lantz, who is most famous for bringing Woody Woodpecker to life. Coincidentally, animation designer Nino Carbe, who also worked on Woody, illustrated Illustrated Editions’ 1932 “De Luxe Edition” of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel.

3. Hold That Ghost, Abbott and Costello’s first tentative foray into the supernatural, is most famous for Lou’s moving candle gag, in which only he can see the object move of its own accord. He recreates this famous scene with the help of Dracula’s casket lid in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

4. While Glenn Strange played the Frankenstein Monster as many times as Boris Karloff (three times), he spent a lot less time in his gear. For Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Strange’s latex and foam mask took a mere hour to apply. By Karloff’s account, that is some five hours fewer than it took Jack P. Pierce to apply his cotton and collodion makeup (though a 1932 issue Picturegoer reported that Pierce’s makeup job took a more reasonable three and a half hours).

5. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is the only film in which Glenn Strange got to speak as The Monster.

6. Bela Lugosi, who starred for his second and final time as Dracula in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, was often exasperated by the constant pranks Costello unleashed on set to keep the mood lighthearted.

7. Jane Randolph, who plays saucy insurance investigator Joan Raymond in …Meet Frankenstein, took a similar though more serious turn six years earlier in Cat People. Randolph could not stand that film’s star, Simone Simon. If she were alive today, she might take issue with Simone’s portrait appearing on her imdb page instead of her own! 

8. Lenore Aubert’s Dr. Sandra Mornay is the only female mad scientist in a classic Universal Monster movie.

9. Dracula betrays one of his most famous abnormalities when he allows his reflection to be seen in a mirror in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

10. Larry Talbot informs us that Dracula has a “far-away look in his eyes.” The count uses the alias Dr. Lejos, “Lejos” being the Spanish word for “far away.”

11. After several monster rallies in which Larry Talbot unsuccessfully courted death, he apparently bites the dust for good at the end of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

12. As was the case in Universal’s other rallies, the Mummy was not invited to join the Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein monster mash, though he was considered. As a consolation prize he got his own film with Bud and Lou in 1955.

13. Boris Karloff agreed to pose for some promo shots for Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein on the condition that he didn’t actually have to watch the movie. “I’m too fond of the monster… I wouldn’t like to watch anyone make sport of him,” Karloff diplomatically explained. Having never played Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde before, Karloff was less sensitive about that character, gamely playing him opposite Bud and Lou in 1953. The trio also played together in 1949’s Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff, though despite that title, Karloff doesn’t really play himself in a film that would be paired with …Meet Frankenstein as a double-feature in 1956.

14. Australia’s censors outed themselves as great, big Frankenstein chickens when they removed nearly every scene featuring the Monster from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein!

15. Although Lou Costello initially bristled at a script he deemed “crap,” he would go on to make a number of movies co-starring creatures, including Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. Plans to have them co-star with the Creature from the Black Lagoon in a feature never hit the drawing board, though the Gill Man would make a guest appearance with them on “The Colgate Comedy Hour” in 1953.

16. Seventeen years after directing Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Charles Barton would once again coax laughs from a Frankenstein Monster, vampire, and werewolf when he helmed the “Love Locked Out” episode of “The Munsters”. 

17. Although Dracula had already interacted with the Frankenstein Monster in House of Dracula (they share no screen time together in House of Frankenstein), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is the first film in which Dracula is responsible for bringing Frankie to life. Vampires would do so again in such works as Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Van Helsing, and...

18. …”The Monstrous Monkee Mash”, a 1968 episode of “The Monkees”, which is explicitly inspired by Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. However, instead of Dracula scheming to put Lou Costello’s pliable brain into the Monster’s head, a vampire simply called “The Count” wants to fill the creature’s cranium with Peter Tork’s grey matter.

19. As a kid, Quentin Tarantino’s favorite movie was Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. He was particularly impressed that the monsters actually kill people in a comedy. When he was a bit older, Quentin would mix murder and comedy quite deftly himself!

20. In 2000, the American Film Institute ranked Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein as the 56th funniest American film ever made. Two years earlier, AFI only ranked James Whale’s Frankenstein at 87 on its “100 Years… 100 Movies” list.
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