My favorite classic horror film to watch in the days leading up to Halloween is actually not a horror film at all, but a comedy: ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN.
The 1948 film remains a hugely popular watch among the Monster Kid crowd and horror movie aficionados, primarily because it prominently features not only Frankenstein’s Monster (played by Glenn Strange, not Boris Karloff as many mistakenly believe), but Dracula (Bela Lugosi, returning to the role that made him famous one last time) and The Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr. also returning for one more growl in arguably his most famous role, though he was a versatile horror star playing The Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Dracula too!) — and a cameo by The Invisible Man (voiced by Vincent Price).
Chick: I know there’s no such person as Dracula. You know there’s no such person as Dracula.
Wilbur: But does Dracula know it?
ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN is like a Monster Kid gateway drug to more classic monster movies of the golden age. So many people who have seen it were inspired to seek out the original, more serious film foundations of the characters featured in the flick, not to mention the many sequels and match-ups that came afterward.
I first saw the film during a Saturday matinee at my local library, which would show movies for kids on a (somewhat) big screen with a 16mm projector back in the ’70s. Other matinee movies I remember seeing there included 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, YELLOW SUBMARINE, THE ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD, and a bunch of HERBIE movies. I was lucky that my parents found a place to dump me on Saturday afternoons while they did errands or what have you, as I have extremely fond memories of this experience.
Already being a monster movie fan who consumed as many creatures as possible in books and in Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine between catching them on TV, it was a rare treat to get to see a creature feature on the big screen for me. So when, to my surprise, I saw that this movie had more than just Frankenstein, I was elated. Abbott & Costello made the perfect foils for these supernatural antagonists, resulting in a potent combination of fright and funny; the comic timing of the duo is impeccable in this film, and most of the jokes and sight gags remain pretty timeless.
I love how silly it is to watch The Wolf Man almost get his prey each and every time, but he just misses because he hesitates too long for heightened effect. I love the way all of the women in the film swoon over Costello’s Wilbur character, simply befuddling Abbott’s Chick to no end. I love it when Wilbur unwittingly sits on the Frankenstein’s Monster’s lap, and then later tries to get his attention by calling him, “Junior. Oh, Junior!” I love when Costello breaks the fourth wall after yanking a tablecloth to impersonate Dracula to remind us that everything on the table is still standing. I love every minute of this movie.
Larry Talbot: I know you’ll think I’m crazy, but in a half-an-hour the moon will rise and I’ll turn into a wolf.
Wilbur: You and 20 million other guys!
Of all the ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET… monster movies — ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY, ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE, ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET THE KILLER, BORIS KARLOFF, and ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN, which is more of a boxing comedy than a monster movie — I love ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN the most. Watching it every year is an absolute requirement for me, and I’m fortunate to have a family who feels just the way I do and is game to make a Saturday afternoon matinee of it every October.
Enjoy these vintage, colorized lobby cards promoting the 1948 film:
Back in the days before the Internet, movie lobby cards were a powerful tool used by Hollywood studios to lure audiences into the darkened theater. They were the last line of enticement — and sometimes the first — alongside carpet-bombing consumers with coming attractions, movie posters, marquees, publicity stunts, movie program books, and newspaper advertisements for their newest big-screen sensation. With no entertainment websites or blogs available to tease audiences with stills from their films, lobby cards served that purpose for the studio publicity machine. These days, movie theater lobbies have eschewed the traditional lobby card for posters, standees, trailers on repeat, experiential activations and more.
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Then see more cool vintage Lobby Cards from the likes of PLANET OF THE APES, JAWS, STAR WARS, ALIEN, and THE PHANTOM MONSTER SHOW, or read my ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT-related tales and interviews, movie reviews, Famous Monsters-related pieces, and more cool vintage movie lobby cards.