The Frankenstein cycle in the Sci-Fi Chronicles books takes a quirky turn (and not for the last time) into comedy as the Monster tests out his comedy feet in this Universal classic that was my introduction to the original monsters.
Costello’s brain is up for grabs as Wilbur (Costello) is watched over by Sandra (Lenore Aubert) as he and Chick (Abbott) work as a delivery service. They’ve been hired to deliver two boxes to a house of horrors, one contains Frankenstein’s Monster (Glenn Strange) and the other Dracula (Bela Lugosi).
Talbot/Wolfman (Lon Chaney jr.) attempts to warn the boys but his furry inclinations get in the way, and Wilbur always seems to be around when it happens. Despite being a scaredy-cat when it comes to Dracula and the Monster (along with doing hilarious impersonations of them) he doesn’t quite believe Talbot, until it’s almost too late.
The monsters are all faithful to their mythologies but this time around things are played for laughs as much as scares this time around. The comedic duo is a joy, and even now, it’s easy to see why I was so taken in by this one when I saw it as a matinée growing up in the late 70s (our base had a great theatre that brought in all manner of Saturday matinée material to see).
Lugosi, Chaney and Strange play it straight while are two heroes provide so much comic relief. Dracula plans to put Wilbur’s brain in Frankenstein with the help of Sandra, who has only been romancing Wilbur to keep an eye on him. This doesn’t stop Chick from getting upset that he doesn’t have a date, when Wilbur has two, when an insurance agent, Joan (Jane Randolph) shows up, and pretends to romance Wilbur to find out what happened to the two crates for the house of horrors. There is some nice verbal exchanges between Chick and Wilbur all through this sequence.
Talbot (amazingly alive after the events of the last film, guess Ilonka didn’t really love him) is trying to track down the monsters and stop them, all while combatting his werewolf tendencies. He tries to persuade the boys to help, Wilbur is, of course, ready to believe him, and the trio, set off to stop Dracula and Frankenstein once and for all (?).
Even today, this one still plays entertainingly well, the melodramatic horror works very nicely, interwoven with the comedy bits, and everything about this film is just do damned enjoyable. It is undeniably my favorite of the universal monster movies. But it does seem odd to me, that there seems to be a gothic castle in the midst of Florida, on an island just off the coast, and it also seems to have a lot of full moons there.
Still, I can’t get enough of this one, and may very well be re-watching it again, and again, and again.
Next, we move onto the Hammer Frankenstein films!!