Saturday, May 24, 2008

Movie of the Week: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein!

The absolute final entry in the Universal Frankenstein, Wolfman, and Dracula sagas (many would say the "final nail") is Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein!

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I have so many photos, lobby cards, and posters to share on this one, I'm not sure I'll get to them all!

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The Wikipedia entry on this movie (which has lots of great info on it) is so complete in retelling the plot that I'm going to just "steal" it here, with my thanks to the Wikieans who wrote it up!

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Chick Young (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello) work as baggage clerks in LaMirada, Florida. When Wilbur mishandles two crates belonging to 'MacDougal's House of Horrors' museum, Mr. MacDougal (Frank Ferguson) demands that they deliver them in person so that they can be inspected by an insurance agent. MacDougal boasts to Wilbur's girlfriend, Dr. Sandra Mornay (LĂ©nore Aubert), that the crates contain "the remains of the original Count Dracula" (Bela Lugosi) and "the body of the Frankenstein Monster" (Glenn Strange).

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Yugoslavian poster

Dracula awakens, hypnotizes Wilbur, and spirits away his own coffin (and the revived Monster) before anyone else sees them. MacDougal then arrives with the insurance agent. Finding the storage crates empty, he accuses the boys of theft and has them arrested.

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Mornay receives Dracula and the Monster at her island castle. Sandra is a gifted surgeon who has studied Dr. Frankenstein's notebooks, and has been posing as Wilbur's girlfriend as part of Dracula's scheme to replace the Monster's brutish brain with one more pliable — Wilbur's.

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Wilbur and Chick are bailed out of jail and mistakenly believe Sandra to be their benefactor. Actually Joan Raymond (Jane Randolph), who also seems to like Wilbur, is responsible for the good deed. Joan is secretly working for the company that is processing MacDougal's insurance claim, and hopes Wilbur will lead her to the missing 'exhibits'.

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Meanwhile, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) has taken the apartment across the hall from Wilbur and Chick. He has tracked Dracula and the Monster from Europe, and knows them to be alive. Talbot asks the boys to help him find and destroy the villains. Wilbur is amenable to the plan, but Chick thinks both of them are crazy. Talbot's desperate insistence that he be locked in his room before moonrise impresses Chick even less.

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The following night, Wilbur, Chick and Joan go to Sandra's castle to pick her up for a costume ball. Sandra has told Wilbur to come alone, and receives the extra guests rather icily.

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Belgium poster

While the ladies powder their noses, Wilbur answers a telephone call from someone wanting to speak to a 'Dr Lejos'. It is Talbot, who informs them that they are in the "house of Dracula". Wilbur reluctantly agrees to search the castle with Chick, and soon stumbles upon an underground passageway, complete with boat and dock. Behind a secret revolving wall, Wilbur again encounters Dracula and the Monster, but escapes. Wilbur's every attempt to get Chick to witness the villains fails - thanks to the revolving wall. Meanwhile, Joan has discovered Dr Frankenstein's notebook in Sandra's bureau, while Sandra has discovered Joan's employee I.D. in her bag.

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Polish poster?

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Suavely reattired, Dracula (a.k.a. Dr. Lejos) is introduced by Sandra to Joan and the boys. He commends Sandra on her 'choice', expertly massaging the ego of Wilbur, who does not realize the true context of the remark. Also working at the castle is the naive Dr. Stevens (Charles Bradstreet), who questions some of the specialized equipment that has arrived. Dracula manages to deflect Dr. Stevens' questions by pairing him with Joan and shooing off the 'young people' to their ball. Sandra claims to have a sudden splitting headache and will not be able to attend the event. When Dracula consults Sandra in private, she admits that Dr. Stevens' questions, Joan's insurance credentials and Wilbur's inquiries have made her nervous, and wants to postpone the experiments. Impatient, Dracula asserts his will by hypnotizing her, and biting her in the throat.

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At the ball, the boys encounter Talbot and MacDougal. Dracula arrives unexpectedly with Sandra, now under his spell. Dracula easily deflects Talbot's accusations, making the man appear disturbed. Dracula takes Joan for a dance while Sandra lures Wilbur to a quiet spot. Just before she can bite Wilbur's neck, Chick and Larry approach looking for Joan, and Sandra flees. As they search the grounds, Talbot transforms into the Wolf Man. Wilbur escapes, but the Wolf Man finds and injures MacDougal. Later noting that Chick is costumed as a werewolf, MacDougal concludes that Chick attacked him for revenge. (The fact that Chick is dressed like Talbot certainly does not help the situation). Chick manages to slip away, only to witness Dracula hypnotizing Wilbur. Chick becomes somewhat hypnotized himself, while Wilbur and an entranced Joan are brought back to the castle by Dracula and Sandra. The next morning, Chick is still on the lam when he finds Larry, who confesses that he was MacDougal's attacker. Now finally convinced, Chick agrees to help Larry rescue Wilbur and Joan.

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While Wilbur is being held in a pillory, Sandra finally explains to him the plan to transplant his brain into the Monster. She and Dracula leave him to prepare the Monster for the operation. Chick and Talbot arrive, free Wilbur, and head off to save Joan. Wilbur, meanwhile, is lured back to the castle by Dracula, who easily overpowers his mind.

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While the Monster receives an electrical boost in the lab, Sandra is about to open Wilbur's skull when Talbot storms in and casts her aside. Chick fends off Dracula with a chair, lifting it over his head to swing it at the vampire and inadvertently knocking out Sandra in the process. But just as Talbot is about to untie Wilbur, he once again transforms into the Wolf Man.

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Very cool Spanish poster!

Dracula returns to the scene, only to have a tug-of-war with the Wolf Man over Wilbur's gurney. Dracula flees, with the Wolf Man giving chase. Chick arrives to untie Wilbur just as the Monster, now fully recovered, breaks his own restraints and rises from his stretcher. Sandra attempts to order him back as Dracula does, but the Monster defiantly tosses her out a window.

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Dr. Stevens, meanwhile, has managed to find Joan and gets her to the boat. Dracula, in an attempt to escape, transforms into a bat, but the Wolf Man snares him and both fall over a balcony and into the rocky seas below. Joan abruptly wakes from her trance, while the boys escape the castle and head to the pier, with the Monster in pursuit. Once again Chick and Wilbur encounter Mr. MacDougal, who still insists that he wants his exhibits. They loudly reply, "..here comes one of them now!" When the Monster appears, MacDougal and his partner jump off the pier. Chick and Wilbur attempt to escape in a rowboat that is securely tied to the pier. The Monster throws barrels at them, in a series of near misses. Wilbur finally unties the boat, while Stevens and Joan arrive and set the pier ablaze. The Monster turns around and marches into the flames, slowing and succumbing as the pier collapses into the water.

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Just as Chick and Wilbur relax, they hear a disembodied voice (Vincent Price) and see a cigarette floating in the air: "Allow me to introduce myself, I'm the Invisible Man!" The boys jump off the boat and swim away as the Invisible Man lights his cigarette and laughs. (This scene presaged 1951's Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, though Price did not star, and all characters were different.

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Okay, it's me writing again... as I wrote in last week's installment, this movie pretty much ignores "House of Dracula" entirely, as Larry Talbot's not cured of his lycanthropy, and Dracula is in control of the Monster. And as I also wrote, it almost feels like there could've been another movie between these to bring us up to date, and set things up for this flick!

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Many monster purists hate this movie (similarly to how many Batman purists hate the 1960s Adam West "Batman" tv show), but personally? I love it. It's a great merging of the horror and comedy genres, with hiliarious comedy and some very spooky moments, too!

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Other bloggers have written before about how this movie served as a "gateway drug", if you will, to a whole new generation of monster fans... having watched this movie as kids, and whetting their appetites for more! Now, while I don't recall the first time I ever saw this movie, I think I can safely say I'd at least seen Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein prior to seeing Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein!

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What can I say? Many believe it to be a classic, and you can count me in them! I'll leave you with this YouTube clip that Mark Evanier had posted before... it's an outtake!



Next week's movie of the week... The Cat People! And I'll probably cover "Curse of the Cat People," too!

Jon

Cool Stuff: More Popeye Goodies!

Here's some more Popeye merchandise!

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Popeye plates!

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I never quite understood why push puppets were so popular, even though I used to play with them when I was a kid...

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I always thought these were more fun, although I don't quite see Popeye as the trapeze type (then again, he probably did that in a cartoon, too).

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Peter Pan presents Popeye Book and Record sets... and you thought they just did Power Records with superheroes, monsters, Planet of the Apes, and live-action TV shows...

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Here's another one of those toys that, once it's off the card, has no bearing on the character featured on the card!

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Just like this train set!

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I'm guessing this was a card game - awesome box art, isn't it?

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I have no idea what kind of thing this is... a puzzle game?!? Someone will no doubt let me know in the comments (please?).

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It's Popeye the glad-handing politician! Well, it's called a "squeeze doll," I guess... kind of neat, but also kind of disturbing, too.

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Here's the Wimpy figure!

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Speaking of disturbing... here's a Popeye table lamp with a bizarrely-positioned spinach can...

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When I saw this listing for the Thimble Theatre Mystery Playhouse, I thought it would be Popeye puppets and a stage... imagine my disappointment when I saw it was three cast figures...

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Popeye toothbrush holder... great idea, but (in my opinion) poor execution... especially Popeye's face!

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Don't look too closely at the box art for the Transogram game... or you'll find yourself trying to figure out how Popeye knocked Bluto in the direction the big lug's flying away!

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Popeye TV tray! Nice art on it, too bad this isn't in the greatest condition...

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Somehow, I think this Popeye treasure game is the least fun to play...

Next time around... some foreign Spider-man toys!

Jon