Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Charles Barton/Walter Lantz, 1948, USA)

Widely regarded as the first horror-comedy, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) was a runaway success upon its release in 1948. Made during a troubled period for Universal Studios, following their acquisition by British entrepreneur J. Arthur Rank, the film was made by a Universal Studios that had largely shed its roster of stars to save cost - except Abbott and Costello. Still, the two stars - who had previously considered splitting ways - were purportedly not enthusiastic about the project. They often showed up late to set.

The film is notable for seeing the great Bela Lugosi returning as Dracula, in one of his last onscreen roles. Lugosi was in his 60s when the film was made, but he still captured the qualities that made his original portrayal of Dracula such a sensation. Appearing alongside Lugosi is Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Wolf Man - the only character in the Universal canon to be played by the same actor throughout its entire onscreen run. Like Lugosi, Chaney also had substance problems, and this is visible in his performance. Rounding out the cast is Glenn Strange portraying Frankenstein's monster. Strange was perhaps most known for his role in the series Gunsmoke

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was a success perhaps because, with few exceptions, the scary parts are played for scares. The film was such a success that Universal would go on to make several more films with Abbott and Costello meeting other monsters in the Universal stable. The film also renewed interest in the Universal monsters more generally, whose star was somewhat fading by the mid-1940s after the initial run of classic films culminating with 1943's The Wolf Man. For those interested in the genesis of the horror-comedy, leading up to today's Renfield, it is essential viewing to watch Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.



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