Growing up on shows like 'Tiny Toons', I have seen quite a few parodies of this, but I never actually bothered to sit down and check it out for some reason. I won't lie, a part of it back then was always "black & white equals old and boring", but I didn't appreciate what these old films have gifted us over the years; often inspiring present-day works that I love. This particular title has become a bit of a legend, often dubbed one of the best comedies ever made. But is it dated in any way, or does it hold up as some sort of significant Halloween treat? Spoiler alert, it's most definitely the latter.
The film opens in London, England with good old Larry Talbot, aka the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.) making an urgent phone call, overseas from a train station in Florida. There, Chick Young (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello) work as luggage clerks. Talbot tries to warn Wilbur about a shipment due for a local wax museum called "McDougal's House of Horrors", owned by a man named McDougal (Frank Ferguson). The shipment coming through apparently consists of the remains of Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and Frankenstein's Monster (Glenn Strange). The warning doesn't quite get through, as Talbot changes into a werewolf during the conversation.
Carrying on, Chick and Wilbur eventually deliver the crates after hours to the museum for inspection from an insurance agent. Alone in the creepy wax museum, the pair continue to open the crates which unveil Dracula's coffin (with Dracula inside) and Frankenstein's Monster, although as old school comedy goes, Wibur is the only one who keeps experiencing face-to-face time with any monsters throughout the film. We soon learn that Dracula's grand plan is to give the Monster a better brain; one less brutish. The person in "mind" for the transfer ends up being Wilbur. Dracula then uses his lovely female "assistants" to lure him in, Dr. Sandra Mornay (Lenore Aubert) and the hypnotized Joan Raymond (Jane Randolph) and the comedy duo soon find themselves between various classic Universal monsters.
This was a lot of fun, and I was quite thoroughly entertained by it after seeing so many of these monster movies that have taken themselves so seriously. Although these monster movies did start becoming a little more self-aware before this, I believe this was what truly solidified the concept. Apart from the comedy duo, the regular monster performances hold up great. Bela Lugosi brings back his classic charm to the Dracula character and plays it totally straight, even while goofy stuff is happening around him. As for Lon Chaney, I felt like he was all-too self aware of his role here, almost providing a stereotype of the role he's probably best known for - and that was a good thing. As for the Monster... well, he's the Monster, doing his thing as only a small portion of the film. Why it's not called 'Abbott & Costello Meet The Wolf Man' or 'Abbott & Costello Meet Dracula', I dunno, but there we have it.
This may not have been the first horror-comedy in existence, but it probably has the distinction of being the most famous of the era, and I think it's for good reason. Perhaps the best part of this is getting some of those original and/or famous portrayals of these monsters to get in on the project. It seemed that with this, everyone involved was simply having a lot of fun with it. It didn't need to be dramatic in any sense, and by this point, the idea of a self-aware comedy really lends itself to the genre. This was most definitely a laugh and a half, and I had a great time with it. It's a solid hour and a half of Halloween fun for the whole family!