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SECRET ORIGINS OF FRANKENSTEIN - CHAPTER 18 of 18
ABBOTT and COSTELLO Meet FRANKENSTEIN

The Frankenstein Monster had previously met the Wolf Man, Dracula, a Jekyll/Hyde-ish doctor, various hunchbacks and legions of crazed revenge-seekers. Who was left? Why, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello of course! The comedy team was in a slump, and needed a hit film badly, so producer Robert Arthur proposed teaming them with Universal's monster stable, which had lain dormant for four years.

After reading the script for the film, originally called The Brain of Frankenstein, Lou Costello declared, "You don't think I'll do that crap, do you?" My five year old daughter can write something better than that!"
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But when producer offered the reluctant comedian $50,000 cash up-front, Costello agreed to do the film. By the way, Glenn Strange was paid just $500 for two weeks of work on House of Frankenstein. Urgh!
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Lon Chaney jr. also returned as the Wolf Man. Chaney is pictured below in a candid sho t with his dog, Moose.
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DRAC IS BACK

Bela Lugosi's career and marriage were both failing. A doctor once gave Lugosi shots of morphine to relieve a pain in his leg. He developed a habit, and remained addicted for years. "I knew, after a time," Bela admitted, "That it was getting out of control." He eventually kicked the morphine habit with the help of his wife.

By 1948, Bela was 66, in ill health, and struggling financially. He eagerly signed on to reprise his immortal Dracula characterization, albeit it in a comedy. It was to be his final "A-List" picture. He's seen below in a candid shot with Franken-Strange...
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Calling all monsters! Script conference!
(The man in the middle is Bud Abbott's nephew.)
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After 30 years of brilliant service, Jack Pierce, the Greek son of goat hearder who had come to America and built Universal's horror stars with his own hands, was unceremoniously fired by two weeks before shooting on this film began. Universal had merged with International Pictures, who deemed Pierce's methodical, painstaking methods "old fashioned."

The make-up for Meet Frankenstein was done with “modern” foam-rubber appliances rather than Pierce's intricate, layered-cotton technique. The difference is noticeable, especially on the Wolf Man. Chris Mueller sculpted the Strange Frankenstein head piece and the Chaney Wolf Man, but he was not the make up artist. Bud Westmore was the credited department head. The Strange make up was applied by Jack Kevan and the Wolf Man make up was applied by Emile La Vigne.
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Longtime Abbott and Costello gag-writer John Grant was hired to punch up the screenplay's comedy, and the finished script, with the exception of Bud and Lou's moving candle gag borrowed from Hold That Ghost, contained completely original material.

The seven-week shoot was accomplished economically, with director Charles Barton interrupted only by practical jokes, pie fights, marathon card games and Bud Abbott's drinking. He once suggested to Barton that he ought to finish all his scenes before four o'clock. Lon Chaney Jr. could hardly complain. His drinking binges were legendary.
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CREATURE CREDITS

The credits for this movie were presented in a delightful little animated sequence featuring skeletal versions of Abbott and Costello and the monsters on parade, silhouetted against a night sky. it was done by Walter Lantz, the creator of Woody Woodpecker. It's a ghoulishly good 43 second clip! You know what to do...
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CREATURE CRATES

In this film, Abbott and Costello portray baggage clerks who deliver crates containing the bodies of Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster to an exhibitor, with Wolf Man Larry Talbot attempting to warn them off.

Unlike previous films, which waited sometimes until the very last moment to unveil their monstrous stars, this movie wastes no time. They're introduced into the story almost immediately as Costello discovers them in giant wooden crates...
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XDRACULA'S MASTER PLAN

Talbot's first transformation to the Werewolf comes only five minutes after the movie begins, despite his being "cured" in the previous film. Drac steps out of his coffin soon after, and Lugosi makes the most of his last fling in the role, grimacing and gesturing with devilish enthusiasm.

The monster retains his inglorious, latter-day "henchman" characterization, even to the point of happily exclaiming "Master!" when the Count revives him. Oh well, at least this time his "boss" is the original Dracula himself.

And although Glenn Strange can't summon up Karloff's depth, his monster is twice as brutish -- a fact Dracula apparently takes note of.

"I don't want to repeat Frankenstein's mistake and revive a vicious, unmanageable brute,” Dracula tells crony Lenore Aubert, "This time the monster must have no will of his own! No fiendish intellect to oppose his master!"

Where to get a sufficiently unintellectual brain? Hmmm... (in Ani-motion!)
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MONSTROUS MISHAP

In the final climactic scene, the Monster hurls Aubert's stunt double through a window — but during filming, the wire suspending her snagged. She rebounded back at Strange, who fell and broke his ankle attempting to catch her.

Strange managed to finish the scene, but the next day he couldn't walk. Lon Chaney volunteered to assume the role he had previously played in "The Ghost Frankenstein." Chaney plays the Monster in this 15-second clip where he chases Costello out of the lab...
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GLENN'S GOOF

Near the end of the movie, Costello inadvertently sits on top of the Frankenstein Monster. The scene had to be shot several times, because Costello kept cracking up Glenn Strange. At the end of the clip, Strange finally breaks down laughing and exclaims, "I can't help myself!" For purposes of comparison, the two-minute blooper out-take clip is proceeded by the actual scene, as it appeared in the finished movie. Scene first, then blooper. Got it? CLICK I SAY!
BELA'S BLUNDER

Here's another rare blooper, from Bela Lugosi. After Abbot and Costello meet Dracula at a party, they talk for a moment, then poor Bela just goes blank! The rest of the cast seems less than amused, except for a grinning Costello. For purposes of comparison, the blooper out-take clip is, once again, proceeded by the scene as it appeared in the finished movie. It's all of 18 seconds long. CLICK PLAY AND CLICK IT NOW.

DRACULA TO COSTELLO: "So I blew a line. So what! It's no big deal."
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TITLE SEARCH

Before release, Universal tested the film's title, The Brain of Frankenstein, and realized it was inadequate. The movie was renamed Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and released a few years after WWII ended, in I948. It was a huge hit, becoming Universal's top money maker for the year, grossing a then-spectacular $3.2 million worldwide.

The movie still stands as an expert blend of the comedy and horror genres which pokes fun at the classic Universal horror films without ridiculing them. Each character is kept in his proper setting, the horror elements are played largely for chills, and the comedic element, Lou Costello (who carries the picture in hilarious style), is played for laughs. Here's my favorite sequence in the movie, a 33-second clip. Do I have to tell you what to do?

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Speaking of MONSTERS...
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Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was the last hoorah for the Frankenstein Monster at Universal. He is last seen enveloped in flames...
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...a scene shot using a Franken-dummy. Burn baby burn!
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Reader, you THOUGHT our Secret Origins of Frankenstein series ended with this issue, but guess what. You thought WRONG! It doesn't end here -- it can't! Join us next time as the 18-issue mini-series that would not die rises again. It's the cataclysmic conclusion to the monster series of a lifetime...
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