HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: ABBOTT and COSTELLO meet FRANKENSTEIN (1948)

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ABBOTT and COSTELLO meet FRANKENSTEIN (1948)

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An enjoyably silly plot concerns Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and female scientist Dr. Sandra Mornay’s (Lenore Aubert) plans to revive the Frankenstein monster (Glenn Strange) using baggage clerk Wilbur Grey’s (Lou Costello’s) child-like brain, with The Wolfman (Lon Chaney Jr.), when in human form, in pursuit to stop them. Wilbur’s long-suffering friend/co-worker Chick Young (Bud Abbott) is along for the ride, playing the unbelieving straight man to the supernatural goings on…and there is plenty of spooky stuff going on right under his nose. Also in the mix is pretty insurance investigator Joan Raymond (Jane Randolph), who catches WIlbur’s eye and gets drawn into the monster mayhem and gruff Mr. McDougal (Frank Ferguson), whose house of horrors exhibit is responsible for bringing the monsters together on these shores.

Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein is a genuine classic in every sense of the word. Not only a hilariously funny slapstick comedy, but a delightfully spooky Halloween treat featuring the great Universal monsters together for the last time. It’s energetically directed by Charles Barton, who directed many flicks for the legendary comic duo, from a fun script by Frederic I. Rinaldo, John Grant and Robert Lees. All the elements of a classic Universal monster flick are present, mixed perfectly with Abbott and Costello’s brand of comic hi-jinx. The cast is also perfect, as is every other aspect of this timeless gem and it’s great to see Lugosi, Chaney and Glenn Strange on screen in their classic roles one more time. The castle set final act is a spooky fun good time! In all seriousness, this is a great example of a movie hitting all it’s marks. It accomplishes everything it sets out to do and does so very well. Not only a comedy masterpiece, but technically the last classic Universal monster flick, even though it’s not officially considered part of that series. One of the greatest horror/comedies of all time!

Some fun trivia…although despite being associated with the role all his life, this is only the second time Bela Lugosi played Count Dracula on film! Also, yes that is the voice of legendary horror icon Vincent Price as the Invisible Man in the film’s hilarious conclusion. The duo would go on to meet, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with Boris Karloff, The Mummy and The Invisible Man in later adventures, but none of them had the gothic Universal series feel like Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein.

 

…Oh, and just in case you thought he was left out, Abbott and Costello did meet the Creature From The Black Lagoon in a Colgate Comedy Hour sketch in 1954…

-MonsterZero NJ

Forgoing the usual ‘out of 4’ rating to give this 5 mon-stars!

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1972)

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DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1972)

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Dr. Phibes (Vincent Price) rises from his self-imposed embalming and travels to Egypt to find the River of Life to resurrect his bride (Caroline Munro) from her eternal slumber. Phibes is in a race against time, as his rival Darius Biederbeck (Robert Quarry) also seeks eternal life and is headed there himself with his team. Phibes, not to be undone, finds gruesome ways to eliminate his competition, as he closes in on his goal.

Sequel is again directed by Robert Fuest from a script by he and Robert Blees. The 60s art deco look also returns, as does the twisted sense of humor. This installment seems to be a bit quicker paced and has more of a sense of fun, as Phibes’ death traps are even more elaborate and he has a hidden lair in one of the tombs that would make a Bond villain envious. How did he get all this stuff into Egypt and built without notice? Who cares? It’s a delightfully devious and fun romp as Phibes now has a rival who may be, at heart, even more sinister than he is. This dynamic makes Phibes more of an anti-hero this time as he slaughters his way through Biederbeck’s team with one death more inventive than the other. Watching him outwit his nemesis and decimate his accomplices, one by one, is a lot of ghoulish fun.

Price is again in top form, as usual, as Anton Phibes. The legendary actor is a delight to watch as the diabolical madman, and this time we don’t have to hide the fact that we are rooting for him. Robert Quarry is a suitable foil for the skull faced Phibes. His Biederbeck is a smug megalomaniac and we delight in watching his scheme slowly unravel at the hands of the devious doctor. Fiona Lewis is a sexy femme fatale as Biederbeck’s accomplice and romantic interest, Diana and Phibes’ loyal assistant Vulnavia returns (somehow) as well, though is this time played by Valli Kamp. Flick also features a brief cameo by the legendary Peter Cushing as a ship’s captain and a returning Terry-Thomas in a new role.

Like the first film, this is a cult classic and another example of why Vincent Price is a horror legend. It’s a bit more outlandish and thus twisted fun, than the first film, though the original was a bit more gruesome. There were many plans to bring the doctor back for a third film, one project was to be directed by George Romero and another would see Quarry return and add William (Blacula) Marshall to the mix. Sadly, none ever happened. There is talk of a remake with Malcolm McDowell, but this is such a classic Price role, it’s hard to see anyone else playing the organ and wearing the skull face.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Phibes.

 

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971)

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THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971)

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Four years earlier Dr. Anton Phibes (Vincent Price) lost his beautiful wife, Victoria (Caroline Munro) during a medical procedure. Racing home upon hearing the news, Phibes himself got into a car accident and was presumed burned to death. But the doctor is not dead and though horribly scarred, he plans to exact revenge on the nine medical personnel he feels responsible for Victoria’s death. Now the police are baffled as Phibes begins to exact his revenge in the form of biblical plagues and begins a bloody path leading to the chief surgeon (Joseph Cotton) for whom he plans the worse fate yet!

Price classic is stylishly directed by Robert Fuest from a script by he, along with William Goldstein and James Whiton. The flick may take place in 1925, but Fuest gives it a 60s art deco look and a very twisted sense of humor. While Phibes’ plans for those he seeks revenge on are quite ghastly, there is a sense of fun as Phibes unleashes his plagues with an assortment of bizarre gadgets and a disguise or two. The results can be gruesome, but nothing too extreme as the film was rated PG…or “GP” as it was called during this era. There is some fun to be had in watching Phibes make a fool of Scotland Yard Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey) and evade any attempts by the law to protect those still yet to meet a horrible fate. It is a bit methodically paced and feels somewhat longer than it’s 94 minute run time, but watching Phibes play the organ while plotting horrible deeds is campy, ghoulish fun with Price doing what he does best. On a technical level it is well made though some of the FX are delightfully cheesy by today’s standards.

As for the horror legend, Price is at the top of his game here as the sinister Phibes. Even having to play the role mute and add his voice later (Phibes lost the ability to speak in the accident and uses a device to emit his voice) he still chills with the look in his eyes and his mannerisms and his dialogue is still recited with that Vincent Price flair. He never goes overboard, but just over-the-top enough to give a diabolical horror movie style Bond villain vibe to the gadget making/organ playing Phibes. Joseph Cotton is another movie veteran who knows to take the campy/creepy material seriously as the main target on Phibes’ list, Dr. Vesalius. Peter Jeffrey seems to be having a good time as the constantly baffled and outwitted Inspector Trout. Another role that is meant to be campy with the actor showing just enough restraint to not become outright silly. Virginia North is a sexy femme fatale as Phibes’ silent assistant Vulnavia and an un-credited role playing Phibes’ Victoria in photos and corpse form is British film vixen and future Bond girl, Caroline Munro. A classy cast that all approach the material with proper amounts of camp or seriousness.

Overall, this is a cult classic and another example of why Vincent Price is a legend. As a film itself, it is a little too slow paced for it’s own good and the mix of gruesome and giddy may not always work completely, but it is still a lot of twisted fun. The diabolical doctor would return for a sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, the following year.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Phibes.

 

 

 

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