Saturday, October 31, 2009


Abbott Costello Frankenstein Dracula Wolf Man

RATING: **** out of ****

PLOT: A crate containing the remains of Dracula and the Frankenstein monster is shipped from Europe to the owner of an amusement exhibit (“McDougal’s House of Horrors”) in La Mirada, Florida. Working for the courier service are Chick Young (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur Gray (Lou Costello). Chick is puzzled that such a beautiful, dark-haired and statuesque beauty as Sandra would want to be Wilbur’s girlfriend… but she is in league with Dracula for a nefarious purpose: transplant the simple, pliable brain of Wilbur into the brutish body of Frankenstein’s monster! Also arriving from Europe is Larry Talbot, determined to stop Dracula’s evil plan… but he has a secret of his own: when the moon is full, he transforms into the Wolf Man! Can Chick and Wilbur survive this frightful encounter with not one but three infamous movie monsters?!

REVIEW: What can I possibly say about “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein” that hasn’t already been said many times over? Its status as both the ultimate horror-comedy and a classic comedy in general is both deserved and set in stone. How could it not be? Sometimes all the pieces of a project fall together “just right,” and this is one of those cases.

Its been suggested that this film would be considered the greatest horror-comedy of all time merely due to the fact that it actually contains the flagship monster movie characters from the first two decades of talking pictures. And this is partially true – from the time “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” first made audiences gasp in terror in 1931 through the monster mash-ups of the 1940s like “House of Dracula” and “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man,” the ghoulish gang at Universal Studios were the most popular of film fiends.

Likewise, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello had already shown in their classic feature “Hold that Ghost” as well as in a brief bit in a spooky carnival funhouse from "Keep 'em Flying" that Lou Costello being scared equaled big belly laughs for audiences. The more he squirmed in fear, the more viewers squealed with laughter.

But having Abbott & Costello actually meet the classic movie monsters was something else altogether. There’s an overused expression, “like catching lightning in a bottle.” If there can be a concrete definition of that expression, “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein” is it. And not just because Dracula uses electricity to revive the Frankenstein monster!

Abbott Costello Frankenstein Dracula Wolf Man

To claim this is a classic due to the dynamite combo alone does an injustice to three very important facts, however.

First, we must consider the script. As David J. Hogan mentions in his excellent essay on the film in MIDNIGHT MARQUEE ACTORS SERIES: BELA LUGOSI, the screenplay for this movie is one of the best conceived ever. The construction is iron-clad – everything happens for a reason, time passes in believable ways, and any exposition used to convey information is appropriate. There is nothing extraneous in this script.

Second, the supporting cast is top-notch. The fourth actor to don the famous neck bolts, Glenn Strange had been essaying the Frankenstein monster since 1944’s “House of Frankenstein.” While Karloff’s monster is the beloved classic that brings tears to the eyes, it is Glenn Strange’s version of the monster that is the most recognizable. It was the most merchandised and became the favorite to feature on monster magazine covers like “Famous Monsters of Filmland” and “Castle of Frankenstein.” It also inspired the look of TV’s classic sitcom (monster) dad, Herman Munster. To a generation of “monster kids” who grew up with these magazines as well as “The Munsters” and the Universal horror movies rerun on TV’s “Shock Theater,” Glenn Strange’s monster was the most definitive in appearance.

Next came Lon Chaney, Jr. as the cursed Larry Talbot, aka the Wolf Man. Chaney was the only actor to play this character in the Universal movies, so having him reprise the role here gave the film a definite shot of legitimacy. Not to mention heart and pathos for the laughs and thrills to play off of. Outside of the Frankenstein monster, was there ever a more sympathetic monster than the Wolf Man? Heck, he wasn’t even dead like the Frankenstein monster. He was only dead inside.

The coup de gras in casting was getting Bela Lugosi to don the cape once more as Dracula. While he played both real and fake vampires and a variety of fiends in other films, Lugosi had not played Dracula on film since the original 1931 classic. He played the role countless times on stage, but when it came time to bring the Count back to movies, Universal turned to Chaney, Jr. and John Carradine instead… and there are all sorts of theories as to why. This time, for whatever reason, Universal decided to bring back the original Count, and Lugosi rose to the occasion with an energetic performance that put many younger actors to shame.

Rounding out the cast are some key supporting players. Frank Ferguson as Mr. McDougal, owner and proprietor of McDougal’s House of Horrors, is spot-on perfect as someone who is looking to get a big return on his investment – in this case, the remains of the original Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster. This makes him all the more testy when couriers Bud and Lou don’t handle his exhibits with care. This film also has a terrific pair of beautiful female leads: blonde Jane Randolph as the insurance investigator with an eye for Costello and brunette Lenore Aubert as Dracula’s co-surgeon with an eye for Costello’s brain! These gals are no mere eye candy, however – the actresses do a formidable job fleshing out their characters as strong, resourceful women.

But what makes this film truly legendary has to be the dynamic that straight man Bud Abbott brings to the table. While Laurel & Hardy, the Three Stooges, the Bowery Boys and others all made outstanding horror-comedies, containing wonderful scare-takes from comic geniuses like Stan Laurel, Curly Howard and Huntz Hall, they don’t have the acerbic Bud Abbott to play off of. When Lou’s eyes bug out and he stammers and stutters, desperately trying to convince his partner that the candle really is moving, there really is a secret passageway, and Dracula and the Wolf Man really do exist and want to do them harm, Bud’s dismissive agitation makes Lou’s fear all the more funny. In a massive hamburger already loaded with delicious ingredients, Bud Abbott is the “special sauce” that elevates the film from savory snack to exquisite entrĂ©e!

The success of this film ensured that Abbott & Costello would go on to make more horror-comedies, both feature films and on TV, where they reprised haunted house routines from “Hold that Ghost” on their TV show and even met the Creature from the Back Lagoon on an episode of the Colgate Comedy Hour. While all contained varying degrees of fun, none reached the heights of “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.” That lightning flashing through the sunroof of Count Dracula’s lab? Yep, for this movie, they bottled it!


Lon Chaney (as Larry Talbot): When the moon is full, I become a wolf.

Lou Costello (as Wilbur Grey): You and 20 million other guys!

BEST GAGS: The moving candle routine, Costello unknowingly sitting on the monster’s lap, the rotating door… and much, much more!

SPOTTED IN THE CAST (well, really heard): Vincent Price, who does a great cameo as the voice of the Invisible Man for the film’s closing gag. Price had previously played the role in 1940’s “The Invisible Man Returns.” What most viewers don’t realize is that in 1948, Price had not yet been established as a reigning horror star! Outside of “Invisible Man Returns,” Price had appeared in a couple of period films and a noir with slight horror overtones, but his outright horror career was still to come with his 1950s pair of fright films, “House of Wax” and “The Fly.” So the use of Price’s voice in “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein” was not a nod to Price’s horror career, but a foreshadow of things to come!

BUY THE FILM: “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein” has been released on DVD not once, not twice, but three times - once as a stand-alone DVD, once in a 2-disc collection with 7 other A&C movies, and once in a massive collection containing every film A&C made for Universal Studios. The stand-alone edition has some great extras that repeat on the massive collection, but DO NOT repeat on the 2-disc collection. You can buy these DVDs here:

FURTHER READING: There are countless blog posts about the making of this film, many containing great behind-the-scenes stories. The best of these comes from the Frankensteinia blog which you can read by clicking here. You’ll also want to hunt down a copy of the indispensable book, Abbott & Costello in Hollywood by Bob Furmanek and Ron Palumbo. If you want to fully immerse yourself in the story, you can also buy the script which has been collected into book form by MagicImage Books. There is also a book called The Horror Spoofs of Abbott & Costello by Jeffrey S. Miller but I haven’t read it yet so I can’t offer an opinion on it.

Watch the trailer here:


Friday, October 30, 2009


Welcome to the “Scared Silly” blog! This is the place to both revisit and discover classic Hollywood horror-comedies.

My name is Paul Castiglia, and I’ll be your ghost… er host! I’ve been writing and editing comic books and pop culture articles for 20 years. Some of you may know me from past horror-comedy efforts including writing the comic book series based on the “Archie’s Weird Mysteries” animated series and contributing a chapter to a book of essays on the films of Vincent Price (naturally, I wrote about the comedic horror films where Price teamed with Peter Lorre).

This blog is meant to be a companion piece to an upcoming book I am compiling. My goal is to post one or two entries every two weeks. This will help me keep ahead on my writing. While the book will ultimately be a compendium of the entries I post here, note that there will be additional content in the book that does not appear on this blog, the entries may be modified in the final book and the entries will appear in a different order than they do on the blog.

One of those “additional content” goodies is a foreword by noted character actor Daniel Roebuck who has appeared in several movies and TV shows. Among his many roles, he played Jay Leno in “The Late Shift,” Gary Marshall in “The Unauthorized Story of Mork & Mindy,” had a recurring role on “Matlock,” and a brief role on “Lost” (until his character accidentally blew himself up with nitro glycerin!).

Roebuck is no stranger to horror-comedies. He did a series of running joke blackout gags as a hearse driver in one of the most acclaimed horror-comedies of the past decade, “Bubba Ho-tep” with Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. He has a recurring role as a nemesis of Jon Heder in the zombie web series, “Woke Up Dead.” He’s even appeared in such family-friendly horror-comedy fare as the short film, “How My Dad Killed Dracula” and a recent Halloween-themed episode of Disney’s “Wizards of Waverly Place.” Upcoming is a film that’s right up Scared Silly’s alley: a spoof of spooky mysteries called “A Dark & Stormy Night.”

Dan Roebuck is a huge fan of classic horror movies in general, and horror-comedy films in particular. He has a massive collection of horror film memorabilia which you can see here:

Exclusive Halloween Tour Of Hollywod Actor's Monster Museum, Hau - Click here for this week’s top video clips

He has also created a stage act called “Doctor Shocker’s Halloween Spooktacular” which faithfully reenacts the live “spook shows” that used to accompany horror flicks at movie theaters. Here is a clip from one of his performances – you might recognize some of his famous co-stars!:

The other purpose of the blog is to hopefully interest any potential publishers, so if you fall into that category, please drop me a note at

For the uninitiated, the “horror-comedy” genre is a sub-genre of classic comedy. In classic comedy films, there were tried-and-true scenarios that always generated laughs. Drop your comedians into the workplace, high society, the military or especially a haunted house setting and you were guaranteed laughs! It’s a movie tradition that dates back to the 1920s when famous silent comedians including Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd made “spookhouse” comedies.

The horror-comedy genre proved so popular that it continued into the sound era, where comedy teams like Laurel & Hardy and the Three Stooges kept it going in the 1930s. It reached a peak in the 1940s when Abbott & Costello perfected the form, and other comedians including The East Side Kids (who later morphed into The Bowery Boys) made it a standard of their repertoires.

I consider the last “traditional” horror-comedy to be “The Ghost & Mr. Chicken” starring Don Knotts. While other films mixed horror and comedy after that 1966 release, in my opinion too many “modern sensibilities” (namely too much gory violence and cheap sex jokes) mark a line of demarcation between those efforts and the traditional classic horror comedies.

Because of the sheer number of horror-comedy short subjects and feature films coming out of America between the 1920s and 1960s, I have made a conscious decision to exclude short subjects and feature films made in Europe, Mexico and anywhere outside the United States. Likewise, although I am a huge fan of such cartoons, space prohibits me from including the animated horror-comedy shorts that proliferated on movie screens in the 1930s and ‘40s featuring such characters as Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny and Flip the Frog.

A NOTE ABOUT THE RATINGS I GIVE TO THESE MOVIES: The author assumes that if you’re reading this blog in the first place, you have a fondness for the horror-comedy genre and all its trappings and conventions to begin with. With this criteria in mind, the films have been graded based on their merit and entertainment value as compared to other films within this same genre. Therefore, most of the films on this blog have achieved an “above average” rating of 3 stars, even though mainstream movie review books often cite such films as “Zombies on Broadway” and “Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla” as average or even poor.

So there you have it. I thought it was appropriate to launch this blog on Halloween, and even more appropriate to have my initial entry be about the ultimate classic horror comedy. So without further ado…


Remember, the first official "Scared Silly" review will appear at Midnight on Halloween... that's Midnight TONIGHT! Until then, enjoy this:

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Remember, the first official "Scared Silly" review will appear at Midnight on Halloween! Until then, enjoy this:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Remember, the first official "Scared Silly" review will appear at Midnight on Halloween! Until then, enjoy this:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Remember, the first official "Scared Silly" review will appear at Midnight on Halloween! Until then, enjoy this:

Monday, October 26, 2009


Remember, the first official "Scared Silly" review will appear at Midnight on Halloween! Until then, enjoy this:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009



Veteran writer-editor launches blog to preview upcoming book on classic Hollywood horror-comedies

Transylvania, 6-5000 (October 13, 2009) – Do you like laughs with your gasps? Do you prefer your horror on the hysterical side? For anyone who enjoys the pairings of ghouls and fools, spooks and kooks and madcaps and monsters, prepare to be scared silly!

This Halloween at midnight, veteran writer-editor Paul Castiglia launches a blog to preview his forthcoming book, SCARED SILLY: CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD HORROR-COMEDIES. The blog can accessed at

It’s been said that comedy and drama are close cousins – what is dramatic for one person may be funny for another. The connection between laughing and being scared might be even closer. Both are a way of releasing emotion, and when laughter follows a scare it relieves tension. In literature, drama and especially in movies, the concept of including a funny sight gag or line of dialogue after a dramatic event in an otherwise serious story came to be known as “comic relief.”

By the 1920s, playwrights flipped the formula by introducing scares into otherwise comical stories in works like “The Cat & the Canary,” “Tbe Bat” and “The Gorilla.” Hollywood was quick to follow suit. The horror-comedy has been a venerable movie staple from the start when silent film comedians including Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd successfully used scares to get laughs.

Horror-comedies were so popular that famous 1930s comedy teams like Laurel & Hardy and The Three Stooges were able to bring the form into the sound era, paving the way for brash 1940s comedy stars like Bob Hope and the ultimate horror-comedy players, Abbott & Costello to perfect the genre.

Castiglia’s blog and book will offer readers a fun overview of horror-comedy films spanning the 1920s through 1966, the year Don Knotts’ “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” was released. “In my mind, ‘The Ghost and Mr. Chicken’ was the last traditional horror-comedy, devoid of PG elements that would pepper later efforts,” said Castiglia.

Also covered will be horror-comedy entries in famous film series including The Little Rascals and The Bowery Boys, and efforts by comedians wildly popular in their day but less well-known now like Wheeler & Woolsey, Hugh Herbert and Olsen & Johnson. Of note to fans of oddball cinema is the inclusion of Brown & Carney, a team pre-fabricated by RKO to compete with Abbott & Costello and Mitchell & Petrillo, the latter aping Jerry Lewis so well that many viewers thought they were watching the real thing! Like Abbott & Costello, both teams share beloved boogeyman Bela Lugosi as a co-star.

The book will include a foreword by noted film and TV character actor, monster-movie-memorabilia collector and spook-show reenactor Daniel Roebuck. Roebuck is no stranger to horror-comedies, having appeared in the critically acclaimed “Bubba Ho-Tep” with Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis as well as the new hit web series from, “Woke Up Dead” with Jon Heder. As alter-ego Dr. Shocker, Roebuck has performed on-stage in an authentic reenactment of midnight spook shows.

SCARED SILLY doesn’t have a publisher yet, but that’s all part of Castiglia’s plan.

“I’m still writing it, so providing readers with new blog entries on a regular basis keeps the project going. In the process, my goal is to build up a large fan base that will embrace the finished book, which will include additional content. Between the fan base and the involvement of Daniel Roebuck, I ultimately hope to interest the right publisher.”

Paul Castiglia has been writing and editing comic books and pop-culture articles for 20 years, most notably overseeing the ARCHIE AMERICANA paperback series of classic Archie Comics reprints. His past forays into horror-comedy include providing a chapter for the book MIDNIGHT MARQUEE ACTOR SERIES: VINCENT PRICE covering Price’s comedic horror films with Peter Lorre, and writing the comic book based on the animated series ARCHIE'S WEIRD MYSTERIES. Castiglia has also edited the upcoming ARCHIE COMICS HAUNTED HOUSE trade paperback collection of spooky Archie Comics stories.

Daniel Roebuck has spent the last 25 years building an impressive resume chock full of blockbuster films (THE FUGITIVE), kids movies (AGENT CODY BANKS), horror movies (HALLOWEEN 2) and television series (LOST). He has portrayed many people, including famous ones like Jay Leno and Garry Marshall. Although he has fulfilled nearly every dream of his childhood—like appearing in MAD MAGAZINE, becoming a HALLOWEEN MASK and having his mug on a few TRADING CARDS—Roebuck refuses to retire (despite countless threats) and continues to work as one of Hollywood’s busiest character actors! For more information, visit