Bud Abbott and Lou Costello had a habit meeting monsters.
It all started in 1948 with their highly successful horror comedy monster mash, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948), which had Bud and Lou meeting up with the Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange), Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.) The film was wildly successful, and a major hit for the comedy duo.
They would repeat the formula three years later with ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN (1951), followed by today’s movie ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, and they closed out their monster meetings with ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY (1955)
Their initial outing meeting Frankenstein remains their best, as it has the funniest script, and one can make the argument that the quality dropped off with each successive movie. But there’s still a lot to like about ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.
For starters, it stars Boris Karloff in the dual role as Jekyll and Hyde, and like his horror star predecessors in the previous Abbott and Costello monster films, he plays things straight. While he gives it his all, it ends up being just a decent performance, mostly because he’s overshadowed by the previous actors who played the role. Both Fredric March (who won an Oscar for playing Jekyll and Hyde) in the 1931 version, and Spencer Tracy in the 1941 remake deliver two of the strongest performances in a horror movie ever, and so the bar had already been raised quite high. But it’s Karloff, and so he still turns in a deliciously dark performance. One interesting tidbit regarding Karloff’s performance is unlike his predecessors, he portrays Dr. Jekyll as rather evil as well. Karloff’s Jekyll uses Hyde when he wants to kill people. Not exactly an exercise in good vs. evil. It’s more like evil and more evil!
The most memorable thing about ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE is the frightening make-up on Mr. Hyde by Bud Westmore. Mr. Hyde here is quite hideous and monstrous. In fact, he’s referred to throughout the movie as “the monster.” He’s certainly more of a werewolf type character than some of the other Mr. Hydes. Westmore used similar make-up on the diseased scientists in TARANTULA (1955), and on the monster in MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS (1958).
While I often say that one of the best parts of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN is that the monsters play it straight, here in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, director Charles Lamont takes things a step further and for much of this movie plays the whole thing straight! There are some genuinely scary scenes in this movie, and while it is funny of course, I’ve always enjoyed this one more as a horror movie.
It opens with a very creepy murder scene on the foggy streets of London, where we witness Mr. Hyde emerge from the shadows to murder a man. Each time Hyde shows up, the film is scary. There are memorable scenes with him looking through a window, popping out in a jump scare, and creeping up behind the heroine. There are also plenty of action-packed chase scenes in this one.
The plot is quite simple, as Bud and Lou —- oh yeah, Abbott and Costello are in this movie! —-play detectives, goofily named Slim and Tubby, who are on the case to help hunt down the monster. The jokes are okay. Both ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN and ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN are funnier films than this one. Here, there’s a lot of physical comedy, including the aforementioned chase scenes, with one memorable one in particular over some rooftops.
The screenplay by Lee Loeb and John Grant is more amusing than funny. While director Charles Lamont helmed a bunch of Abbott and Costello movies, including some of their best, he seems more interested here in directing a monster movie, which has always been fine for me! I enjoy Abbott and Costello, and they’re fun in this movie, but they are certainly funnier in other flicks. There’s just not a lot of memorable gags or one-liners. There is one very goofy sequence where Tubby gets turned into a human-sized mouse, which in spite of taking place at a bar plays like a scene out of a children’s movie.
Helen Westcott makes for a fine heroine, Vicky Edwards, while Craig Stevens plays the dashing leading man, and Reginald Denny, who I always remember as Commodore Schmidlapp in what would turn out to be his final role in the Adam West BATMAN (1966) movie, plays the very British inspector.
Boris Karloff makes for an unusually villainous Dr. Jekyll, and gives the role his signature Boris Karloff treatment, meaning he’s soft-spoken yet sinister.
The true stars of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE however are make-up artist Bud Westmore and stunt man Eddie Parker, who played Mr. Hyde. The monster in this flick is quite menacing.
While everyone else is tuning in for the laughs, I’m tuning in for the horror. In fact, this one gave me nightmares as a kid. Mr. Hyde was that chilling!
Are you up for some monster thrills with a few chuckles thrown in for good measure? Then check out ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.
It’s one creepy comedy!