Sunday, October 25, 2015

Don't Make a Scene: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

The Story:  Ignorance is bliss.  Especially in a world plagued by gods and monsters.

It's one thing for monsters to be contained in their own bubble worlds of burgomasters and Romanian hinterlands far removed from the modern safety we live in today. But, when they invade our space, then things get troubling.

If they can come for Abbott and Costello (then they'll come for The Three Stooges, then Martin and Lewis, then the Our Gang kids, then Laurel and Hardy), there will be no one left to protest when they come after you. 

As for me, I don't believe in such nonsense.

Which is where Abbott and Costello come in. You have two guys—Abbott, normally-proportioned, the realist, the cynic, the doubting Thomas ("the smart one") and Costello, shaped like an overstuffed Teddy Bear, phobic, insecure, superstitious, confused ("the dumb one"). Abbott "the straight man" and Costello "the funny man." Abbott, the representative of normalcy and Costello, the goofball.

But, that's not where their comedy resides. Ya see, Abbott—Mr. Normal—IS a spokesman for our world, that the child-like Costello is trying to understand.  You look at the "Who's on First?" routine of theirs and Abbott plays "straight" and Costello's the frustrated laugh-generator.  

But, it is Abbott, who represents the insanity of our World (where the first baseman on a baseball team could be named "Who," second base is "What," and "I Don't Know" is on third), which Costello is struggling vainly (actually un-vainly) to understand. The reality is that Abbott—"Mr. Straight Man"—represents absurdity and chaos, while Costello represents a confused frustrated Normalcy.  Abbott is the world of confusion; Costello is us.

And when it comes to Monsters, there's "no such thing" for Bud, but as the open-minded Lou continually finds out "there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in his philosophy."

No wonder kids loved him.  As dumb as Lou could play him, in the movies, he was always the smart one of the duo.

The Set-Up:  Chick Young (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello) deal with freight and frights as a client charges them with delivering precious cargo from Europe for his House of Horrors exhibit—crates supposedly containing the coffin of Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and the remains of the Frankenstein monster (Glenn Strange). But, it's obviously all hooey, isn't it?

Isn't it?


Lightning strikes.  The lights go out.
WILBUR: Chick! Oh, Chi-i-i-i-ick!
CHICK: What's the matter? What's the matter?
WILBUR: Chick! Did you turn out the lights?
CHICK: Certainly not.
WILBUR: They're out.
CHICK: Oh, so what?! Maybe the lightning struck the power line or something...
WILBUR: I get in more messes around here.
CHICK: Never mind, take off that canvas.
WILBUR: Take it off?
CHICK: Take it off!
CHICK: Hey! A coffin!
WILBUR: C-c-coffin?
CHICK: Dracula crest.
WILBUR: Dracula's crest?
CHICK: I wonder if Mr. McDougal expects people to think that Dracula's really in there. Yeah...
WILBUR: No, don't. Please don't.
CHICK: Oh, now, come, come. Dracula was just a legendary character. He never existed!
CHICK: Certainly not. Fold up this canvas. I'm going out and get the other crate. Now, if you want me, just holler. Holler "Oh, Chick!" You understand.
WILBUR: Oh, Chick!!
CHICK: What is it?
WILBUR: What kept you?
CHICK: I haven't left yet!
WILBUR: The next time, don't take so long.
CHICK: Aw, c'mon. Fold this up. Get busy.
WILBUR: "Count Dracula sleeps in his coffin..."
WILBUR: "...but rises every night at sunset."
WILBUR: Chick is right. This is awful silly stuff.
WILBUR: "Dracula..."
The coffin creaks.
WILBUR: Chi-i-i-i-i-ck!!!!
CHICK: What's the matter now?
WILBUR: You know that person you said that there's no such person?
CHICK: Ye-es?
WILBUR: I think he's in person. I was readin' this sign over here.
CHICK: Yeah.
WILBUR: "Dracula's legend"
CHICK scoffs.
WILBUR: All of a sudden, I heard "ERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR"
CHICK: That's the wind!
WILBUR: It should get oiled.
CHICK: Listen! Stop reading this thing. That's a lot of phoney-baloney to fool McDougal's customers. Now, fold up that canvas. And get busy. Come on!
CHICK leaves.
WILBUR looks uncomfortable, but picks up the sign again.
WILBUR: "Dracula can, at will, change himself into a vampire bat..."
The coffin begins to creak open again.
WILBUR: "...flying about the countryside."
WILBUR: Flying...
WILBUR: Ooo-ooo-oooo....
WILBUR notices the hand outside the coffin.
WILBUR: Chi-i-i-i-ck!
CHICK: Listen! You're making enough noise to wake up the dead!
WILBUR: I don't have to wake him up. He's up. I saw a hand.
CHICK: You saw a hand...
WILBUR: Uh-huh.
CHICK: Where?
WILBUR: Right over there.
CHICK: Let me see it.
WILBUR: Right over here.
CHICK: Where is it?

WILBUR hits the coffin.
CHICK: Nyah.
WILBUR: I saw a hand there!!!
CHICK: You don't know what you're talking about! You're all excited reading this legend. Listen, Wilbur. I know there's no such a person as Dracula! YOU know there's no such a person as Dracula!
WILBUR: But...does Dracula know it?
CHICK: Now, listen to me. McDougal will be here any minute with the insurance agent. Now, get to work!
WILBUR: "He keeps himself alive..."
WILBUR: " drinking the blood..."
WILBUR: (whispering) Chick...Chick...
WILBUR: Chick!
WILBUR: (takes a deep breath) Chick...Ch...(wheezes and coughs)
WILBUR tries to whistle, and can't...
WILBUR: Ch-ch-chi-i-i-i-i-ick!!!!!!
CHICK: Now, listen, this is getting to be ridiculous. Whoa. What!
CHICK: You tryin' to tell me that candle moved?? Look, wait a minute, candles can't move!
WILBUR: This...this one did.
CHICK: Here. Here. Keep your eye on it. Is it moving? Huh??!!It's not moving, is it?
WILBUR: N-no...
CHICK: Well, use your brains a little bit. And let's get this job finished.
Chick walks away again.
WILBUR: Mmmm-mmmm-mmmm.
WILBUR: "He keeps himself alive by drinking the blood of his victims." Hmm.
WILBUR: "Count Dracula must return to his coffin before sunrise. He..."
WILBUR: "He...he...he...h-he-he-he-hehe...."
WILBUR: Chick! Chi-i-i-i-i-ck! Oh, Chick! Ha-ha-ha, Chiiiiiick!
WILBUR: "...he returns to his coffin before..."
WILBUR: Ch-i-i-i-i-i-ick!!!
WILBUR: Oh-oh-oh, Chick, come on!!! Come onnnnnnn!!!!!
CHICK: All, right! I'm comin'!!
WILBUR: Come on, willya??!!
CHICK: Now, wait a minute. What's wrong NOW?
WILBUR: Oh, Chick!
CHICK: You gonna tell me that candle moved again?
WILBUR: Ye-eah, yeah.
CHICK: I told you not to read this, didn't I?
WILBUR: I can't help it!
CHICK: Oh, stop.
WILBUR: I can't help it!
CHICK: "Count Dracula must return to his coffin before sunrise, where he lies helpless during the day."
CHICK: That's the bunk!
WILBUR: That's what I'm tryin' ta tell ya! That's his bunk!!
CHICK: Th...tsk. Come here.
WILBUR: Oh, don't Chick.
CHICK: Come here. Come here. Come on around here.
CHICK: Come OVER here. Look in there.
CHICK: Now! Do you see anything?
CHICK: Well, certainly not.
CHICK: Come on! Help me open that crate. Come on.
CHICK: C'mon get with it, will you please?
CHICK: You can always....
CHICK: "Frankenstein's Monster" Get a load of this here.
CHICK: "A scientist named Frankenstein made a monster by sewing together parts of old, dead bodies..."
WILBUR: Do you have to read this stuff?
CHICK: Wait a minute...
CHICK: "Frankenstein gave the monster eternal life by shooting it full of electricity.
CHICK: "Some people claim it is not dead even now..."
CHICK: "...just dormant."
CHICK: (Chuckling) Now, who'd be silly enough to believe that?
Chick laughs.
Wilbur laughs.
The laughter builds.
WILBUR: Who WOULD be silly enough to believe that?
CHICK: Yeh-heh-heh.
WILBUR: Ha-HAH-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha...
CHICK: Wha...?

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Words by Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo and John Grant

Pictures by Charles Van Enger and Charles T. Barton

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is available on DVD from Universal Home Entertainment.

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