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Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy: 31 Days of Horror

#5. Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy (1955)

abbott and costello meet the mummyNature of Shame:
It’s been a loooooong time since I last revisited the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies. I’ll try to remove my nostalgia goggles.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1950’s

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein proved to be a hit with my daughters so we carried on. Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man became an even bigger hit. (They *loved* the disappearing effects.) Because Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde isn’t on Blu-ray and I didn’t feel like fishing for the DVD in the Complete Abbott and Costello steamer trunk, we next hit up Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, available on The Mummy Complete Legacy Blu-ray from Universal.

Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy Elevator Pitch

A famous archaeologist is murdered. Abbott and Costello become the custodians of a valuable medallion. When the try to sell the thing for some quick cash, everybody in Egypt, plus the Mummy starts coming for them. Maybe. It’s hard to tell if its a Mummy because he’s in a jumper that only looks like bandages and doesn’t show up for a long, long time.

abbott and costello meet the mummy

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, Maybe

Out of all the Universal monsters, I consider the Mummy the most consistently entertaining. The series quickly devolves after the brilliant first entry — Karl Freund’s The Mummy (1932), but even the worst of the sequels (I’m looking at you The Mummy’s Tomb from 1942) maintain a reasonable sense of the original’s mystical paranoia and creeping dread. There’s comfort in predictability.

The catch here is that the mummy has to actually appear in your movie and, you know, occasionally attack people. In Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, you see some Fez hats, Casablanca-looking bars, bazaars, snake charming, and grandfathers of the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. None of which really do any attacking. What you rarely see are mummies. At least not until the last fifteen minutes when you get three of them, including Bud Abbott dressed up as one of two bumbling decoy mummies.

In both Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and Meet the Invisible Man, the films maintained the basic tenants of their respective horror cycles. Meet the Mummy meanwhile feels like a standard mistaken identity caper. It could have been called Abbott and Costello in North Africa with a Chance of Mummy.

abbott and costello meet the mummy

Are You My Mummy?

The lack of an effective horror backdrop for Abbott and Costello means that they’re comedy has to be the centerpiece, but they’re just not given scenarios that seem to benefit the characters. Or their established personalities (except rigid Abbott as a mummy). Or whomever they’re actually playing. In this entry, they play Pete Patterson and Freddie Franklin, but intermittently refer to each other as Bud and Lou and Abbott and Costello.

abbott and costello meet the mummy

The strongest example of this failure takes place during the madcap finale — which becomes so complicated and labyrinthine that it lost me. That’s right. The narrative machinations of an Abbott and Costello movie left be confounded. The last time I would have watched this film I’d have let it wash over me because Abbott and Costello. On this occasion, I became preoccupied with my inability to follow how or why this person was going after this person and why the mummy cared and holy hell that’s exhausting because why did I really care in the first place?

I don’t know. THIRD BASE.

The routine drags on and on as the movie introduces two dummy mummies to create a kind of Jack Benny in a pyramid scheme. (Pyramid scheme! I crack myself the &%#$ up.) So of course, Lou’s going to commandeer the real mummy that he thinks is Bud. That’s all I need out of this gag. Alas, we get that and a shroud of diminishing returns.

Final Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy Thoughts

I recommend Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy not because it’s essential comedy horror but because it’s a career touchstone for the duo Abbott and Costello. It’s the last of their horror comedies, their last film with Universal (the compilation film The World of Abbott and Costello, excepted) and their second to last film overall. They made one final movie, Dance With Me, Henry, for United Artists in 1956.

Abbott and Costello Meets the Mummy also represents the final stop for the Universal Mummy monster until Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy (1999). The undead Egyptian has always been relegated to the second tier of Universal monsters. Some of that has to do with the limited scope of the mythology. Most every Mummy movie derives from the narrative created for The Mummy in 1932. Hammer Films expanded the monster slightly with their series of films between 1959 and 1971 based on the 1930’s-era Universals.

Despite the limitations, movies featuring the monster prove to be effective chillers, relying heavily upon mood and atmosphere rather than narrative. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy offers neither in equal measure — but it does offer Bud Abbott and Lou Costello and a bittersweet send off to their series of horror comedies.

abbott and costello meet the mummy

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy Rating:

Availability:

abbott and costello meet the mummyUniversal has given you plenty of Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man options. There’s the standalone release. It’s also included on The Mummy Complete Legacy Collection. 

If you’d like a complete collection of the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies, that’s more difficult. There’s the brilliant (but OOP) 28-film Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection steamer trunk. The Meet the Monsters DVD set contains Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (which is currently not available on Blu-ray), but is missing Abbott & Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff because… I have no idea. In order to get that one, you’d need to purchase The Best of Abbott & Costello, Vol. 3 DVD. Got that? 

2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
#4. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
#5. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add this nonsense to the list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man: 31 Days of Horror

#4. Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man (1951)

Nature of Shame:
It’s been a loooooong time since I last revisited the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies. I’ll try to remove my nostalgia goggles.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1950’s

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein proved to be a hit with my daughters so we carried on. I’d recently watched …Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff so the next logical stop was 1951’s Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, newly available on The Invisible Man Complete Legacy Blu-ray from Universal.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man Elevator Pitch

Boxer Tommy Nelson is accused of killing his manager. In order to evade the law, he takes the invisibility serum and enlists greenhorn gumshoes Bud Alexander and Lou Francis to find the real killer. (Sidenote: Alexander and Francis were Bud and Lou’s middle names.)

abbott and costello meet the invisible man

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man? How would they know?

Universal preceded Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man with five invisible human films between 1933 and 1944. While all existed under the Universal horror umbrella, the Invisible Man films straddled a number of widely varied genres.

The Invisible Man (1933) and The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944) are more or less nihilistic revenge films. The Invisible Man Returns (1940) skews crime-thriller, and Invisible Agent (1942), as the title suggests, takes the form of a WWII spy film. While all of the Invisible Man films include humor, The Invisible Woman (1940) plays the character for straight comedy.

This of course brings us to Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man in 1951 — a full seven years after the last of the Invisible Man series. Of all the Abbott and Costello Meet… films, this feels the least removed from the Universal series proper. Lou’s stuttering and stammering at the invisible man’s antics and Bud’s skepticism and constant attempts to capitalize on their predicament feel like natural tangents, whereas their injection into the House of Frankenstein/House of Dracula universe felt a little more clumsy.

abbott and costello meet the invisible man

This goes against all commonly held logic, but upon this rewatch I enjoyed Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man more than Meet Frankenstein. The running gags — especially Costello’s feud with the psychiatrist — survive extreme repetition, and the central mystery concerning the bumbling hunt for the murderer feels like a fully-baked narrative. Sure, it wanders over into a sports movie comedy for a spell while Lou fights a professional boxer with the help of the invisible Tommy Nelson. Lou gets every opportunity to display his gifts as a physical comedian.

Invisible Effects

Of course, a conversation about the Invisible Man films wouldn’t be complete without at least a mention of the wizards that created the wonderful visual effects. Even now audiences can see how these effects were indeed “special” — at the time of the Invisible Man’s release they must have blown minds. John P. Fulton, John J. Mescall and Frank D. Williams achieved the illusion of disappearing through the layering of two images — a matte process. They combined the principle photography with Claude Rains in a black suit photographed against a black velvet background.

abbott and costello meet the invisible man

For Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, Universal used Stanley Horsely, a visual effects technician who worked with John P. Fulton on all but the original Invisible Man. Unfortunately the matte work in Abbott and Costello feels, at times, rather cheaply done compared to the earlier entries. During many scenes, the matte lines were present as was the hazy form of actor Arthur Franz. That’s not to say however that the wonder of the visual trickery has disappeared (see what I did there?)  — just that it’s not as seamless and efficient.

Final Abbott and Costello Meets The Invisible Man Thoughts

Due to some nice series callbacks (Claude Rains is featured in a portrait as the creator of the formula) and more or less easy transition into the series, Abbott and Costello make the most of this monster mashup. Most anyone would tell you that the returns on this unholy pairing of the famous comedy duo and the Universal monsters dwindled with each subsequent entry. I’d like to disagree.

The biggest ding against this movie is that it doesn’t carry over thre Vincent Price Invisible Man tease from the end of Meet Frankenstein. Abbott and Costello Meets the Invisible Man maintains the fun and in some ways improves upon the slapdash pacing and narrative of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Don’t @ me. I’ve got another Abbott & Costello Meet movie to cover and I won’t be quite as friendly.

abbott and costello meet the invisible man

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man Rating:

Availability:

abbott and costello meet the invisible manUniversal has given you plenty of Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man options. There’s the standalone release — which also included an HD code (bonus). It’s also included on The Invisible Man Complete Legacy Collection. 

If you’d like a complete collection of the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies, that’s more difficult. There’s the brilliant (but OOP) 28-film Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection steamer trunk. The Meet the Monsters DVD set contains Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (which is currently not available on Blu-ray), but is missing Abbott & Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff because… I have no idea. In order to get that one, you’d need to purchase The Best of Abbott & Costello, Vol. 3 DVD. Got that? 

2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
#4. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1955)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add this nonsense to the list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein: 31 Days of Horror

#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Nature of Shame:
It’s been a loooooong time since I last revisited the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies. I’ll try to remove my nostalgia goggles.

Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1940’s
Anniversary Film

The second Universal horror wave had pretty much run its course by the end of the 1940’s — which made finding a horror film from 1948 a little trickier than I anticipated. Oddly enough I had the same problem with 1938 (because it fell between Universal horror cycles, but we’ll get back to that when I discuss The Black Doll. 

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Elevator Pitch

Bumbling freight handlers deliver boxes containing priceless artifacts to a wax museum only to discover the boxes contained Dracula and Frankenstein. Then the “cargo” goes missing and they’re going to need the Wolf Man to help them sort it all out. Obviously.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein? Just Frankenstein?

At the end of the 1940’s Frankenstein remained Universal’s most bankable movie monster. After 1939’s Son of Frankenstein (the last with Karloff as the Monster), the series devolved into B-movie oblivion. Universal ultimately turned to monster crossovers to breathe new life into the sagging franchise with Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), followed closely by House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945).

Meanwhile, over at MGM, the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello had been experiencing their own professional difficulties. In 1943, Costello came down with rheumatic fever after a tour of U.S. army bases and six months later his infant son died when he accidentally drowned in the family swimming pool. Shortly after Costello returned from his sabbatical, a rift developed between the two when Abbott hired a domestic servant who had been fired by Costello. The duo only spoke when performing and only appeared in films as separate characters rather than as a team.

It wasn’t until 1947 when Abbott and Costello reunited properly for Buck Privates Come Home (1947). In 1948, they signed a new contract with Universal. With their careers lagging and Universal’s monster cycle running out of box office mojo, the studio crossovered their crossover and put Abbott and Costello in a monster movie.

House of Abbott & Costello

Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolf Man — the big three monsters from the “House of” menagerie all feature prominently. Bela Lugosi reprises his role as Dracula for the first time since Browning’s 1931 film and Lon Chaney, Jr. again plays the Wolf Man. Glenn Strange lumbers around as the monster in his third feature.

Most believe that Karloff wasn’t approached about being the monster. (Or that he was and just believed the material to be rubbish — famously he agreed to promote the film for Universal as long as he didn’t have to watch it.)

Though the film boasts an ambling structure more reflective of the Abbott and Costello vignette-style of filmmaking, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein also contains a healthy stable of Universal’s well-established horror tropes. The spooky castle, mad scientist shenanigans, full-moon transformations. No monster legacies were harmed in the making of this movie.

Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein has become such a formative early horror-comedy, essential in equal measure to the Universal horror canon and Abbott and Costello’s lasting legacy. It’s therefore easy to overlook the film’s remarkable, rambling narrative. Most remember the classic scenes that open the film as Costello attempts to convey his monster sightings to a skeptical Abbott in the wax museum. Unless you’d just watched the film, however, I’m willing to bet you couldn’t say how they wind up at the “House of Dracula” during the final act.

I just watched it and I’m hazy on the details. The answer is, of course, it doesn’t really matter. The joy of the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies derive from the absurdist vignettes that somehow shoehorn the comedy duo into situations with the Frankenstein monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man and eventually Boris Karloff, the Invisible Man and the Mummy.

The Nostalgic Things that Go Bump

I watched most every Universal horror movie over the course of about two Halloweens, circa age 8 or 9. AMC; back when it was a no-commercial, all movie channel like TCM; showed all of these movies. I diligently recorded each and every one onto SLP VHS tapes. And despite my sincere love for some and nostalgic devotion to others, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein has always held the greatest power to immediately revive the sense of discovery associated with those horror movie marathons.

Of course, you’ll always have those naysayers who’ll complain that Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein is just another Abbott and Costello vehicle and that it has no place in the legitimate Universal horror cycle and blah blah blahbity blah.

Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein is, if nothing else, reverent to the monsters themselves. The stories that had come before boasted very loose or nonexistent logical continuity and Abbot and Costello’s outing does nothing to tarnish the previously established universe where Dracula/Frankenstein/The Wolf Man all occupy the same time and space. In many ways, Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein provides a *more* satisfying conclusion to that story.

Final Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Thoughts

During this viewing I started to pay more attention to the connective tissue. How Abbott and Costello “fit” into Universal horror. Narratively, Bud Abbott wasn’t wrong about his daughter being capable of writing a better script, but a script could never truly reflect what works about the film. Personality and novelty. You can script the relationship between Abbott and Costello any more than you can dictate the emotional attachment to Bela Lugosi or Lon Chaney, Jr. in their monster makeup. These things just are, and neither time nor tide can erode their unlikely place in cinema history.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein Rating:

Availability:

abbott and costello meet frankensteinUniversal has given you dozens of opportunities to own Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein on Blu-ray and DVD. There’s the standalone release — which also included an HD code (bonus). It’s also included on The Frankenstein Complete Legacy Collection, The Dracula Complete Legacy Collection and The Wolf Man Complete Legacy Collection.

If you’d like a complete collection of the Abbott and Costello Meet… movies, that’s more difficult. There’s the brilliant (but OOP) 28-film Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection steamer trunk. The Meet the Monsters DVD set contains Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (which is currently not available on Blu-ray), but is missing Abbott & Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff because… I have no idea. In order to get that one, you’d need to purchase The Best of Abbott & Costello, Vol. 3 DVD. Got that? 

2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add Deep Rising to that list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Deep Rising: 31 Days of Horror

#1. Deep Rising (1998)

deep rising posterNature of Shame:
Unseen Treat Williams? Is that a thing? How about unseen Famke Janssen?

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1990’s
Anniversary Film (’98)
Aquatic Menace

This rose from the depths of my Netflix queue to satisfy multiple categories this Hooptober. You’ve got to start Hooptober strong because sooner or later, you’re just going to toss in that new box set of Invisible Man movies and have a go — but that won’t satisfy any of those requirements. You don’t want to put yourself in a pickle on October 31st.

Deep Rising was released the January of my Freshman year at college, so I wasn’t exactly on top of the new box office releases. Plus, look at that poster art. Just dreadful. You have no idea what’s going on there. Still, it doesn’t hold a candle to the suckage that is the next attempt at selling Deep Rising.

deep rising poster

What the fresh hell is that? A movie about undersea tentacle creatures on a cruise ship and you get Treat Williams riding a jet ski with a barely visible Famke Janssen on his back. “They’ve Seized The World’s Richest Ship… But No One’s Onboard!”

I’ll make my point brief. I’m going to tell you why nobody went to see your movie. If you want to sell a movie about undersea tentacle creatures don’t give me Treat Williams on a jet ski and no sight of said tentacle creatures. As far as I know this is time traveling Treat Williams escaping the Titanic. And guess what? This came out immediately after Titanic.

Deep Rising Elevator Pitch

Evil hijackers hijack Han Treat Solo Williams and his Millennium Catamaran and board a luxury ocean liner in the South Pacific because they smelled cash. Except it wasn’t cash but a collection of massive, tentacled man-hungry Sea-Gee-I monsters. Seeeee what I did there?? Sea-Gee-I??

Deep Rising

Did You Say Monsters?

I’m ahead of myself. You shouldn’t get to see monsters right away. Let’s rewind to these folks — your Deep Rising stars, a veritable who’s who of 90’s budgetary casting because we spent all the money on soon-to-be-dated, but not ineffective special effects.

deep rising 1998

Stephen Sommers has a knack of marshaling CGI nonsense into some brand of imaginative matinee entertainment. Hrmmm… that didn’t sound quite right. Let me rephrase that a bit. Stephen Sommers, during a brief two-year period in the late 90’s, marshaled a bunch of CGI nonsense into two particularly entertaining monster movies called Deep Rising and The Mummy.

Waterlogged

Before The Mummy‘s blockbuster success spawned a franchise and a spinoff, Deep Rising grossed $11million on a $45million budget. Ouch. Deep Rising‘s biggest faux pas was blending in with the other gaggle of undersea creature features such as Deep Blue Sea and some other stuff I’ve surely forgotten because they all seem like the same movie. Undersea monster movies have a look.

deep rising 1998

Deep Rising holds up better than most. Some might call it atmosphere. Some might call it claustrophobia. I’ll just call it awareness. It’s aware of its own limitations and for the most part plays to its strengths. Treat Williams doing a Han Solo impersonation works. Famke Janssen in a tight red dress — fun for the whole family. Engaging cast of familiar players in supporting roles. And a smattering of gory practical effects to enhance the monstrous binary code.

deep rising 1998

Sidenote: I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t take a moment to direct you to watch Below (2002), David Twohy’s under-sea(n) masterpiece about strange happenings on a WWII submarine. I’m sorry. I couldn’t help myself even though that’s a massive reach for another water-based pun. That said, Deep Rising and Below are also connected by supporting actor Jason Flemyng — a good “that guy” with 120+ credits to his name.

Jason Flemyng in Below (2002)

Monster Mash

It’s easy to dismiss Deep Rising as just another Alien clone — because really aren’t all of these creature-infestation sci-fi horror films based on the Alien DNA? It’s unavoidable, but because we’re so well versed in the genre we know when these films strike a sour note. The downside is that because we’re so familiar with the formula, it’s easier to look beyond a movie that gets it (mostly) right.

Some of those one-liners definitely caused me pause, but it’s the 90’s — what are you going to do? Sacrifice Famke Janssen for a few more bits of choice dialogue? I hardly think so.

Famke Janssen should have been a bigger deal.

The monsters become the best and biggest problem with Deep Rising’s premise. They seem like a kitchen-sink beast filled with anything and everything available. As George Lucas demonstrated in the Star Wars prequels, CGI’s permissiveness when it comes to scope and scale can ultimately be a detriment. The octopus/shark/xenomorph things mingle and menace according to the needs of the scene.  As computer generated creatures, that lack of weakness or definite shape becomes a limitation and only calls attention to their weightlessness. Forced creature creativity and a greater use of practical effects would have gone a long way towards making this more than a silly (but fun) creature feature.

Final Deep Rising Thoughts

If you like your Alien with a side of corn, Deep Rising offers plenty of simple genre pleasures. If you weren’t a moviewatcher in the 1990’s these special effects might rip you out of the adventure — an adventure I might add that culminates with Treat Williams on a jet ski flying through the wreckage of a modern day Titanic.

Deep Rising Rating:

Availability:

deep rising kino blu-ray

Kino Studio Classics has released Deep Rising on a new Blu-ray with a far more effective cover than that old nonsense.

Buy Deep Rising on Blu-ray from Amazon.

 

 

 

 

2018 @CinemaShame / Hooptober Progress

#1. Deep Rising (1998)

James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add Deep Rising to that list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Disclaimer: I earn rewards from DVD.Netflix.com, which has thousands of movies to choose from, many that you won’t find on streaming services. I do this because the availability of physical media is important. The popular streaming notion of “everything available all the time” is a myth. We are always our own best curators. #PhysicalMedia #DVDNation #ad