TV Review: Abbott and Costello Meet the Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

Also known as: The Colgate Comedy Hour
Release Date: 1954 (originally aired)
Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello

Colgate-Palmolive-Peet, NBC, 59 Minutes

Review:

I bought this pretty sure that it had never actually been a movie. I was right. But considering that I love the Gillman more than any monster to come out of the Universal Monsters franchise, I had to buy it.

Plus, I also love Bud Abbott and Lou Costello and every time they cross paths with horror icons, it makes for really good results.

This is actually an episode of the comedy/variety show The Colgate Comedy Hour, which was a very early variety show in the earliest days of television.

You have to sit through about forty minutes of comedy skits, interviews, ice skating and dancing routines but you do eventually get to the section that stars Abbott and Costello.

Their segment is less than fifteen minutes and while it is rather funny, it only features the Gillman for maybe five seconds. The segment actually features more of Frankenstein’s Monster than it does the “creature” from the Black Lagoon. While that’s underwhelming and disappointing, the skit is still funny.

I wouldn’t call this a waste of money, by any means, as it was like five bucks. However, it’s packaging and title are pretty misleading and I can see where most people will end up with a product that pisses them off. For me, it’s just some weird novelty that’s been added to my classic horror collection.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the Abbot and Costello monster movies.

Film Review: Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)

Release Date: June 23rd, 1955
Directed by: Charles Lamont
Written by: John Grant, Lee Loeb
Music by: Joseph Gershenson (supervisor)
Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Marie Windsor, Michael Ansara, Peggy King, Richard Deacon, Mel Welles

Universal International Pictures, 79 Minutes

Review:

“There is no curse that a gun or a knife can’t cure.” – Madame Rontru

This installment in the Abbott & Costello/Universal Monsters mashups is one of the best.

While I still like their Frankenstein movie the most, this one is really close to it.

Being that this one lacks the star power and all the famous monsters of the Frankenstein picture, actually makes it a bit more impressive, as it was able to almost live up to that one with far less at the comedians and writers’ disposal.

In fact, I like this movie so much, it is my favorite Universal Mummy movie ever made after the original 1932 Boris Karloff one. The main reason is that this just hits the right notes in regards to the Mummy franchise while also being loaded with great gags and clever comedy writing.

Abbott and Costello are always hilarious and perfect as a pair but they really upped the ante in this one. I also liked seeing multiple mummies on the screen, even if all the dudes wrapped in bandages at the end, weren’t actual mummies.

This did a great job with the sets and making the world feel authentic and real. Well, as much as it could with the limitations of the time.

I also really enjoyed the addition of Mary Windsor, here, and it’s one of my favorite roles she’s played as she got to ham it up with the comedy legends and was convincing in her villainous role, which probably comes from spending so much time acting in classic film-noir pictures before this one.

Ultimately, this is a fun movie that lives up to both of the brands it brought together. Frankly, it’s probably the best way that Abbott and Costello could’ve ended their series of Universal Monster films.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Abbot and Costello monster movies.

Film Review: Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953)

Also known as: Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde (working title)
Release Date: August 1st, 1953
Directed by: Charles Lamont
Written by: Lee Loeb, John Grant, Sid Fields, Grant Garett
Based on: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Music by: Joseph Gershenson
Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Boris Karloff

Universal International Pictures, 76 Minutes

Review:

“How do you like that Dr. Jekyll! He turned me into a mouse… the rat!” – Tubby

This entry into the Abbott & Costello and Universal Monsters crossovers was definitely a step up from the Invisible Man film but I still wouldn’t put it as high as the Frankenstein one.

The great thing about this picture was seeing Boris Karloff in it as the monster. He really got to ham it up and I’m a fan of him in horror comedies, as he was great in both The Raven and The Comedy of Terrors.

There are a lot of really good gags in this movie, my favorite one being the bit where Lou Costello is turned into a humanoid rat and shocks everyone in a tavern.

Honestly, this picture was pretty clever between just the verbal jokes and the physical gags. Karloff added a hell of a lot to the proceedings and I wish he had been involved in all of these horror-themed Abbott & Costello flicks.

All in all, this was fun and amusing. It was a great mix of talent, a good yet fresh adaptation of a famous and quite overused horror classic, and it certainly made up for the fairly lackluster film before it.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the other Abbot and Costello monster movies.

Film Review: Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)

Also known as: Meet the Invisible Man (working title)
Release Date: March 7th, 1951
Directed by: Charles Lamont
Written by: Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo, John Grant, Hugh Wedlock Jr., Howard Snyder
Based on: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
Music by: Erich Zeisl
Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Nancy Guild, Arthur Franz

Universal International Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“The evidence says I did. When I stepped out of the shower that night, I found O’Hara beaten to death on the locker room floor. The cop outside the door swore nobody else had come in, so they pinned it on me.” – Tommy Nelson

I love the Abbott & Costello mashups with the Universal Monsters franchise, however one of the film’s has to be the weakest link and this one is it.

That doesn’t mean that it’s bad, as it’s still really enjoyable. It’s just that this one feels like it’s the least horror-y and it also just creates a new Invisible Man character, as opposed to being tied to any previous version, even after they already had the duo come into brief contact with the Vincent Price version of the character at the end of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Oddly, this is more of a comedy sports movie. Which is actually achieved pretty cleverly in that the comedic duo use the Invisible Man to help give Lou Costello an edge in the boxing ring. It’s an ingenious and hilarious scheme and even if the joke feels one-note, they stretch it out in this movie and the physical comedy is so good that it works longer than it probably should.

Abbott & Costello are both as great as usual and even if the Invisible Man character felt weak when compared to past versions, he still meshed well with the two leads and everything came together fairly well.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Abbot and Costello monster movies.

Film Review: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Also known as: The Brain of Frankenstein (working title)
Release Date: June 15th, 1948
Directed by: Charles Barton
Written by: John Grant, Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo
Based on: characters by Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Curt Siodmak, H.G. Wells
Music by: Frank Skinner
Cast: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi, Glenn Strange, Lenore Aubert, Jane Randolph, Frank Ferguson, Charles Bradstreet, Vincent Price (voice, uncredited cameo)

Universal International Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Young people making the most of life – while it lasts.” – Dr. Lejos/Dracula

I’m actually surprised that I hadn’t yet reviewed any of the Universal Monsters pictures with Abbot and Costello in them. I have an immense love of both things and having them come together, which they did a handful of times, was really cool.

Overall, this one was always my favorite but I like all of them.

In this one, we don’t just get Frankenstein’s Monster, we also get Dracula, the Wolf Man and a little cameo by the Invisible Man. With that, we also got Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr. and a voice cameo by the legendary Vincent Price.

Unfortunately, Boris Karloff didn’t come back to play Frankenstein’s Monster but we did get Glenn Strange, who had already played the monster twice before this and who is really underappreciated in that role.

The only problem with this is one that doesn’t actually effect the film itself but instead, effects the ones that followed. You see, they blew their nut really early by cramming a ton of monsters into this one, so the following movies felt a bit underwhelming after the precedent this one set. But honestly, it’s why this particular one is the best of the lot.

Abbot and Costello are both hilarious per usual and their camaraderie was so solid by this point that they could’ve entertained in their sleep.

All in all, this was a really good horror comedy that took the best parts of two very different things and merged them together very well, not diminishing the performances of the two comedic legends or the coolness of the classic monsters and the legends who played them.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Abbot and Costello monster movies.

Film Review: The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Release Date: January 7th, 1925 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Rupert Julian, Lon Chaney (uncredited), Ernst Laemmle (uncredited), Edward Sedgwick (uncredited)
Written by: all uncredited: Walter Anthony, Elliott J. Clawson, Bernard McConville, Frank M. McCormack, Tom Reed, Raymond L. Schrock, Jasper Spearing, Richard Wallace
Based on: The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Music by: Gustav Hinrichs
Cast: Lon Chaney, Norman Kerry, Mary Philbin

Universal Pictures, 93 Minutes, 101 Minutes (original cut), 92 Minutes (1995 cut), 107 Minutes (DVD cut), 106 Minutes (Ontario cut), 95 Minutes (1929 re-release)

Review:

“If I am the Phantom, it is because man’s hatred has made me so. If I shall be saved, it will be because your love redeems me.” – The Phantom

This is one of the best films under the Universal Monsters banner even if fans of those classic monster movies don’t consider it a part of that oeuvre. However, it was made by Universal and helped kick off the fantastic horror output of the studio.

The Phantom of the Opera would be remade and reimagined a few decades later with Claude Rains and that’s the version most closely associated with Universal’s other monster flicks but without this silent era classic and the stellar performance by Lon Chaney Sr., the studio may have never gotten there.

Plus, this is the superior version of the story and honestly, it’s still the best Phantom of the Opera movie ever made. Again, I have to give credit to Chaney. Without him, this wouldn’t have been nearly the same picture.

Chaney is a master of silent era horror and a lot of that has to do with how he crafted his own monster makeup mixed with his physical performance, as he didn’t have sound and dialogue to rely on. Chaney is able to convey great emotion, even if his face is greatly obscured or disfigured.

Additionally, the tone of this picture is perfect and the world the Phantom lives in feels alive but stuffed with a brooding, haunting atmosphere.

For its time, this is well shot with good cinematography, impressive effects and sets that had to have been a real challenge to craft. The scenes where the water level changes show the level of care that went into producing this movie.

The opulent settings of the opera house and the world above the sewers exists in stark contrast with one another but it makes this such a visual feast that its hard not to be mesmerized by the picture’s imagery.

Overall, this is a damn good motion picture and one of Chaney’s best, if not the best. It’s the strong foundation that the Universal Monsters franchise was built on top of. Honestly, this is the Iron Man of its day.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other silent horror films, specifically those starring Lon Chaney Sr.

Film Review: This Island Earth (1955)

Also known as: Bloodlust In Outer Space (reissue title)
Release Date: June 10th, 1955 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Joseph M. Newman, Jack Arnold
Written by: Franklin Coen, Edward G. O’Callaghan
Based on: This Island Earth by Raymond F. Jones
Music by: Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter, Herman Stein (all uncredited)
Cast: Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue, Rex Reason

Universal Pictures, Universal International, 86 Minutes

Review:

“It is indeed typical that you Earth people refuse to believe in the superiority of any world but your own. Children looking into a magnifying glass, imagining the image you see is the image of your true size.” – The Monitor

Sometimes Universal lumps this film into their Universal Monsters franchise. This is mainly due to the alien monster the Metaluna Mutant, who is one of their most iconic creations. However, as much as I like the monster and this film, it doesn’t fit within the general Universal Monsters style. Plus, this is more sci-fi than horror. Really, it isn’t horror at all, unless for some bizarre reason you are actually scared of the big brained rubber suit alien. Also, unlike the other Universal Monsters movies, this one is in color.

Also, this film has the distinction of being the only film that Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffed on the big screen, as it was the one featured in the MST3K movie. That film stars Mike Nelson and it came out between seasons 6 and 7, so it was devoid of TV’s Frank and hadn’t yet given us Pearl. But I’m not here to talk about that, I’m here to talk specifically about This Island Earth. And to be completely honest, it is the film least deserving of getting roasted in the entire history of MST3K.

It’s not a bad movie for its time. It has hokey effects and doesn’t look as refined as some of the bigger sci-fi films of the time but it’s still imaginative and the effects work does its job for 1955.

The real highlight for me is the Metaluna Mutant but sadly, the monster doesn’t get much screen time. The bulk of the film deals with coming into contact with an alien society and then going into space to meet them. There is a sinister plot underneath it all but that doesn’t mean that every alien our Earthlings encounter is evil.

This used some pretty great matte paintings in several scenes and while it’s obvious, the art direction was really impressive and you do get immersed in this world.

I thought that the use of Technicolor was well done and it made this film flourish in a visual way that couldn’t have been achieved in standard black and white. The Metaluna Mutant certainly wouldn’t have looked as cool and its doubtful he would have become as iconic as he did without color. He probably would have just been filed away into the depths of old movie history with a slew of other black and white rubber aliens.

If you are into classic sci-fi from this great era, you’ll probably find this pretty enjoyable. It’s not the best film of its type but it is much better than average.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other ’50s alien threat movies: When Worlds CollideWar of the WorldsThe Day the Earth Stood StillIt Came From Outer Space and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers.

Book Review: ‘Frankenstein: The Shadow of Frankenstein’ by Stefan Petrucha

*written in 2014.

I like reading books that are authors takes on sequels of famous stories, especially when it has to do with monsters like Frankenstein’s big undead creation.

At some point, Dark Horse, who are known as a major comic book publisher, acquired the publishing license for the Universal Monsters franchise. Instead of doing comic books, they made literary sequels to the Universal Monsters films. This one had a pretty awesome premise.

This book takes place after the classic film Bride of Frankenstein and it ignores all the other sequels after that film and branches off in its own direction. So essentially, this is a sequel to just the two James Whale Frankenstein films.

The premise sees Frankenstein’s monster, the Boris Karloff version, arrive in London. While there, he goes toe-to-toe with Jack the Ripper. I was pretty much sold when I read the description on the back of the book. And who wouldn’t be?

The book was ambitious and started with a lot working for it but in the end it fell kind of flat and didn’t really seem to hit the mark that it needed to. I did enjoy it overall and it is a quick and easy read but it just didn’t feel as authentic as I had hoped and just didn’t capture the vibe and magic of the James Whale films.

Regardless, I still like the idea of it and it wasn’t poor execution, it just wasn’t as good as it could have been. It also felt like a lot of the book was filler or the author playing it a bit too safe with the property and not putting enough of himself into it.

The author, Stefan Petrucha is obviously a fan of the James Whale films but I don’t feel like he was able to make the tribute he could have, whether due to his respect for the source material or because the publisher had a tight leash on him. This is a problem that also appears in the other Universal Monsters books from Dark Horse: great and interesting ideas that are snuffed out early in what feels like an attempt to bring something original to these characters but too timid to really explore those ideas.

Rating: 6/10

Film Review: The Mummy (2017)

Release Date: May 22nd, 2017 (State Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Alex Kurtzman
Written by: David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, Dylan Kussman, Jon Spaihts, Alex Kurtzman, Jenny Lumet
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, Marwan Kenzari, Russell Crowe

Universal Pictures, 107 Minutes

Review:

“Please meet Princess Ahmanet. She will claim what she has been denied.” – Dr. Henry Jekyll

Well, it’s here. This is the start of Universal Pictures’ attempt at resurrecting their old school Universal Monsters franchise into something more modern and unified like what Marvel has done with the Avengers series of films and like what DC is now doing with their Justice League movies that started with Man of Steel.

Universal has plans to bring back their classic monsters in what they are now officially calling Dark UniverseThe Mummy is the first of these pictures and one would hope that it would be a great start. The big problem is that it isn’t.

I’ve seen a ton of critics and fans trashing this film. While it isn’t as bad as many would have you believe, it certainly has a lot of issues that kick off this Dark Universe franchise pretty weakly.

The biggest problem is Tom Cruise. I’m not hating on Cruise per se but his inclusion in the picture is a distraction. We essentially have typical Tom Cruise making intense faces and trying to prove his manliness and coolness while two women half his age fight over him. He is just quintessential Tom Cruise and that is not what this film needs.

Going forward, a lot of huge names have been mentioned around this franchise and that’s the problem. Unlike Marvel, Universal doesn’t seem to be casting actors that fit parts the right way, they seem to be latching onto star power for the sake of star power.

Another problem is that there isn’t really a sequence that stands out from this film. Nothing is all that memorable or impressive. Its a collage of cookie cutter action sequences that tries to be something big but falls short.

The attempts at humor throughout the film also fall flat. Jake Johnson is there as Cruise’s wisecracking sidekick zombie but his wisecracks just don’t hit the right notes. Cruise tries his hand at some comic relief too but nothing really works.

While I would say that this is a better film, overall, than those atrocious Mummy films with Brendan Fraser, at least those pictures had some truly fun moments. This new Mummy flick is completely devoid of fun and while it tries to be more terrifying, it really isn’t.

There are a few highlights to the film, however.

The first being Sofia Boutella as the mummy. It was refreshing seeing a female mummy and she had a much better presence than anyone else on screen except for Russell Crowe.

Crowe plays Dr. Henry Jekyll. Yes, THAT Dr. Jekyll. He is in the film the same way Samuel Jackson was in the first Iron Man film; he is the character that is going to tie all of these Dark Universe movies together. We also get a nice peek at Mr. Hyde. Okay, more than just a peek but it sets him up nicely, going forward in this series.

As far as the other famous Universal Monsters creatures, we get a glimpse at the Gillman’s hand and a vampire’s skull. This is was done similar to the Easter eggs in the first Iron Man. But really, it just feels like Universal is trying to emulate Marvel too much and I really don’t know what the end game is? A monster Avengers team? But hopefully Universal can do better with their villains than Marvel has done cinematically.

The Mummy is not a good foundation for a franchise but it was a fair attempt that could have been better. It didn’t deter my interest in what else is coming in the future but that is also due to my love of the original Universal Monsters franchise. These monsters are beloved characters in film and literature and although they have all been reinvented more times than one can count, seeing them come together again could be a real treat if the big wigs at Universal learn from this film’s mistakes and correct those issues going forward.

Rating: 5/10