Originally titled The Brain of Frankenstein, the title of this movie was changed to make it less “horror” and to feature the comedy duo. Lou Costello hated the script, claiming his five-year-old daughter could write a better script.
The Universal Monsters hadn’t been in a movie in three years, with Lugosi — who is playing Dracula for just the second time and last time in a feature film — and Chaney no longer under contract. Boris Karloff doesn’t even appear — that’s Glenn Strange* in the role — yet agreed to help promote the movie.
What a set-up. Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) makes an urgent phone call to warn Chick Young (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello) that a shipment they’re about to get for a wax museum contains the real Dracula. Of course, they think it’s all a joke until, you know, Dracula really comes back.
Before you know it, Dracula has reanimated Frankenstein’s Monster and has Dr. Sandra Mornay (Lenora Aubert, The Return of the Whistler) on hand to scoop out Costello’s brains and plop them into the Monster’s skull. She’s feigning interest in our hero and there’s also another mysterious woman, Joan Raymond (Jane Randolph, Cat People) acting like she’s in love with him.
Seriously, this is the very definition of a hijinks ensue film. Dracula is disguising himself as Dr. Lejos, but Larry Talbot isn’t fooled. I’ve always loved the scene where the vampire becomes a bat and the werewolf just grabs him and jumps off a balcony to both of their supposed deaths.
While this is the last appearance of the big three Universal Monsters, Abbott and Costello would also meet up with Boris “The Killer” Karloff, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Mummy and the Invisible Man, which is Abbott says, “There’s no one to frighten us any more.” That’s when a voice comes out of nowhere. “Oh, that’s too bad. I was hoping to get in on the excitement. Allow me to introduce myself—I’m the Invisible Man!” You have no idea how insane I went as a kid every time Vincent Price’s voice bellowed at the end of this. They’d also met up with the Creature from the Black Lagoon on the Colgate Comedy Hour.
This was directed by Charles Barton, who made several movies with the duo, as well as 38 episodes of Petticoat Junction, 90 episodes of Dennis the Menace, 78 episodes of The Amos ‘n Andy Show and 106 episodes of Family Affair. Walter Lantz — who created Woody Woodpecker — directed the animated Dracula to bat sequence.
*Actually, Strange isn’t in one scene. He had broken his ankle tripping over a camera cable, so when the Monster throws Dr. Mornay out the window, that’s Chaney Jr. in the make-up.