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

This is among the best of Abbott and Costello’s films because it is so much fun. It also didn’t hurt that it is one of their films that combined monsters with comedy–a sure recipe for success. The first of these films, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN happens to be their best film, but followup films with the Invisible Man, the Mummy and Dr. Jekyll were also among their best films.

The film begins with Bud and Lou inexplicably working for the London police. Because they are Bud and Lou, they naturally get fired. So, they spend the rest of the movie trying to solve the big case, a serial killer, in order to get back on the force.

The trail takes them to Dr. Henry Jekyll (Boris Karloff) and despite his very pleasant demeanor, he’s a real jerk. Underneath this nice facade, this incarnation of Jekyll is quite different from versions of the story starring John Barrymore, Frederic March or Spencer Tracy. Unlike these previous versions, Jekyll is truly evil and likes becoming the monster. In other words, he uses this new guise to kill with impunity because he is a horrible person. However, he really looked little like the movie Mr. Hyde when he transformed. Instead of the usual transformation, this time it looks like they used a rubber mask and it looked more like the Frederic March version of Jekyll combined with the Wolf-Man! The main reason to make his so unrecognizable was because this was a very active role (involving a lot of climbing and stunts) and Karloff was simply too old to handle these rigors. Frankly, though Hyde and Jekyll were quite different, this didn’t bother me.

So what is so good about the film? Well, the most important plus this film has is no singing!! Hallelujah! Too many of Abbott and Costello’s films (particularly the early ones) were heavily padded with songs that distracted the audience unnecessarily and added nothing to the plot. Additionally, like many of their best films, this one was plot and character-driven–not a bunch of semi-related vignettes and Vaudeville routines thrown together. In addition it sure didn’t hurt that the ending was quite clever and funny as well–leaving the audience laughing as the credits rolled.