Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

08/13/2015 19:12

Film: Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Year: 1953

Director: Charles Lamont

Writer: Lee Loeb and John Grant

Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello and Boris Karloff



This is one that I sought out when I started working my way through The Horror Show Guide encyclopedia. It appeared along with the other times this duo met the Universal monsters. I had only seen this one once so I was intrigued to see where I was with a second watch. This was done as part of my Traverse through the Threes.

Synopsis: two bumbling American cops hunt for the mysterious Mr. Hyde (Eddie Parker) in London, England.

We start with a presentable man walking down a London Street. He is Dr. Stephen J. Poole (Herbert Deans). We see a monster emerge from a building. This turns out to be Mr. Hyde. The man is attacked and killed. The police investigate and I believe through a newspaper we learn that his name.

The next morning, we see the man reading this newspaper is Bruce Adams (Craig Stevens). He sees someone lying on the ground behind him in the bushes by him. Bruce thinks him to be a victim of the monster, but it turns out to be a man sleeping. I should out that Bruce is a newspaper man. Trying to gain support in this park are a group of women. They’re fighting for suffrage and led by Vicky Edwards (Helen Westcott). They break out in a song to talk about their struggles and men decide they have heard enough. A riot breaks out and the police show up.

This is where we meet our stars, Slim (Bud Abbott) and Tubby (Lou Costello). They try to break up the riot, but it turns into a slapstick comedy routine that ends up with them getting caught up in everything. Everyone involved is taken to jail.

The women all make bail as does Bruce. Slim and Tubby are brought to the inspector’s office; he is played by Reginald Denny. We learn that they are Americans who were sent over to train with the police force here. They’re kicked out for messing up.

Vicky is bailed out by her guardian, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Boris Karloff). He asks her to come over for dinner, but she declines, having a show that night. Bruce joins them, much to the displeasure of Dr. Jekyll. They all talk until they get to his home. This is when Bruce goes with Vicky to her show in the carriage.

This doesn’t hide the fact that Dr. Jekyll is devious. It seems like he had good intentions, but his love for Vicky has corrupted him. He works with Batley (John Dierkes) who doesn’t talk. He is quite large though. Slim and Tubby try to find a way to get back into the Inspector’s good graces. This brings them to Vicky’s show where they encounter Mr. Hyde. Along with the help of Bruce, they try to capture him before he can hurt others.

That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is saying that I feel I was harsh on this one the first time I saw it. This is another fun Abbott and Costello film. It doesn’t waste any time to get into it as Dr. Poole is attacked and killed in the opening scene. It reveals that Karloff is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde early on as well. It becomes our characters needing to find out before it is too late.

Something that I noticed the first time that I saw this was that we don’t meet our two stars until about fifteen or so minutes into the movie. If you didn’t know, you could almost not realize that this is a film with this comedic duo. Now they are bumbling and there is a bit of humor, but I was impressed that this one plays it straight as well. It feels like a horror movie of the era. It is a bit light on these elements.

The last bit for the story that I want to go into is with Dr. Jekyll. This version is more menacing than others. Part of that is how great of an actor Karloff is. He seems like a sweet, older man. He has a crush on Vicky, with whom he raised. There is a dark side to him. He knows that he becomes Mr. Hyde. He knows it is wrong, but he gives into that part of him for personal gain. I thought this was a nice addition. They also bring in from the novel the idea that Dr. Jekyll believes there is good and bad in everyone, it depends on who you give in to.

Where I’ll then go will be the acting. I’ve already said how good Karloff is so let me then talk about the stars. I just love Abbott and Costello. They play so well off each other. I also dig the combination of slapstick and word play humor. I’m also glad that they teamed up with the monsters for movies like this. Stevens is solid as our ‘hero’. I like that he’s a newspaper writer so it makes sense why he would investigate along with these two police officers. Westcott is fine as our female lead. They don’t give her a lot to work with outside the opening sequence where she is fighting for women’s suffrage. That was surprising to be incorporated here for a bit of social commentary. I don’t know if it fully fits though outside of showing that she is strong and independent. Other than that, Dierkes brings good size to his role as a henchman. Denny and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.

That then brings me to the filmmaking. The biggest thing I need to bring up are the transformation sequences here. We get a few of them and I loved it. We see Dr. Jekyll becoming Mr. Hyde. We also see Costello become a human mouse and his own version of the monster. They use time lapsing which I love the practical approach. I’d say that the cinematography is solid. It doesn’t necessarily stand out. The soundtrack also fits for what was needed.

In conclusion, I appreciate this movie more with a second watch. Having now seen more movies from the era and understanding the history helped. I think this is a fun comedy that plays well as a horror movie of the time. Abbott and Costello are great and play so well off each other. I like Karloff as our villain. The rest of the cast is solid. We get good effects with multiple transformation sequences. Other than that, the rest of the filmmaking was solid. If you like this comedy duo, give this a go. I’d also say if you like movies from the era then I’d recommend this as well.


My Rating: 7 out of 10