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Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Study in Classic Horror- ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1953)

If there’s one thing you can say about the Abbott and Costello monster movies, it’s that, despite the comedy, they were willing to let the monsters be monstrous.  They quite smartly leave the shtick to Bud and Lou when I’m sure it was tempting to just have Mr. Hyde slip on a banana peel. That being said, it still seems this movie could have been funnier. Not that it’s unfunny; it definitely has its moments; I certainly laughed out loud when Bud Abbott, usually oblivious to the dangers that threaten his partner, screamed in terror at his first glance at Mr. Hyde. It just doesn’t quite reach its potential.

I guess what I really wanted was a completely different script. Abbott and Costello are at their funniest when they’re doing their, mostly verbal, stage routines. Here the humor mostly boils down to Costello’s wild takes when confronted with danger. A sequence when Lou is transformed into a giant mouse gets some mileage, as does the two-Hyde climactic chase, but it still doesn’t quite hit the mark.

And then there’s Karloff. Just as with the previous Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff, his talents aren’t used to their full potential. In his performance I see ghosts of the film that could have been. It’s no secret that uncredited stuntman Eddie Parker stood in for Karloff for the Hyde scenes, and given the physical demands of Hyde in the film, I can see where they might have been difficult for the aging actor, but I would have loved to have seen what the movie could have been like if only Karloff could have played both parts; a movie where there is more to Hyde than simply running and snarling. Also, I’m afraid the characterization of Jekyll leaves much to be desired. He gets one monologue where he articulates his desire to rid the world of evil impulses thus bringing an end violence and bloodshed, but he quickly abandons that desire to become the monster so he can eliminate those he feels have wronged him. In fact, his role as the jealous older man echoes his role in The Climax. The Karloff performance I would have liked to see is the Jekyll who made that monologue juxtaposed with a more sinister conniving Hyde.

I suppose this is really more of an unfair entry on the film that wasn’t than the one that was, and I apologize for that. Overall, I certainly don’t think this was a bad film. It was still a lot of fun; I just can’t escape the notion that it could have been much more.


Supporting features:

Tom and Jerry in Fraidy Cat (1942)

The Our Gang short The Kid From Borneo (1933)

Next time:
Son of Dracula (1943) starring Lon Chaney Jr., Robert Paige, Louise Allbritton, and Evelyn Ankers