Review of “Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1953)

Trailer from YouTube

This is this week’s Saturday night pizza and bad movie offering. Silly.

Plot:

Slim (Bud Abbott) and Tubby (Lou Costello) are American police officers sent over Great Britain to learn British police methods.

Vicky Edwards (Helen Westcott) is a suffragist, leading a rally in a park. Newspaperman Bruce Adams (Craig Stevens) is curious to see the rally, although he doesn’t think much of women getting the vote—at least not until he sees Miss Edwards sing and dance—no suffragist rally is complete without at least one such number, I’m sure. Afterward, he’s happy to sign her petition, including his name and address. He’ll also volunteer his favorite color and note that he likes long moonlit nights on the beach, too, if she’d asked.

Unfortunately for all, the rally breaks into a riot when some gentlemen object to equal rights for women. The ladies are happy to slug any man within reach, including two American police officers who show up to no avail. The viewer sees a feminine foot connect with Tubby’s rear end more than once.

Failure to contain the riot costs Slim and Tubby their jobs. Slim decides the best way to get their jobs back is to solve the string of gruesome murders plaguing London.

The ladies are bailed out of jail. Miss Edwards’s guardian, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Boris Karloff), comes to fetch her. Adams finagles a ride home in Jekyll’s carriage. His paper bailed him, but he wanted to hang around and talk to Vicky. Vicky and Bruce make goo-goo eyes at each other in the carriage ride home, not caring if Dr. Jekyll, the owner of the carriage, is a little crowded.

Once home, Dr. Jekyll descends to his secret lab hidden behind the revolving bookcase. (No evil lair is complete without one.) Here, his inarticulate assistant, Batley (John Dierkes), shows him a newspaper with a headline about the mysterious murder of one of Jekyll’s colleagues. Jekyll knows about the murder. The colleague laughed at his ideas. He had to die. And now this…reporter is making a play for Vicky, but Vicky is his. (EWWW. He raised Vicky. Vicky was his ward.) He injects himself with a serum that will transform him into Mr. Hyde to take care of the young man.

Thoughts:

This is one of several movies the comedy duo Abbott and Costello made with Universal Studios monsters, all of which rely on slapstick, mistiming, and just plain silliness. They also met the Frankenstein monster, the mummy, and the invisible man.

According to IMDB, Boris Karloff did not play Mr. Hyde. That role was played by stuntman Eddie Parker. Karloff would have been about sixty-six when the movie was made, and some of the more athletic scenes—crawling up drainpipes, for example—might have been better played by a younger actor.

While chasing “the monster,” Tubby finds himself in a wax museum, between wax figures of the Frankenstein monster and Dracula, both of whom Abbott and Costello met five years earlier in 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s original, Dr. Jekyll is not menacing but seems to lack all compassion. In many traditional films, Dr. Jekyll is a warm or at least well-intentioned human being who goes astray. In this film, he is menacing and confessional. He is jealous of his ward’s lover (ICK), intolerant of a fellow doctor’s ridicule of his wacky ideas, and vengeful. When he promises to pay the unemployed Slim and Tubby five pounds to stay the night at his place as guards, the viewer just knows it won’t go well.

An hour of slapstick can get tedious for some, so know what you’re getting before you check this out. It’s unsophisticated and silly. But it’s fun.

Regrettably, I could not find this available as a free download.


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

Directed by
Charles Lamont

Writing Credits:
Lee Loeb…(screenplay) and
John Grant…(screenplay)
Sid Fields…(stories) (as Sidney Fields) &
Grant Garett…(story) (as Grant Garrett)
Howard Dimsdale…(writer) (uncredited)
Robert Louis Stevenson…(novel) (uncredited)

Cast:
Bud Abbott as Slim
Lou Costello as Tubby
Boris Karloff as Dr. Henry Jekyll…
Craig Stevens as Bruce Adams
Helen Westcott as Vicky Edwards
Reginald Denny as Inspector


Released: 1953
Length: 1 hour, 16 minutes

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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