Cast & Crew
In Hyde Park, London, at the turn of the century, a string of murders by a wolfman-like monster is capped off by the death of a prominent physicist, whose body is discovered by American reporter Bruce Adams. The next day, Bruce hears dancer Vicky Edwards lead a suffragette meeting in the park, and asks for a private interview. When he punches a heckler, a riot breaks out, and bumbling bobbies Slim and Tubby show up to try to keep the peace. Their failure, however, leads the police inspector to fire them. Later, Bruce and all the suffragettes are bailed out of jail by Vicki's guardian, leading scientist Dr. Henry Jekyll, who secretly loves his ward. Bruce finagles a ride with Jekyll and Vicky, quickly sparking the doctor's jealousy. In the carriage, Jekyll explains to Bruce his desire to gain control over man's dual nature, in order to stamp out evil and violence. As Bruce accompanies Vicky to the dance hall where she works, a dejected Jekyll goes home and enters his secret laboratory, where his mute assistant Batley awaits. There, Jekyll, who has been testing a serum which produces the manifestation of his dual nature, a monster named Mr. Hyde, laments that Hyde killed the physicist. Jekyll almost vows not to use the serum again until he has perfected it, but then recalls his desire to eliminate his new rival for Vicky's affections. He injects himself, transforms into Mr. Hyde, and goes to the dance hall, where he watches through a window as Vicky and Bruce kiss. Just then, Slim and Tubby pass by and see Hyde scaling the wall of the theater. Assuming he is a burglar and hoping to win back their jobs, the two chase him into the building and begin searching the dressing rooms. After barely escaping Hyde's clutches several times, Tubby finally notices the monster, but fails to capture him. Luckily, Bruce and Slim see Hyde in the hallway and chase him through a skylight. All three pursue him over the rooftops, but lose him when Tubby slips and dangles off a clothesline. Tubby, left behind by Bruce and Slim, unwittingly enters the same wax museum in which the monster is hiding. There, he is terrified by every statue and screams until Slim hears and runs in. Learning that Hyde is in the museum, Slim races to the inspector, leaving Tubby to trap the monster in a cell. By the time the inspector arrives, however, the serum has worn off, and Tubby is castigated for imprisoning Dr. Jekyll. Jekyll then invites Slim and Tubby to his house and asks them to stay the night. Tubby, terrified, wakes in the night and attempts to escape, but is so frightened when he sees Batley that he accidentally rushes into the secret laboratory. After his bumbling wakes Slim, Jekyll invites them both to tour his lab, and Tubby grabs a bottle of serum and drinks it, thinking it is water. He then leaves, followed by Slim, who does not notice when Tubby transforms into a giant mouse. Each man, realizing the metamorphosis at the same time, faints, and when they wake, Tubby is himself again. They visit the inspector to inform him of Jekyll's evil experiments, but are proclaimed insane and thrown out. The next day, they tell their story to Vicky and Bruce, who insist on confronting Jekyll themselves. He willingly shows them his laboratory, which by now has been cleaned out. While Bruce and Vicky apologize, Slim finds a bottle of spirits he believes to be the mouse potion and urges Tubby to drink until he is completely inebriated. Upstairs, Bruce asks Jekyll for Vicky's hand in marriage, and although the doctor agrees, he grabs Vicky as soon as Bruce leaves and declares that no one will have her but himself. He prepares a needle with which to turn Bruce into a monster so he can kill him legally, but when Vicky fights him, he accidentally injects himself and turns into Hyde before her eyes. Her screams alert Batley, Tubby, Slim and Bruce, who is just outside, and all four rush into the library. There, while Bruce battles Hyde, Batley repeatedly pushes Tubby into the serum-filled needle until he becomes a monster identical to Hyde. Both he and Hyde escape into the park, and soon the whole police force is after both monsters. Finally, Slim chases Tubby onto a rooftop just as Bruce follows Hyde onto the same roof. All four hide around one chimney until Slim manages to attack Tubby. Hyde, however, flees to his house and attacks Vicky. Bruce, who has also gone there in the hope that Jekyll would return, breaks into the house and fights Hyde until the monster jumps out of the window to his death. As the citizens surround him, the monster's face transforms back into Jekyll's. Meanwhile, Slim and four policemen have brought Tubby to the inspector's office, and a struggling, monstrous Tubby bites all of the policemen. They knock him out, and when he converts back into his human self, the two pals turn around, only to find that the five bitten lawmen have mutated into monsters.
Carmen De Lavallade
Leslie I. Carey
Russell A. Gausman
David S. Horsley
Joan St. Oegger
Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Our story starts with a promising young boxer named Louis Cristillo, whose short stature belied a multifaceted athleticism. His outstanding win-loss record for his first dozen bouts probably gave the local gambling community conniption fits, which were resolved when his father demanded he change careers. So, young Cristillo set off for Hollywood, where he found work as a stunt man. During production on The Trail of '98 in 1928, however, he suffered an injury that forced yet another career rethink. This propelled him to St. Joseph, Missouri, where he renamed himself "Lou Costello" and started doing vaudeville comedy with a straight man named Joe Lyons. One fateful day in 1936, Lyons failed to show up for a gig, leaving Costello to hire a substitute partner for the night--one William Alexander "Bud" Abbott.
On stage, Abbott's smarmy persona and bullying self-confidence played well opposite Costello's childlike buffoonery. Audiences loved them together, and poor Joe Lyons found himself out of a job. Off stage, however, Abbott was a difficult partner, and a career-long albatross for Costello to bear. Abbott was a fourth-grade dropout, an epileptic, and an alcoholic. He could not remember his lines, nor could he do anything resembling "acting" with those lines anyway. He had no aptitude for physical comedy. Basically, he could do one thing--he did it well, he may even done it superlatively, but nonetheless it was just one thing, and that placed permanent boundaries on what their comedy team was capable of. Playing to vaudeville houses, where a 20 or 30 minute routine was all that was required and the same show could be recycled endlessly night after night, he brought a structure to Costello's comedy and made them stars. But on the movie screens, trying to support a 90 minute feature, and do so again and again with enough variety to keep audiences satisfied, he was as much a liability as an asset.
To add to the tension, Lou Costello and Bud Abbott had personal conflict that was often insanely petty. For example, Lou fired a maid--Bud then hired the same maid. This triviality resulted in enduring enmity and angry shouting matches. In another age, the off-screen feuding between the two comedians could have been mined for reality television gold. In the 1940s and 50s, it was merely a source of dysfunction.
But these issues were almost entirely invisible to the audience, for whom Abbott and Costello burst onto the scene as a fresh, fast-paced, comedy powerhouse. They quickly became one of the nation's top box office attractions.
Abbott and Costello now had enough clout to do just about anything they wanted. Or, at least Lou Costello did--as the nominal creative force behind the team and the only one who seemed interested in trying to steer the ship, he could have tried to exercise that leverage in any number of ways. In the end, he used that leverage sparingly, arguing for the chance to make a couple of experimental comedies that kept him and Bud Abbott separate, so as to buy him some breathing room from his exasperating partner. Other than that, Abbott and Costello used their stardom to goof off--showing up late to the set, and focusing their attention on cards and other distractions.
The lackadaisical attitude took its toll. Their marquee value dwindled; they left the nation's top studio (MGM) for a struggling also-ran (Universal); their longtime producer Alex Gottlieb departed; and their radio show ended. And then, just as it seemed everyone was ready to switch off the lights for good, they made a film called Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. It was a massive success that earned back huge profits to Universal, revived interest in both their moribund gothic horror cycle and the flagging Abbott and Costello comedies, and remains an enduringly beloved comedy classic to this day.
Unsurprisingly, the studio sought to replicate the success--and thus Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff; Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man; Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. Problematically, distribution company Realart decided the best way to exploit their license to reissue old Abbott and Costello features was to more or less dump all of them onto theaters at once. The marketplace was glutted with Abbott and Costello product--which only served to dilute the audience and emphasize how formulaic the films had become.
Meanwhile, upstarts like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis started to peel away Abbott and Costello's audience--they were fresh, young, and silly, and quickly usurped the role of top comedy duo in the nation's hearts and cinemas. By 1951, Martin and Lewis were the highest paid act in show business. By 1953, they had appeared in a dozen films.
In 1953, by contrast, Abbott and Costello were falling out of their own films. They were supposed to star in Fireman Save My Child, but production was disrupted when Lou Costello fell ill. Buddy Hackett and Hugh O'Brien subbed in to take over their roles and finish the film. When Costello felt well enough to return to work, producer Howard Christie decided it was time for the boys to "meet" Jekyll and Hyde.
Intriguingly, screenwriters Grant Garrett and Sid Fields' early drafts were titled "Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde"! The early scenes of the finished film still retain some residual dialogue hinting at that alternate gender-bending scenario, but subsequent drafts by Lee Loeb and John Grant steered the project back into more familiar, and largely generic, territory.
Universal otherwise had not had any skin in the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde game--the 1920 film with John Barrymore had been a Paramount production, and both the 1932 Rouben Mamoulian version and the 1941 Victor Fleming remake were MGM pictures. Thanks to Abbott and Costello, though, Universal now had a handy gimmick to try out their own Jekyll and Hyde variant, with genre superstar Boris Karloff in the title role, more or less. ("More or less" because Karloff only plays Dr. Jekyll, ceding the part of Mr. Hyde to his stunt double Eddie Parker in a mask).
Director Charles Lamont was (reluctantly) responsible for nearly all of Abbott and Costello's screen comedies. He was a fourth-generation actor who had long ago shifted his focus towards working behind the scenes. In 1922 Lamont started directing silent comedies for the likes of Mack Sennett and Al Christie. In the 1930s he directed Buster Keaton's run of talkie comedy shorts, and briefly worked at Columbia's comedy shorts division directing Charley Chase and The Three Stooges. When he passed away in 1993, Lamont had over 100 movies to his name. By the mid-1940s, Lamont was a well-respected and seasoned comedy veteran, and he knew what he wanted to do: sophisticated situation comedies, not knockabout slapstick. But Abbott and Costello's then-producer Alex Gottlieb was in a tight situation--production on Hit the Ice was interrupted by the firing of director Erle C. Kenton, and Gottlieb wanted somebody with Lamont's experience and level head to right the ship. He completed the assignment, protesting all the way how little he cared for this style of comedy, only to find the film was a popular and profitable hit. With every successful Abbot and Costello film he made, he only convinced his employers that was where to deploy his talents. He would almost never be given the opportunity to do any other kind of film ever again.
By David Kalat
Leonard Maltin, The Great Movie Comedians
Jeffrey S. Miller, The Horror Spoofs of Abbott & Costello: A Critical Assessment of the Comedy's Monster Films
James Robert Parish and William T. Leonard, The Funsters
Bill Warren, Keep Watching the Skies!
Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
While the first three Hollywood Reporter production charts list Emrich Nicholson as the art director, the final chart credits Eric Orbom, who is also named as art director in the onscreen credits. There have been many films based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. For additional information, see the entry for the 1932 Paramount picture Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40.
Released in United States Summer July 1953
Released in United States Summer July 1953