After the success of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Bud and Lou finished out their big-screen career at Universal with a series of other "...Meet" films. While none came near the comic heights of ...Meet Frankenstein, a few remain fun, amusing trifles. Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is arguably the best of these final efforts, buoyed by the sinister presence of Boris Karloff and some occasionally inspired comic bits.
With a few exceptions, plotting was never really more than an afterthought in Abbott and Costello movies, working mainly as a bare skeleton to hang their jokes and routines on, and so it goes here. In a rather far-fetched set-up, Bud and Lou play a pair of bumbling Yank cops in the Victorian era - named Slim and Tubby, natch - on loan to Scotland Yard to learn British police techniques. After their disastrous handling of a riot at a suffragette rally, the boys are stripped of their badges and sent packing. They decide (or rather, bossy Abbott does) that their best chance at being reinstated is to catch the notorious murderer known as "the beast," an ape-like creature in a top hat and cloak recently terrorizing the city.
This is, of course, Mr. Hyde. Unlike most versions of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale, this Dr. Jekyll (Boris Karloff) knows precisely what he's turning into, and seems to be deliberately planning his attacks on those who displease him or otherwise get in his way.
When smooth, handsome young news reporter Bruce Adams (Peter Gunn's Craig Stevens) romantically pursues Jekyll's ward, suffragette and music hall dancer Vicky Edwards (Helen Westcott), Jekyll turns his malicious intent towards him.
Just when it seems Bud and Lou are becoming guest stars in their own movie, they get pulled back into the story as they come across Mr. Hyde, prowling the fog-bound streets around the theater where Vicky works. The usual Abbottt and Costello comic hijinks, pratfalls and bits of business ensue. By this point, Costello's quivering, scaredy-cat act is wearing a bit thin and seems too broad even by the duo's standards. However, the movie has its share of humorous moments, especially in the lively final 15 minutes or so, when it really cuts loose, as Lou accidentally also gets transformed into a monster and runs rampant through the city, at the same time as Bruce and the police are hot on the trail of the real Mr. Hyde.
There's also an amusing interlude where Costello, having unknowingly drank a potion at Jekyll's house, briefly transforms into a human-sized mouse. Of course, this happens in the middle of a pub, so no one is inclined to believe the pair's pointing the finger at the seemingly respectable Jekyll.
Stevens makes for a confident hero (although why police constables are following orders from a reporter doesn't bear close scrutiny), and Helen Westcott is pretty and appealing and gets to belt out a few tunes that don't drag on too long.
Karloff turns in a professional if untaxing performance, but of course his screen time is somewhat limited, as it's not him under the Mr. Hyde mask (to be fair, he was 66 years old at the time). This is far from his best later work, but his urbane, courtly presence and mellifluous voice add some class to the low-brow goofiness surrounding him. John Dierkes (a memorable character actor seen to best advantage in films like The Thing from Another World and Shane) is appropriately large and threatening as Jekyll's assistant.
As for Bud and Lou, they're on fine form here. Despite his age, Costello still seems capable of some pretty rough pratfalls (how much was him, and how much his stunt double, I've no idea...but it looks like him flipping full-speed over chairs, running face-first into doors, etc.) The Victorian London setting is plainly backlot, but veteran director Charles Lamont and cinematographer George Robinson manage to rustle up some nice shots and decent atmosphere.
Overall, this is an enjoyably silly late entry in the Abbott and Costello canon that kids and fans of the comic duo should get a kick out of.
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