Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 7, 2018)
After the success of their 1948 horror/comedy hybrid Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, a second adventure seemed absolutely inevitable. People like to view the sequel as a fairly modern creation, but this is totally incorrect; movie studios have pushed further adventures of the same characters for almost as long as they’ve existed.
This decision becomes easier when the subject offers many easy opportunities, and the A&C/horror flicks created a match made in studio heaven. Universal owned the rights to all of their “Classic Monsters”, and with A&C under contract, they could exploit the two franchises for many years.
And that’s what they did. 1955’s Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy was the fourth - and final - exploration of the theme, as between Meet Frankenstein and Meet the Mummy they produced Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff in 1949 and Meet the Invisible Man in 1951.
I found Meet Frankenstein to provide a surprisingly witty and entertaining experience, one that worked well on many levels. I haven’t seen the two intermediate films, but I’d like to check them out to discern how they compare to the first flick. I expect that a decline occurred, but I’d be curious to observe how steady this was.
I relate these thoughts because I do know that Meet the Mummy operated from a position of almost-total creative bankruptcy. The drop-off between the funny and endearing Meet Frankenstein and the borderline-unwatchable Meet the Mummy seems astounding, however. It almost appears unthinkable that the same folks worked on both.
In Meet the Mummy, Bud and Lou play Freddie and Pete, respectively, the usual pair of bumblers who attempt to hook on to something better. In their stabs at success, they become involved in a plot that revolves around a mystical mummy named Klaris.
Two rival factions seek his sacred medallion: one wants to preserve it for the culture, while the other wants to use it to find a fortune. Pete and Freddie get caught in the middle and inevitably wind up played for fools.
When I watched Meet Frankenstein, I felt especially impressed by the talents of Costello, as he made even the lesser material work through his constantly evolving series of perfectly timed reactions and expressions. Granted, it helped that the piece was fairly well produced anyway, but Costello led it to be something particularly special.
By the time of Meet the Mummy, Abbott and Costello neared the end of their collaboration, and Costello would be dead within a few years. The difference in attitudes seems extreme, as neither man appears to feel much interest in the project.
Since he plays the straight man, Abbott could better fake his involvement, but Costello’s clear boredom and lack of enthusiasm takes a much more substantial toll. He plods through the piece as a mere shadow of his former self, and he doesn’t attempt to do much with the material.
Not that I think he could have saved it, for Meet the Mummy presents some of the crummiest jokes committed to film. Actually, it only has about four gags, but these are repeated ad infinitum.
We see the same pieces again and again, from puns on “mummy” to snake charmer bits. None are funny the first time, and repetition doesn’t make them more endearing.
The pair even make a pathetic attempt to resurrect their famous “who’s on first” routine. Instead, they muddle a discussion of shovels and picks. I always thought “who’s on first” was overrated, but I appreciated it much more after I witnessed this lame piece of self-plagiarism.
I really liked Meet Frankenstein, and I’d also be entertained by other A&C experiences like Africa Screams. However, Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy shows the pair at their lowest.
The film has virtually nothing positive to offer, and its 80 minutes crawl by at a snail’s pace. At their best, Abbott and Costello could be a splendid comic team, but you’ll find no signs of that talent in this dud.