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Monster of the Month: The Mummy
Remind Me

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, generally considered the most successful comedy team in the history of motion pictures, made a series of hit films, most of them at Universal, that put their patented stage routines into various winning formulas: finding themselves in the Navy, the Army, high society, college and a harem or in such locations as Africa, Mexico, Alaska, Hollywood, the tropics, the Old West and on Mars. In 1948, the duo hit on a new formula that was so ideal for the studio, one wonders why no one thought of it sooner - teaming them with the various monsters and horror film characters that had been Universal's mainstay for years. The first (and best) of these ventures put them face to face with no less than Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolfman (the latter two played by their original creators at the studio, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, Jr.). Over the next few years, they would meet "the Killer," (1949), played by Boris Karloff, the Invisible Man (1951), Captain Kidd (1952), starring Charles Laughton, and the only one of the "Meet" series not done at Universal, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953) with Boris Karloff again. In a departure from the horror genre, the duo also encountered the Keystone Kops (1955), which was a natural since Universal originally purchased the Edison Movie Studio in 1912 where Keystone Cops was first produced. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955) was the last of the series and turned out to be their final picture with Universal, ending a 28-film, 15-year association that had reportedly earned the studio $100 million worldwide. It would also be their next to last picture together. The team appeared once more in Dance with Me, Henry (1956), and Costello died of a heart attack five months before the release of his last screen appearance in The 30-Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959).

In this outing, the two find themselves stranded in Egypt and involved with an archeologist who is murdered by a cult. Costello accidentally swallows a medallion containing directions to a sacred burial site and, thanks to the dirty dealings of the leader of the cultists and a greedy adventuress, end up menaced by the Mummy. The title monster was played by famous stuntman Eddie Parker, who had stunt-doubled for all of Universal's horror stars.

The part of Mme. Rontru, the scheming adventuress, was played by B-movie bad girl Marie Windsor. Although she had made her mark in crime thrillers and noir pictures - among them Force of Evil (1948), The Narrow Margin (1952) and City That Never Sleeps (1953), Windsor enjoyed doing comedy and was given many timing tips by Costello during shooting of this picture. Also in the cast, as evil cult leader Semu, was Richard Deacon, replacing ailing silent film star H.B. Warner. Deacon's greatest fame came later as Mel Cooley, the bald, put-upon producer of the fictional Alan Brady Show on TV's The Dick Van Dyke Show. In the biography, Abbott and Costello in Hollywood by Bob Furmanek and Ron Palumbo (Perigee), Deacon recalled that during the filming of Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, he was asked by one of Lou's assistants, Bobby Barker, "to sign a pro-McCarthy petition. From my standpoint, I knew that Lou was thinking of America, which is fine. But I happen to think that McCarthy was the most evil thing that ever happened. So I refused. He said, "If this gets back to Bud and Lou, you'll never work on this lot again." I said, 'Be my guest. If that's what I have to do to stay in the business, then I don't want any part of it.' But it was never mentioned to me by Bud or Lou, and, of course, I worked at Universal again and again." Other cast members in the film include Costello's 15-year-old daughter Carole in an uncredited bit as a cafe flower girl, her third appearance in her father's movies.

Other contributors of note were Henry Mancini, a composer on a few earlier A&C movies and later one of Hollywood's top Oscar®-winning scorers, and John Grant, who penned 31 of their pictures. Grant died just a few months after this picture's release.

Director Charles Lamont helmed his ninth and final movie with the pair, bringing it in a day earlier than its 25-day allotted shooting schedule, which allowed Abbott and Costello to fulfill a request to appear in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade the day after this picture wrapped. Lamont also brought the film in $12,000 under its $738,250 budget. Only $18,000 of the total budget went into advertising, a sure sign that Universal had lost faith in its stars. When the duo asked for more money under a new contract, the studio refused. Even though an intersection of streets on the lot had just been named for them in gratitude for having kept the company financially afloat for a decade or more, the association came to an abrupt end.

A couple of curious notes on this production: although their characters' names are Pete Patterson and Freddie Franklin, the two refer to each other throughout the film as Bud and Lou, and Costello even utters his trademark "Heeeey Abbott!" And although Universal's Mummy character was always named Kharis, it was inexplicably changed to Klaris for this film.

Director: Charles Lamont
Producer: Howard Christie
Screenplay: John Grant, based on a story by Lee Loeb
Cinematography: George Robinson Editing: Russell Schoengarth
Art Direction: Alexander Golitzen, Bill Newberry
Original Music: Henry Mancini (uncredited) and others; songs by John Benson Brooks
Cast: Bud Abbott (Peter), Lou Costello (Freddie), Marie Windsor (Mme. Rontru), Michael Ansara (Charlie), Richard Deacon (Semu).
BW-80m. Closed Captioning.

by Rob Nixon