Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 23, 2018)
At the end of 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, we get a comedic tag that introduces Bud and Lou to the Invisible Man. When the duo next confronted terror, however, they went with 1949’s awkwardly titled Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff.
Fans finally got a proper follow-up to Meet Frankenstein via 1951’s Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man. Bud Alexander (Abbott) and Lou Francis (Costello) graduate from detective school and quickly land their first case.
Boxer Tommy Nelson (Arthur Franz) finds himself unjustly accused of his manager’s murder, and he uses a special injection to make himself invisible in an attempt to avoid capture. On the job, Bud and Lou help find the real killer, all with Tommy’s unseen assistance.
Man represents my third look at one of the Abbott and Costello Meet… films. Though I liked Frankenstein a lot, I thought 1955’s Meet the Mummy offered a bland, unfunny adventure.
Though Mummy left a bad taste, I hoped Man would reignite some of the comedic sparks from Frankenstein. Happily, it does – though not as strong as the 1948 flick, Man proves much more satisfying than Mummy.
Much of the improvement comes from the performances brought by our leads. By Mummy, Abbott and Costello neared the end of their road – they’d break up two years later, and Lou would die a mere two years after that.
Though only four years prior to Mummy, Man shows a comedy team with much greater enthusiasm than the worn-out pair of 1955. In particular, Lou offers fine comedic charisma.
As was the case with Frankenstein, Costello carries Man and creates most of the laughs on his own. Unlike the earlier film, though, Costello gets assistance from parties other than his partner.
While Abbott functions fine in his usual part as the straight man, some supporting actors bring a little more to the comedic table here. Right before he’d earn fame as Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy, William Frawley delights as a police detective, and I also like Paul Maxey as a psychiatrist.
Make no mistake, though: this remains Costello’s tale to carry, and he helps overcome weaknesses. Man lacks much of a real story, as it instead tends to indulge in comedic skits that it connects in a loose manner.
Man also falters as a mystery. We figure out pretty quickly who actually killed Tommy’s manager, so the film musters no suspense or intrigue.
Nonetheless, Man provides too many laughs for these issues to matter. Led by a delightful turn by Lou Costello, this provides a funny and lively tale.