Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) desperately phones a railway station in Florida, where Chick Young (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Lou Costello) work as baggage clerks. He tries to warn them about a shipment coming to MacDougal’s House of Horrors, but before he can finish, the full moon rises and Talbot transforms into a werewolf and runs off. Wilbur thinks it’s a crank call and MacDougal (Frank Ferguson) himself demands delivery.
They bring the crates in the evening. The first one they open contains Dracula’s coffin. Chick leaves the room and while Wilbur reads about the Dracula legend, the coffin opens and Dracula (Bela Lugosi) appears. Wilbur is too terrified to speak. Chick refuses to believe his story. They open the second crate. Chick goes off to speak to MacDougal and Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange) is revealed. Both Dracula and the monster leave and when MacDougal finds the crates empty, he has Wilbur and Chick arrested for theft.
That night, Doctor Sandra Mornay (Lenore Aubert) welcomes Dracula and the monster to her castle on a mysterious island. She has seduced Wilbur as part of Dracula’s plan to find an obedient and simple brain (Wilbur’s) for the monster. Joan Raymond (Jane Rudolph), an undercover insurance investigator, bails out Wilbur and Chick. Wilbur invites her to a masquerade ball. Talbot moves into the apartment across the hall and tries to enlist the boys’ help to destroy Dracula and the monster. He has Wilbur lock him in that night.
Wilbur, Chick, and Joan go to Sandra’s castle to pick her up for the ball. Talbot tells them that this castle is the House of Dracula. Wilbur runs into the monsters in the basement. Joan finds Doctor Frankenstein’s notebook in Sandra’s desk, and Sandra finds an insurance investigator’s ID in Joan’s purse. Dracula introduces himself as Doctor Lejos. When Sandra gets cold feet, Dracula turns her into a vampire.
At the ball, Talbot outs Doctor Lejos, but no-one believes he is Dracula. Sandra tries to turn Wilbur in the woods and fails. Talbot transforms and, as Wolf Man, attacks MacDougal, who escapes. Since Chick is dressed as a wolf, he is accused of assault by MacDougal, and he witnesses Wilbur being hypnotized by Dracula, and so is Chick. In the morning, Chick and Talbot meet in the swamp and set out to rescue Wilbur and Joan.
They free Wilbur but Dracula hypnotizes him again. As Sandra prepares to cut out Wilbur’s brain, Talbot and Chick break in. Chick knocks out Sandra, but Talbot transforms again before he can save Wilbur. There is a frenetic chase, of course—like a French farce but with the doors smashed in instead of slamming--and a face-off between Dracula and the Wolf Man. They are dragged to their deaths and the monster is set afire. Wilbur and Chick escape the island in a boat, but the voice of Vincent Price tells them the Invisible Man is in the boat with them and they jump overboard.
The film was directed by Charles Barton. Abbott and Costello both hated the story and often did not show up for filming, but it was one of the biggest films for Universal that year and led to several sequels featuring monsters, all of lesser quality than this one, in my opinion. It actually had more monster action than many of the serious horror films in the series and featured some of the best actors in the monster roles. It is now in the Library of Congress.
After Universal joined with J. Arthur Rank Films, a lot of horror stars were let go, but Abbott and Costello were big stars. After a while, their popularity waned and the studio faced bankruptcy. Many of the horror stars were now out of work and jumped at the chance to feature again. It was actually the first time Bela Lugosi had played Dracula since the first Dracula movie. The studio, in fact, had thought he was dead. The exciting film score was by Frank Skinner, who had scored Son of Frankenstein and The Wolf Man. It was the most successful Frankenstein film since Frankenstein. Boris Karloff agreed to do publicity as long as he didn’t have to see the movie. The reviews were quite good but Lon Chaney bemoaned the turning of monsters into buffoons, as he saw it.
Lou Costello said that his little girl could write a better script, but $ 50,000 changed his mind about appearing in it. In a scene in which Costello sits down on the monster’s lap, Costello’s constant ad-libs had Glenn Strange breaking up and the scene took forever to finish. The special effects were again done by Walter Lantz of Woody Woodpecker fame, and the relatively cheaper rubber-mask makeup of Bud Westmore was a hit. It is the only film in which Larry Talbot speaks to Dracula. Glenn Strange later had a recurring role as a bartender in the Gunsmoke series. In the still-rampant controversy about whether this is canon or not, a powerful argument is that the Wolf Man had been cured, the Frankenstein monster could not speak, and the others were killed in the previous movies. But it’s hard to keep a good monster down, isn’t it?