Gin and Boris and Abbott and Costello

September 27, 2021 —
We have this tradition, Lindsey and I. On the anniversary of Mom’s death—September 16—we make a gin cocktail or two and watch a Boris Karloff movie or two. We call it Gin and Boris. Backstory’s here if you want it. You don’t need it, though. Just think about having a Gin and Boris at your place this Fall.


This year, our gin was dirty martinis, our Boris was the 1949 Abbot and Costello Meet the Killer. It’s been fifteen, twenty years since I last saw this one. Karloff was offered the titular role (or one of them) in Meet the Killer’s 1948 predecessor, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. He turned it down because he was done donning that makeup, but he was also not quite comfortable with the possible lampooning of what had been his life’s work up to that time. However, that movie was a massive hit and seemed to treat the monsters respectfully, so he wanted in on the next. He managed to play a character with no monster makeup, but he apparently forgot to add a “no turban” clause to his contract.


Meet the Killer is far from the monster mash of its predecessor. It’s a murder mystery in a hotel. Bud Abbott is the hotel detective (it was a thing!) and Lou Costello is a bellhop (also a thing!)…at least for the first few minutes of the movie before he’s fired and then becomes the murder suspect. Boris plays a mesmerist (turban!) who is one of the suspects at the hotel. He’s barely in the movie, although he has the best scene. In it, he tries to hypnotize Costello into committing suicide in various ways and fails.


Most of the comedy in this movie is that level of morbid, which is what I’m there for. Lots of moving murder victims throughout the hotel (hiding them in closets, in laundry hampers, in beds, in elevators). Some of the actors had more screen time as corpses than as characters.

It all ends in a massive cavern under the hotel where we finally see the murderer. They’re dressed in a mask and light-colored fisherman’s slicker and hat, looking like a reverse negative of the Elephant Man crossed with the Hook Man from I Know What You Did Last Summer. Eventually the killer gets unmasked. They “meet” the killer.


Really an enjoyable flick. But you probably need to dig Abbott and Costello’s shtick to get the most mileage out of it. Also, could’ve used more Karloff. But every movie could use more Karloff.

Choosing this movie also gives me the chance to talk about an oddity I visited a couple years back.

Lou Costello is from Paterson, New Jersey, and in 1994, the city bronzed that connection by erecting a statue of him. He’s wearing a bowler hat and holding a bat (in reference to his famous Who’s on First? routine).

The statue is located in a small park dedicated to him on Ellison Street. As of this date, Bud Abbott is still waiting for his bronze statue (also from New Jersey…Asbury Park). So is Boris (not from New Jersey).


If you Gin and Boris this season, and you go with Abbot and Costello Meet the Killer, lift a glass to old monsters and dead horror actors, enstatuated comedians, my mom, and Halloween.