FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943) Reviews and overview

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Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is a 1943 American horror film about the resurrected Wolf Man who is seeking a cure for his full moon malady.

Directed by Roy William Neill (Dressed to Kill; The Scarlet Claw; The Spider Woman; The Black Room) from a screenplay written by Curt Siodmak (The Devil’s Messenger; Curucu, Beast of the Amazon; The Beast with Five Fingers; Son of Dracula; The Wolf Man).

The Universal production stars Lon Chaney Jr., Ilona Massey, Patric Knowles, Lionel Atwill, Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskaya, Dennis Hoey and Dwight Frye.

Review:
Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man was the first of the Universal horror movies to feature their monsters meeting up. (Dracula would join both Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolf Man in later films.) In our current age of the MCU and DC superhero movies, that might not seem like a big deal but it was undoubtedly a huge concept in 1943.

Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man starts, as so many Frankenstein films have, with a bit of grave robbing. Except, this time, the grave robbers aren’t looking for body parts. Instead, they break into the Talbot family crypt because they’ve heard that Larry Talbot was buried with a lot of jewellery and money. As the grave robbers wander around the crypt, they recap for us everything that happened in The Wolf Man. Finally, they open up Larry’s coffin and are confronted with the dead body of Larry Talbot himself! (Larry is, once again, played by Lon Chaney, Jr.)

Unfortunately for our grave robbing friends, there’s a full moon out. As soon as the moonlight shines on Larry, he comes back to life and promptly transforms into… The Wolf Man!

After killing one of the robbers, the Wolf Man runs out of the tomb. The next morning, once again human and alive, Larry Talbot wakes up in some bushes. He’s arrested by the police. He’s sent to a mental hospital. He transforms a few more times and kills a few more stock characters. And during all of this, Larry tells anyone who will listen that he just wants to be cured of his condition so that he can die and stay dead.

It was at this point that it occurred to me that Larry Talbot is perhaps the whiniest werewolf in film history.

Eventually, Larry decides that maybe the famous Doctor Ludwig Frankenstein could help him! So, he breaks out of the hospital and travels to Germany (though, since the film was made during World War II, we’re never specifically told that he’s in Germany). Accompanying him is Malena (Maria Ouspenkaya), the gypsy woman from the first Wolf Man.

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In Germany, a generic Eastern European country, Larry finds out that Doctor Frankenstein is dead and his research is missing. Larry does, however, discover the frozen body of Frankenstein’s Monster (now played by Bela Lugosi). After reviving the monster, Larry is upset to discover that the Monster not only doesn’t know where to find Frankenstein’s research but that, after dealing with their crap for four movies, the Monster doesn’t really seem to care about doing anything other than harassing the local villagers.

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Fortunately, Larry does get to meet Ludwig’s widow (Illona Massey) and get a chance to tell her about how much he wishes he was dead. Probably just to get him to shut up about how terrible his existence is, the widow agrees to help Larry. She gives him Ludwig’s research and Larry believes that he’s finally found a way to end both his life and the Monster’s!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way. For one thing, Larry is working with a scientist (played by Patric Knowles) who doesn’t think that the Monster needs to be destroyed. Secondly, Larry keeps forgetting to keep track of the lunar cycles. That full moon is continually taking him by surprise.

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It all leads to a final battle between Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolf Man. It only lasts for a little less than ten minutes so it’s hard not to be a bit disappointed.

Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man isn’t necessarily a good movie but it is a lot of fun to watch. It helps, of course, if you’ve seen the other Universal horror films. Part of the fun is spotting members of the Universal stock company, such as Lionel Atwill, Dennis Hoey and Dwight Frye, and seeing who they’ll be playing this time around.

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One thing that is legitimately appreciated is that the film made at least some sort of an effort to maintain continuity with both The Wolf Man and The Ghost of Frankenstein. It appears that some actual thought was put into explaining how both the Wolf Man and the Monster were still around after the events of the last two films. At least that shows more respect for the audience that you’ll rarely find in most modern films.

Lisa Marie Bowman, guest reviewer via Through the Shattered Lens

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Other reviews:
“Probably the archetypal Universal horror of the 1940s, with its creepy graveyards, gothic castles, rhubarbing villagers and unusual mix of accents all set in a shadowy, fable-like version of Europe, it also began the shortlived and profitable strain of teaming up the monsters. Chaney does well enough, noticeably receiving more of the limelight […] However, Lugosi gets a raw deal as the Monster as all of his dialogue was cut…” The Spinning Image

Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (some say refers to Talbot meeting the Baroness) is a wonderful film filled with great sets, photography, light and shadow, character and direction. Lon Chaney, Jr. gives perhaps his best performance, infusing it with frustration, guile, brute strength and humanity. The weakness is Bela Lugosi as the monster whose performance as a stumbling, bumbling arms forward creature, has, unfortunately, become some people’s concept of the Monster.” The Spooky Isles

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Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man was not the greatest of the films to come out of the franchise, but it was a good one and it was incredibly fun to see two iconic film monsters battle it out at the end of the film.  The movie continues not only the tale of the two movie properties, but also carries on the thematic qualities established in the previous films, specifically that of life and death and man versus nature, men playing at god when they should not be doing so.” The Telltale Mind

“Roy William Neill puts forth what seems a sincere effort, injecting some mood and style into a film whose boldly exploitative title and premise set it down as routine even before a frame of film was exposed. Unlike director Erle C. Kenton, who was more of a ringmaster and then a craftsman on the two House pictures, Neill puts his familiar stamp on the film. It’s atmospheric, almost noirish in spots, and is enhanced by good performances as well as some excellent technical credits.” Universal Horrors: The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931 – 1946

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” …this isn’t on the same level as the other Universal films, and it doesn’t attempt the same serious tone. This is just an excuse to put these two together and have some fun. It still has terrific performances from Chaney, Ouspenskaya, and Knowles though, and is well worth checking out for fans of either monster or for fans of these “horror team-ups”. The Video Graveyard

“Simply put, fans of The Wolf Man are going to love this movie.  They give him several great transformation scenes and the make-up is an improvement over the first movie.  And Chaney does another fine turn as Talbot and has a good chemistry with Lugosi.  If the flick does have a flaw, it’s that Lugosi is a bit stiff as the Monster.” The Video Vacuum

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Trailer:

Cast and characters:
Lon Chaney Jr. … Lawrence Stewart Talbot
Ilona Massey … Baroness Elsa Frankenstein
Patric Knowles … Doctor Frank Mannering
Lionel Atwill … Mayor
Bela Lugosi … Monster
Maria Ouspenskaya … Maleva
Dennis Hoey … Inspector Owen
Don Barclay … Franzec
Rex Evans … Vazec
Dwight Frye … Rudi
Harry Stubbs … Guno
George Calliga … Townsman
Jack Chefe … Villager
David Clyde … Llanwelly Police Sergeant
Jeff Corey … Crypt Keeper
Sonia Darrin … Villager at Festival
Cyril Delevanti … Freddy Jolly, Graverobber
George Ford … Townsman
Lance Fuller … Vasarian Villager
Jack Gordon … Male Nurse
Charles Irwin … Cardiff Police Constable
Adia Kuznetzoff … Festival Singer
Doris Lloyd … Doctor Mannering’s Nurse
Torben Meyer … Gypsy
Spec O’Donnell … Villager in Tavern
Beatrice Roberts … Varja, Barmaid
Cosmo Sardo … Townsman
Sarah Schwartz … Screaming Villager
Anne G. Sterling … Gypsy Girl
Tom Stevenson … Graverobber
Martha Vickers … Margareta, Vazec’s Daughter

Filming locations:
Universal Studios – 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California

Technical details:
74 minutes
Black and white
Aspect ratio: 1.37: 1
Audio: Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Release:
Released in the USA on March 5th 1943.

Film facts:
Original prints of the film included Lugosi speaking dialogue as the Monster. Apparently, preview audiences found the dialogue and Lugosi’s Hungarian accent hilarious coming from the Monster’s mouth, so Lugosi’s voice was deleted.

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