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Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man


Lon Chaney Jr. - Larry Talbot
Bela Lugosi - Frankenstein's Monster
Patric Knowles - Dr. Frank Mannering
Ilona Massey - Baroness Elsa Frankenstein
Maria Ouspenskaya - Maleva
Lionel Atwill - Mayor of Vasaria
Roy William Neill - Director
George Waggner - Producer
Curt Siodmak - Screenwriter
George Robinson - Cinematographer
Hans J. Salter - Score
Frank Skinner - Score

Lugosi & Chaney The Wolf Man was probably not intended to spark a series. Yet, considering the profits Universal raked in from their sequel films starring Frankenstein's Monster and Count Dracula, in the 1943 production of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, directed by Roy William Neill, it was inevitable. By this time audiences were no longer frightened by the lumbering creation of Frankenstein as the studio had exhausted all its creative resources in infusing new life into the Frankenstein Monster character. Thus, the Wolf Man was the real star of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and remained consistent with his initial screem appearance, thanks to the scripting of his creator Curt Siodmak once again.

The new film opened with a pair of grave-robbers violating the tomb of Lawrence Talbot (played again by Lon Chaney Jr.). In a beautifully atmospheric scene and one suitably terrifying in 1943, Talbot's hand grasps one of the thieves and pulls him toward the coffin with an unbreakable grip. A fire results from a dropped lantern and the Wolf Man, who was either revived by the moonbeams or never truly dead at all, is on the prowl again.

A month later Talbot is discovered unconscious in a street of the town of Cardiff. Reviving in the Queen's Hospital, Talbot spends the next night in horror as he sees the full moon rise outside his window. For the first time, audiences were treated to a well-lit transformation scene wherein Chaney's face, without the obstruction of shadow and mist, metamorphosed into that of the Wolf Man. There was no longer any need for mystery. The make-up had already been established and the Wolf Man, now Universal's second most popular character (Frankenstein's Monster still had more box office appeal), would be seen from that moment onward in full view.

Lon Chaney The Wolf Man kills a constable in the town and then returns to the hospital. He confesses his crime and his werewolf condition to Dr. Frank Mannering (Patrick Knowles), an English scientist who refuses to accept his story. Sometime later, the human Talbot locates old Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) and expresses his desire to be truly dead. Maleva tells him that only Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein knows that secret. They will venture to the town of Vasaria for Frankenstein's help.

In Vasaria the pair learns from the mayor (Lionel Atwill) that the scientist is dead (having perished in the flames at the climax of The Ghost of Frankenstein). Despairing, Talbot again sees the full moon rise. In an unusual scene, he dashes throught the woods with his face only half transformed. Soon, the completely changed Wolf Man kills a child and arouses the wrath of the villagers who pursue him through the hillside and into the ruins of the Frankenstein castle. Wounded from a rifle bullet, the Wolf Man backs inside the ruins and drops through the crumbling floor into a subterranean chamber of ice. Reviving in the morning, the human Talbot finds the weakened Frankenstein's Monster (Bela Lugosi) frozen in the ice and frees the creature, hoping that he can reveal the notes and journals containing the secrets of life and death.

Incognito as "Mr. Taylor," Talbot meets the daughter of Dr. Frankenstein, Baroness Elsa (Ilona Massey), in hopes of securing her father's notes. During the festival of the new wine, Mannering, who has tracked Talbot all the way from England by his series of moonlight killings, attempts to take him back to the hospital as a homicidal murderer. When the Frankenstein Monster wanders into the town, he and Talbot escape in a wagon to the ruined castle.

Lugosi & Massey Mannering, accompanied by Elsa and Maleva, follow Talbot to the ruins. There the Baroness produces her father's notes, which inspire Mannering not only to save the Wolf Man but to kill the Monster for all time. In the end, however, he realizes that he cannot destroy Frankenstein's creation and reverses the connection. As both Talbot and the Monster lie strapped to platforms in the rebuilt Frankenstein laboratory, the apparatus crackles with electrical life. Fully recharged, the Monster breaks his bonds and stalks toward Elsa and bears her up on his powerful arms. Meanwhile, another month having passed, the full moon has risen and the Wolf Man snaps his bonds with ease. The two famous horrors tear at one another with the Wolf Man leaping off any high place at his disposal and the Monster tossing the heavy machinery.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man was a good action film which established the tone of Universal's subsequent horror films. Unlike Frankenstein's Monster and Dracula, the Wolf Man would always be played by Lon Chaney Jr., although the name "Wolf Man" would never again appear in the title of one of the sequels: House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

--DONALD F. GLUT, from Classic Movie Monsters, 1978

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