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Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Roy William Neill
Produced by George Waggner
Written by Curt Siodmak
Starring Lon Chaney, Jr.
Ilona Massey
Patric Knowles
Lionel Atwill
Bela Lugosi
Maria Ouspenskaya
Music by Hans Salter
Cinematography George Robinson
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release dates
  • March 5, 1943 (1943-03-05)
(U.S. release)
Language English

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, released in 1943, is an American monster horror film produced by Universal Studios starring Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Wolf Man and Bela Lugosi as Frankenstein's monster. This was the first of a series of "ensemble" monster films combining characters from several film series. This film, therefore, is both the fifth in the series of films based upon Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, directly after The Ghost of Frankenstein, and a sequel to The Wolf Man.

Contents

  • Plot summary 1
  • Structure 2
  • Production 3
  • Cast 4
  • Reception 5
  • Tributes 6

Plot summary

After the events of The Wolf Man and Ghost of Frankenstein, a duo of graverobbers break into the Talbot family crypt to rob the grave of Larry Talbot (the "Wolf Man" (Lon Chaney, Jr.)), of valuables buried with him, on the night of a full moon. During the grave robbery, the graverobbers remove the Wolfsbane buried with him and he is awakened from death by the full moon shining down on his uncovered body, and kills one of them. Seeking a cure for the curse that causes him to transform into a werewolf with every full moon, Talbot leaves Britain and goes to the remains of Frankenstein's castle, as he hopes to find there the notes of Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein so he might learn how to permanently end his own life through scientific means.

By chance, during his transformations into a werewolf, he attacks and kills a constable. He then falls into the castle's frozen catacombs. After wandering around, he discovers Frankenstein's monster (Bela Lugosi) who had been frozen in ice. Finding that the Monster is unable to locate the notes of the long-dead doctor, Talbot seeks out Baroness Elsa Frankenstein (Ilona Massey), hoping she knows their hiding place.

A performance of the life-affirming folk song "Faro-la Faro-Li" enrages Talbot into a fit before the Frankenstein Monster crashes the village festival. With the Monster revealed, Elsa gives the notes to Talbot and Dr. Mannering (Patric Knowles), who has tracked Talbot from Great Britain to across Europe, so that they may be used in an effort to drain all life from both Talbot and the Monster.

Ultimately, however, Dr. Mannering's desire to see the Monster at full strength overwhelms his logic, and to Elsa's horror he decides to fully revive it. As an unfortunate coincidence, the experiment takes place on the night of a full moon, and Talbot is transformed just as the Monster regains his strength.

After the Monster lustfully carries off Elsa, the Wolf Man attacks him, she runs out of the castle with Mannering. The Wolf Man and the Monster then engage in a fight until they both get swept away in a flood that results after the local tavern owner blows up the town dam to drown the castle's inhabitants.

Structure

As ultimately edited and released, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is told in two almost equal parts. The opening scenes tell the story of Talbot's resurrection, killing spree, hospitalization, and escape across Europe. Much time is spent with a secondary policeman, Inspector Owen, and on scenes with a desperate Talbot hospitalized by Dr. Mannering. The discovery of the Monster and pursuit of Dr. Frankenstein's scientific notes do not begin until thirty-five minutes into the film. The second half introduces the Monster, Elsa, and the village of Vasaria and its inhabitants.

Production

Screenwriter Curt Siodmak claimed that during a lunch in the studio commissary he had joked to producer George Waggner that he had a great title for a new film in the series (half-heartedly — he needed a down payment for a new car): "Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman," which he mispronounced as 'Frankenstein Wolfs The Meat Man'. Waggner, not known for a casual sense of humor, left to have his lunch; shortly thereafter, he called Siodmak to his office, telling him to "go ahead, buy the car." Dumbfounded but pleased, the writer went to work. Thus that next film was Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, which served as a sequel both to The Wolf Man and The Ghost of Frankenstein.

Immediately following his success in Dracula, Bela Lugosi had been the first choice to play the Monster in Universal's original Frankenstein film, but Lugosi famously turned down the nonspeaking, heavily made-up role: as conceived by the original director Robert Florey, the Monster was nothing more than a mindless killing machine and not suitable for Lugosi's rising stardom as a leading actor. After the change of directors to James Whale along with a major script and conceptual revision, the virtually unknown Boris Karloff then was cast in his star-making role. (Florey later wrote that "the Hungarian actor didn't show himself very enthusiastic for the role and didn't want to play it.") Eight years later, Lugosi joined the franchise as the Monster's twisted companion Ygor in Son of Frankenstein. He returned to the role in the sequel, The Ghost of Frankenstein, in which Ygor's brain is implanted into the Monster (now Chaney), causing the creature to take on Lugosi/Ygor's voice. After plans for Chaney to play both the Monster and the Wolf Man in the next film fell through for logistical reasons, the natural next step was for Lugosi, who turned sixty during the film's production, to take on the part that he once was slated to originate.

The original script — and indeed the movie as originally filmed — had the Monster performing dialogue throughout the film, including references to the events of Ghost and indicating that the Monster is now blind (a side-effect of the transplant as revealed at the end of the previous film, and the reason for his iconic stiff-armed "Frankenstein Walk"). According to screenwriter Curt Siodmak, a studio screening audience reacted negatively to this, finding the idea of the Monster speaking with a Hungarian accent unintentionally funny (although the Monster spoke with Lugosi's voice at the end of Ghost of Frankenstein, the audiences had been carefully prepared for it by the plot of the film). Though it cannot be confirmed through any other sources, this has been generally accepted as the reason virtually all scenes in which Lugosi speaks were deleted (though two brief scenes remain in the film that show Lugosi's mouth moving without sound). Consequently, Lugosi is onscreen literally for only a few minutes, leaving the Wolf Man as the film's primary focus.

Lugosi suffered exhaustion at some point during the filming, and his absence from the set, combined with his physical limitations at age sixty, required the liberal use of stand-ins. Stuntman Gil Perkins allegedly portrayed the Monster in the character's first scene (thirty-five minutes into the film) and during much of the monsters' fight (conclusive documentation needed). Although a still exists of Lugosi in the ice, when viewers see the Monster for the first time (including closeups), it is actually a stunt double. Stuntman Eddie Parker is usually credited as Lugosi's sole double, but his primary stunt role was thought to be that of the Wolf Man. However, he does appear as the Monster in at least one shot, and yet a possible third stuntman also stands in for Lugosi in two brief sequences. The edited result unfairly suggests that Lugosi had to be doubled even in non-strenuous scenes, and the multiple use of alternating stuntmen in both closeups and medium shots damages the continuity of Lugosi's characterization. As an example, the doubles in the fight scene stiffen their arms, even though that was a cautious habit of the previously-blind Monster; for instance, a medium shot shows Lugosi pulling down a cabinet with his arms naturally bent at the elbows, but the next shot is of a double completing the task with straightened arms.

This would be the final Universal horror film in which the Monster played a major role; in the subsequent films House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, the Monster, played by Glenn Strange, comes to life only in the final scenes. (In the 1948 Universal comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein [the second and final film in which Lugosi plays Dracula], Strange has a larger role and the creature once again speaks, albeit very limited dialogue, twice muttering, "Yes, master.") It was also the last Universal horror film to feature an actual member of the Frankenstein family as a character.

Cast

Lon Chaney, Jr. ... Larry Talbot/The Wolf Man (billed as Lon Chaney)
Ilona Massey ... Baroness Elsa Frankenstein
Patric Knowles ... Dr. Mannering
Lionel Atwill ... Mayor
Bela Lugosi ... Frankenstein's Monster
Maria Ouspenskaya ... Maleva
Dennis Hoey ... Inspector Owen
Don Barclay ... Franzec
Rex Evans ... Vazec
Dwight Frye ... Rudi
Harry Stubbs ... Guno

Reception

Reviews on the film's original release were mixed, with many critics criticizing Lugosi's performance of Frankenstein's Creature, not knowing that the character was blind and that there had been dialogue scenes that were removed by the studio.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man currently holds a 25% maximum approval on Rotten Tomatoes.

Tributes

A tribute

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