Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is a 1943 American horror film directed by Roy William Neill. The film stars Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolf Man and Bela Lugosi as Frankenstein's monster. This was the first of a series of later called "monster rallies" combining characters from several film series. This film's script written by Curt Siodmak follows The Ghost of Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man. The film involves Larry Talbot who is brought back to life. Seeking a way to return to his death to escape his werewolf curse, he meets with gypsy Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) who advises him that the only way to stay dead is to confer with Dr. Frankenstein. The doctor is long dead but his equipment is in working condition leading Talbot to seek the help of scientist Dr. Mannering (Patric Knowles) and Frankenstein descendant Baroness Elsa Frankenstein (Ilona Massey). Talbot then attempts to have his life sucked from his body and transferred into Frankenstein's monster (Bela Lugosi).

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
Frankenstein-meets-the-wolf-man-theatrical-movie-poster-md.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoy William Neill
Produced byGeorge Waggner
Screenplay byCurt Siodmak[1]
Starring
CinematographyGeorge Robinson[1]
Edited byEdward Curtiss[1]
Production
companies
Distributed byUniversal Pictures Company, Inc.
Release date
  • 5 March 1943 (1943-03-05) (New York)
  • 12 March 1943 (1943-03-12) (United States)
Running time
72 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[2]
LanguageEnglish[2]

Developed under the title Wolf Man Meets Frankenstein, the film was originally developed with Lon Chaney Jr. to portray both Frankenstein's Monster and the Wolf Man, an idea that was halted before production began because of the physical toll it would take on the actor. The script was filmed with the monster originally having lines of dialogue which were later removed after a studio pre-screening for the film which led to the production staff laughing at Bela Lugosi's delivery of the lines. This led to Lugosi's dialogue being removed from the final film. The film was released to what the authors of the book Universal Horrors described as "lukewarm reviews". The film led to a series of what were later described as "monster rallies" involving having name-brand monsters interact with each other in films. Universal would follow this with The House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula.

PlotEdit

Four years after the events of The Wolf Man and The Ghost of Frankenstein, two men break into the Talbot family crypt on the night of a full moon to open the grave of Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.), seeking jewelry that was buried with him. During the robbery, the thieves remove the wolfsbane buried with Talbot, awakening him from death by the full moon shining on his uncovered body. Talbot reflexively grasps the arm of the grave robber with a fur-covered hand, as the other thief flees. Talbot is found by the police in Cardiff later that night, with a vicious head wound (administered by his father at the end of The Wolf Man), and taken to a hospital where he is treated by Dr. Mannering. Talbot slowly comes to understand his situation, but during the full moon, he transforms into the Wolf Man and kills a police constable. The next morning, Mannering realizes his patient had been roaming about, and tries to reason with him, though unable to accept Talbot's explanation of his curse. Dr. Mannering allows Inspector Owen, to question Talbot who becomes violently irate, then is overcome by orderlies and bound to his bed with leather straps. Not believing his story of being a werewolf, the doctor and detective travel to the village of Llanwelly to investigate Talbot and his story. While they are away, Talbot escapes from the hospital by biting through the restraints with his teeth. Seeking a cure for the curse that causes him to transform into a werewolf with every full moon, Talbot leaves Britain and seeks the gypsy woman Maleva, who has hearsay knowledge of Dr. Frankenstein and opines he may able to help Talbot. Together they travel to the village of Vasaria, where Talbot hopes to find the notes of Dr. Frankenstein in the remains of his estate, and permanently end his own life through scientific means. The townsfolk want no part of them or their desire to meet with the deceased Frankenstein, rudely ordering them to leave.

An upset Talbot transforms into the Wolf Man and kills a young woman, causing the villagers of Vasaria to raise a mob to chase him down. Fleeing toward the ruins of the Frankenstein castle, Talbot falls through the burned-out flooring and into the frozen cellars below. Talbot recovers from his animal state, and wanders around, discovering Frankenstein's Monster (ironically portrayed by Lon Chaney Jr. in the preceding film, but actually Bela Lugosi) trapped within an icy chamber; using a stone, Talbot breaks the ice and helps pull the now-revived creature free. Finding that the Monster is unable to locate the notes of the long-dead doctor, Talbot seeks out Baroness Elsa Frankenstein (Ilona Massey) the daughter of Ludwig, posing as a potential buyer of the estate, hoping she knows their hiding place. She declines to assist Talbot, but the pair are invited to the "Festival of the New Wine" by the Burgomeister. During the festival, a performance of the life-affirming folk song Faro-la Faro-Li enrages Talbot as Dr. Mannering arrives. The doctor, having followed him across Europe, converses with Talbot to persuade him to return to Wales before he has another spell. Talbot refuses to go with Mannering, and the Monster crashes the festival. With the Monster revealed, Elsa and Mannering agree to help the villagers rid themselves of Frankenstein's curse forever. The following morning, the couple, with Maleva in tow, meet with Talbot and the Monster at the ruins. Mannering is instantly fascinated by the Monster scientifically, and the Baroness gives the notes to Talbot and the doctor. Mannering studies the notes and learns how to drain all life from both Talbot and the Monster, believing the laboratory can be repaired for the task.

In the meantime, the villagers are dismayed to see crates of instruments arriving for Dr. Mannering to enable the experiment and become restless, knowing nothing of the doings at the ruins. Vazec, the innkeeper details a plan to destroy the dam overlooking the old estate with dynamite and drown all within, ending their troubles in one blow. The Burgomeister dismisses the idea as nothing but a drunken notion, but Vazec is determined and puts his plan into action. Unfortunately, Dr. Mannering's scientific curiosity to see the Monster at full strength overwhelms his logic, and to Elsa's horror he decides to fully revive it. The experiment coincides on the night of a full moon, and Talbot transforms yet again as the Monster regains his strength (and eyesight); both escape their restraints. The Monster begins to carry Elsa away, but the Wolf Man attacks him, and she escapes from the castle with Mannering. The Wolf Man and the Monster then engage in a fight until they are both swept away in the flood that results when Vazec dynamites the dam.

CastEdit

Cast adapted from the book Universal Horrors.[1][3]

ProductionEdit

Curt Siodmak discussed the development of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man at the beginning with producer George Waggner proposing the title to him. [3] Siodmak explained that he wanted to purchase a new car and needed a writing job to afford it, which led to Waggner telling him to buy the car as he had two hours to agree to write the script.[3] Richard G. Hubler of the Saturday Evening Post stated that the film was prompted by the nearly one million dollar gross of The Wolf Man.[3] The screenplay of Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman merges the stories of the two films, as The Wolf Man was set in the present day with the sequel taking place four years later, while the Frankenstein story is set in a much earlier era.[3] The authors of Universal Horrors commented on this, stating "Probably almost no one noticed or cared about details like this when the film was released", as Universal had begun targeting their films to a younger audience.[3] Several minor changes were made to Siodmak's script before the film was completed, such as grave robbers finding Talbot's body with long fingernails, a hospital scene with Dr. Harley (later changed to Dr. Mannering in the film) and Inspector Owen finding Talbot's clothes rotten and moldy and his shirt falling apart.[4]

Universal's plan for the film, initially titled Wolf Man Meets Frankenstein, was to have Lon Chaney Jr. portray both Frankenstein's Monster and The Wolf Man.[5] This plan was dropped due to concerns that the intricate make-up effects would not be doable, and the physical strain it would place on Chaney to play both parts.[5] Among the cast was Dwight Frye, who died several months after the film's release, making it his final film for Universal.[4]

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man went into production in October 1942 with Waggner producing and Roy William Neill directing.[3] The climactic battle between the Wolf Man and the Monster was handled by two stuntmen, Gil Perkins for Lugosi and Eddie Parker.[4] The battle was organized with instructions from Roy William Neill telling them where to start their fight, where to finish, and what kind of fight he wanted it to be, and letting the two actors figure out the rest.[4] On October 5, 1942, Maria Ouspenskaya suffered an ankle injury, and Lugosi collapsed on set and was ordered home by a physician.[6] The cause of Lugosi's collapse was exhaustion from the 35 pounds of make-up he wore.[6]

In keeping with the timeline of The Ghost of Frankenstein, in the script of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man the mind of the character Ygor was transplanted into the monster, who was able to speak and was planning to take revenge on the world.[7] Three scenes were shot with the monster having dialogue.[7] Following a preview screening in the studio, the film played normally until Bela Lugosi as the monster spoke, upon which the staff on hand convulsed with laughter.[8] Siodmak explained that "Lugosi couldn't talk! They had left the dialogue I wrote for the Monster in the picture when they shot it, but with Lugosi it sounded so Hungarian funny that they had to take it out!"[8] Without the dialogue, the fact that the revived monster was blind is not mentioned in the finished film.[8] Edward Bernds, the sound man on other Neill films stated that the director had "absolutely no sense of humor" and wouldn't have recognized the comedic nature of the scenes.[8]

ReleaseEdit

 
Re-release lobby card for Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man premiered in New York on March 5, 1943.[2] It was later distributed theatrically by the Universal Pictures Company on March 12 1943.[2] Clips of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man show up in other 1943 films, including He's My Guy where Dick Foran and Irene Harvey work in a vaudeville-movie house where the film is playing.[6] In one scene, Joan Davis enters the auditorium and sees the Wolf Man growl, prompting her to growl back, sending the Wolf Man running away whining.[6] In the film Top Man, Peggy Ryan jumps into the back seat of a convertible and for no reason exclaims "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man!"[6] Author and critic Kim Newman proclaimed the film to be "one of the most-often excerpted films in movie history", noting that it would later appear in the background of Mad Dog and Glory, being ignored by Robert De Niro and Uma Thurman as they have sex, and appearing in the background of Alien vs. Predator.[9]

ReceptionEdit

The authors of Universal Horrors described the initial reception to the film as "generally lukewarm", with many writers treating the film as a joke.[10] Bosley Crowther of The New York Times stated that "There's only a little tussle between [the monster and the Wolf Man] at the end. And that only lasts but a moment. They are both washed away during same. Too bad. Not very horrible. Universal will have to try again."[11] Kate Cameron of The New York Daily News gave the film two and a half stars, noting that the "producers have spent time and money on the production and have gone to considerable trouble to give it the proper atmospheric touches."[10] Harrison's Reports wrote: "For those devotees who like their horror pictures strong, this one will fill the bill ... The action and the eerie atmosphere conforms to a familiar pattern, but it does not detract from the film's horrendous nature."[12] "Walt." of Variety declared that Siodmak "delivers a good job of fantastic writing to weave the necessary thriller ingredients into the piece" and "Director Roy William Neill deftly paces the film with both movement and suspense to keep audience interest on sustained plane."[13] Film Daily called it "a horror feast in which devotees of the weird and the fantastic will gorge themselves to bursting. The opportunities for screams are offered with unparalleled generosity."[14]

From retrospective reviews, the authors of Universal Horrors stated that a great part in the success and popularity of the film was Chaney's portrayal of The Wolf Man which was described as "as good or better than the one he gave in The Wolf Man."[5] The authors criticised the screenplay by Siodmak as a weak element, noting how it either ignores or forgets events of the previous films.[6] Kim Newman gave the film three stars, and wrote in Empire that the film was "Silly but enormous fun", noting the gypsy song in the film and the climactic final battle as standouts.[9]

LegacyEdit

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man was the first of what would become known as the "monster rally films".[3] These would be followed with other name-brand film monsters in crossovers such as The House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula.[3] The authors of Universal Horror declared that these films are "often blamed for the decline and demise of the classic Dracula and Frankenstein series, but by the mid-40s they were on their last legs anyways",[3] and the monster rallies "may be juvenilia but they're slick and enjoyable, and a welcome opportunity for many of the best-loved horror stars to congregate in a single picture", and that among these Monster rallies, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man was the best in the series.[3][6] Kim Newman declared that the film set the precedent for future similarly themed films such as King Kong vs. Godzilla and Freddy Vs. Jason.[9]

Lugosi's performance as the Monster with his eyes half-closed and his arms reaching forward in the film led to the way the monster was portrayed in future media.[8] This includes the monster's pose in an Aurora model kit, Brendan Fraser's portrayal of the monster in Gods and Monsters (1998), and Glenn Strange as the monster in The House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.[8]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e Weaver, Brunas & Brunas 2007, p. 322.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man". American Film Institute. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Weaver, Brunas & Brunas 2007, p. 323.
  4. ^ a b c d Weaver, Brunas & Brunas 2007, p. 330.
  5. ^ a b c Weaver, Brunas & Brunas 2007, p. 329.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Weaver, Brunas & Brunas 2007, p. 331.
  7. ^ a b Weaver, Brunas & Brunas 2007, p. 326.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Weaver, Brunas & Brunas 2007, p. 327.
  9. ^ a b c Newman 2006.
  10. ^ a b Weaver, Brunas & Brunas 2007, p. 332.
  11. ^ Crowther 1943.
  12. ^ "'Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man' with Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, Patric Knowles and Ilona Massey". Harrison's Reports: 38. March 6, 1943.
  13. ^ Walt. 1943.
  14. ^ "Reviews of the New Films". Film Daily: 8. March 1, 1943.

SourcesEdit


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