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Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943).

May 9, 2008

The Scoop:
Let the monster mash begin! By the 1940s Universal Studios, which had built its empire with its classic monster movies of the previous decade, was in dire straits as it saw its box office returns declining. Fans just weren’t buying into all those new Frankenstein, Dracula, Mummy, etc. movies like they used to. So with this film, Universal tried to up the ante and began blending all it monster franchises into one — this is at once the fifth in the fading Frankenstein series and the second in the more popular Wolf Man series. And with each new entry, it just kept getting worse and worse.

Since this was all about selling youngsters on the fight scenes between the Wolf Man and the Frankenstein monster, the plot is pretty incidental. But here’s what happens — some graverobbers inadvertently awaken Larry Talbot, a.k.a. the Wolf Man (played again by Lon Chaney, Jr., who also played the monster in the previous Frankenstein picture, “The Ghost of Frankenstein”), who seeks out yet another descendent of Dr. Frankenstein to cure his condition. That descendent is played by Ilona Massey this time around, although she doesn’t actually do anything here because, apparently, girls don’t do science. Meanwhile, Bela Lugosi finally gets his chance to play the reawakened monster (after appearing as Ygor in the two previous Frankenstein films and a gypsy werewolf in the first Wolf Man film) and completely sucks at it. In fact, Lugosi’s is arguably the worst Frankenstein monster on celluloid. And to round out the déja vu among the cast, Lionel Atwill returns as his third different character in his third Frankenstein movie, this time playing the local mayor.

This is not just a monster mash, but a mish-mash, and the film’s exciting poster art in no way prepares the viewer for the actually mediocrity it is promoting.

Pitting two previously popular movie monsters against each other is a pretty desperate move, really, and “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” was the first film to go down to that well — and in the process, proving that the well was dry before any of the later imitators even got there. This particular monster mash series would continue for a few more films, eventually incorporating Dracula and even Abbott and Costello into the mix. It also set the stage for other stabs at the genre, including the more recent “Freddy vs. Jason” and “Alien vs. Predator” flicks.

Best Line:
“He is not insane. He simply wants to die.”

Side Note:
Lugosi was the studio’s first choice to play the monster in the first Frankenstein film in 1931, but he turned them down because his star’s vanity (newly-found after the success of “Dracula”) was offended by playing a part with no dialogue and heavy make-up. A dozen years later, with his career on the skids and jealous of Boris Karloff’s career success with the monster, Lugosi finally agreed to play the role.

Companion Viewing:
“House of Frankenstein” (1944), “House of Dracula” (1945) and “Young Frankenstein” (1974).

The SF, Horror and Fantasy Film Review.

Take a Look:
The trailer:

And just to prove that this film isn’t all monster fisticuffs, here are the obligatory angry villagers doing their thing:

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