Universal Monsters: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

Written by Curt Siodmak
Directed by Roy William Neill
Starring Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Ilona Massey, Lionel Atwill, Maria Ouspenskaya
US Release Mar. 5, 1943
RT 74 min.
Home Video Universal Studios Home Video
Classic Horrors rating = 6 (out of 10)

Poster - Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man_08

Warning: review contains plot spoilers.

Although it features a big name co-star, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) is really a direct sequel to The Wolf Man. However, it could almost as easily be called “The Daughter of Frankenstein.”  The story takes Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) from his grave in Lanwelly to the lab in Vasaria partially destroyed at the end of The Ghost of Frankenstein, where Ludwig’s daughter, Elsa (Ilona Massey) survived.  The Wolf Man and Frankenstein franchises then converge.

As the full moon lights their way, grave robbers unintentionally release Larry from his coffin in the Talbot mausoleum. When they open it to find wolf bane on top of his body, they’re aware of the old legend, reciting the famous poem about werewolves.  This time, though, the final line has changed:

Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms
and the moon is full and bright.

It used to be “autumn moon.” Now Larry is an all-season werewolf.  But the thieves don’t put two and two together and one of them soon lies dead at the claws of the wolf man.

Larry realizes that he can’t die and his quest throughout the movie is to find a way to successfully end his life. “I don’t want to be cured; I only want to die.  I can find peace in death.”   After searching for and finding the gypsy woman, Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), she tells him, “I know a man who has the power to help you.”  She takes him to Vasaria, but news must not have reached her that Ludwig “died for all his misdeeds.”

“Now I must go on living,” Larry whines. “There’s no hope for me to die.”  After transforming into the wolf man again, a chase by angry townspeople causes him to fall into a snowy underground cavern.  When Larry awakens the next morning, he finds The Monster frozen in a block of ice.  It dawns on him that Frankenstein must have kept records, a diary, and asks The Monster to show him where they are.  They don’t find his diary, but they find a locket and realize that his daughter lives.

She’s reluctant to help. “My father was a great scientist, but all he created brought unhappiness and terror.”  In the midst of potential terror, it’s time for a festival in the village, so that The Monster can lumber through, inciting a riot.  There’s a voice of reason, though, that says, “You won’t get anywhere by raving.  We must be more clever this time.  We must pretend to be friends with The Monster.”  The man to enact the plan is Dr. Mannering (Patric Knowles), who followed Larry to Vasaria.

He eventually takes the role of the mad scientist right before the finale of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. As Elsa encourages him to bring peace to both the monsters, he realizes, “I can’t do it.  I can’t destroy Frankenstein’s creation.  I’ve got to see it at its full power.”  He starts flipping levers, lights start flashing, townspeople start speculating, monsters start fighting, and a lone villager blows up the dam adjacent to the laboratory.  It’s an exciting and spectacular climax.

As you can read, it takes a lot of energy and screen time to set up the final battle. That’s how dedicated to continuity between movies that Universal seems to have been, and I love that aspect of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.  However, the script by Curt Siodmak conveniently leaves out some facts from previous movies.  For example, at the end of Ghost of Frankenstein, The Monster had Ygor’s brain.  He was talking and scheming.  Now he’s again mute and has no free will.

Casting may compensate for that, because it’s Bela Lugosi who plays The Monster this time. (Lugosi played Ygor in both The Son of Frankenstein and The Ghost of Frankenstein.)  His monster is not a towering giant and moves with jerkier motions.  His face has a more pronounced brow than that of either Boris Karloff or Lon Chaney, Jr. when they portrayed The Monster.    Like last time, we could assume its growing number of deaths contribute to a change in appearance in each new movie.

I’ll always have a soft spot for Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. As a child, I had a Super 8 film of excerpts that I watched over and over again.  Whenever I’ve watched the full movie since then, a mix of memories and imagination always embellishes the action, making it more exciting than it may be in reality.  As a kid, what’s better than a movie with Frankenstein’s monster or the Wolf Man?  A movie with both of them!  As an adult, well, I’d ask the same question and answer it the exact same way.

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