Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man

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A more jaded man than I could suggest that Universal’s plan to start merging their horror characters into one big story like a giant, gothic blender was nothing more than a desperate ploy to keep their monstrous mob relevant and profitable – however, my counter argument would simply be this: fuck you, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man is goddamn awesome and you goddam know it.
True, it seems arguably like a business ploy to keep their characters relevant after a decade of chasing people around dusty crypts, but let’s not forget that Lon Chaney Jr.’s moping Wolf Man only debuted two years earlier and FMTWM plays chiefly as a direct sequel to his first movie while also keeping the continuity from 1942’s Ghost Of Frankenstein surprisingly intact in story and characters, if not in casting…
So charge up your neck bolts and soak up that full moon, because for the first time ever, the Universal Monsters are sharing their universe.

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Four years after emotional sad sack Lawrence Talbot was shot dead by his father to cure his terminal case of snarling lycanthopy, his body is disturbed by grave robbers who have weirdly chosen to loot his corpse 48 months after being stuffed into the family crypt. However, as they remove the bundles of wolf’s bane that packs the coffin, a quick blast of moonlight brings Talbot back to life who doesn’t regain his senses until he finds himself in a hospital in Dublin like the aftermath of some messed up bachelor party.
Dr. Frank Mannering treats the wreck of a man but the authorities are sceptical at Lawrence’s claims that he’s a man who publically snuffed it years ago, however when the moon pops back up, Talbot does his monster thing, scrambles out into the street and noshes on an unlucky constable. Realising that he can no longer die – which is all the notoriously depressed Talbot desperately wants – our hero seeks out the old gypsy woman who’s werewolf son infected him in the first place and the two go on a road trip across Europe (no, really) in order to seek out the journal of Dr. Frankenstein in the hope they’ll something that will kill or cure Larry outright.
After understandably pissing off the traumatised village people by asking about Frankenstein (plus wolfing out and eating a serving girl couldn’t have helped either), Talbot discovers the Monster frozen in a block of ice and enlists the powered down hulk to aid him search for what he needs, but the key to everything turns out to be Elsa, the original Frankenstein’s granddaughter, who is aware of her family’s legacy which has also claimed her father and uncle. As Talbot desperately searches for a way to conclusively kill himself once and for all, disgruntled villagers move against this strange little cabal, but will Lawrence’s alliance with the Monster manage to hold after a climactic dose of moonshine?

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A genuine high point of the legion of sequels that spun out of Universal’s orginal classics, the secret of Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man’s success lies within the second part of that title – that conflicted ball of fanged anxieties known as Lawrence Talbot. It’s not every movie that has has the balls to have it’s hero go on such a desperate journey just to find a fool proof way to freaking kill himself, but it’s a surprisingly engrossing thing to watch, especially as his journey to snuff his own candle takes him gradually out of his world and into Frankenstein’s as smoothly as someone lowering themselves into a warm, gothic themed jacuzzi.
This is emphatically Lon Chaney Jr’s show and even the musical chair recasting that pisses on some of the overall continuity doesn’t slow his roll (to round up, Chaney played The Wolf Man in ’41, played Frankenstein’s monster and the Mummy in ’42, went back to being a wolf for this flick in ’43 and then went on to be Dracula in the same year – could you see the MCU doing that with RDJ?) and he still infuses his greatest character with bucket loads of self loathing that somehow doesn’t make the guy an unbearable whiner. Actually, for horror’s most depressed leading man, The Wolf Man turns out to be quite an affable guy, bonding both with the old gypsy woman to the point where she treats him like a son and striking up a partnership with Frankenstein’s Monster after rescuing him from a massive ice cube which technically (and adorably) makes them roomies, I guess. However, Talbot’s loud and public melt down during a town festival is a particular highlight when he’s spectacularly triggered by an innocent song lyric that mentions living forever and causes him to have a major shit attack, grab the singer by his lapels and scream directly into his face “I DON’T WANT TO LIVE ETERNALLY!!” Way to work through your problems, Larry…
The classic Universal atmosphere is locked in with full force as the film doubles up with the shadowy city streets of The Wolf Man, the shadowy streets of a Bavarian village from Frankenstein and the shadowy and misty woods of both and the film boasts some superlative sets and model work (the climatic dam burst that sweeps castle Frankenstein away is top notch).
Some may have an issue that the film takes the “Meets” of the title a bit too literally as the titanic brawl promised by the bitchin’ poster takes during the last three minutes of the movie, but luckily the showdown between these two horrific heavyweights is actually pretty sweet as they rip a laboratory a new a-hole while they scrap. What doesn’t hold up nearly as well is the rather goofy science deployed that’s as random as some of the Bavarian accents and one-time Dracula Bela Lugosi simply doesn’t really “get” what makes the Monster tick and his jerky movements and moaning are a pale reflection of what Boris Karloff brought to the role – but then, if Robert De frickin’ Niro can’t beat the original, what chance does Legosi have? Still, Legosi admittedly fucking brings it during that final, brief fight as he screams, roars and hurls lab equipment around like it’s football practice.

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While far more simpler than some of the subsequent monster mashes that happened in it’s wake, there’s a nice sense of purity about Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man that just feels relentlessly classic as it eases it’s two horror icons together for a three minute battle for the ages and despite how brief the fight is, it genuinely feels like history is being made before your very eyes. Remember, the title is Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man. MEETS. So, y’know… Technically no harm, no foul.

🌟🌟🌟🌟

3 comments

  1. Thanks for the reflections on Frankenstein meets The Wolfml Man, despite its pretense of offhand, Street language sarcasm, unnecessary and painful at points, but not t so much so that the purity of your inner teenagers astonishment in admiration for the film is obscured.

    Unlike many others who have become too jaded or embarrassed by their boyhood passions for the wonderful narrative that Curt Siodmak created for his original character, I have shameless open admiration for the narrative at every level, conception, story, execution, acting and, being a lifelong composer and a long time friend of the man who wrote the music for this film, Hans J Salter, who wrote him a typed eight page letter of analysis and admiration of his many wonderful scores for universal horror films in 1963, at the age of 16, and who received a wonderful glossy 8×10 personally inscribed photograph from the man.

    One cannot say enough about the consummate command of atmosphere in the horror legacy, particularly in the films of the Wolf Man, which tended to dwell far more in the mystic regions of the Welsh Morris and the Bavarian valleys than in the cold clinical laboratories that were so much in evidence of the Frankenstein series

    Has this film goes, it is a fairly perfect extension and expansion upon the Wolf Man mythos, with one of the greatest openings of any horror film anywhere, for sheer raw thrill. The grave robbers are played with Shakespearean gravitas and their fear is literally palpable as their eyes and faces are under lit by the single lantern on the sarcophagus, and eventually come a side lit by the rising of the faithful full moon. Just watch the surviving grave robber clamber up to the transom window and scramble out of the mausoleum, in utter disarray.

    Well few have enough attention left in this riveting scene to give to the musical underscore, it is one of Mr Salter’s greatest moments, with sonorities so bone-chillingly alien and icy that it literally sends the proverbial chills up one spine has the resurrected hand emerges from the murky depths of the coffin.

    And what perfect trembling on the part of the doomed captive!
    Away, away, through the Edgar Allan Poe night, replete with a flapping Raven upon a bony limb, through the tortuous path of the graveyard and out into the terrified night.

    Ah, I could go on!

    … And, come to think of it, I think I will.. for every bit, every scene, every nuance, from start to finish is delectable and has been, at least for me, over the course of the past 62 years.

    You would think by now one would have grown weary of this fantastic tale, but no such luck! Each time I darken the room to view it, and perhaps intervals of 2 years more or less, the same timeless thrill runs through my being as I watch the laughing smoke of the credits to send upon the screen.

    As The story goes (at least as far as it’s creator Curt Siodmak tells it, he was in the studio commissary wondering how we could earn enough money to pay for his next car, when director George Waggner interrupted his reverie. Sometime earlier, Curt had turned a silly pun to Waggner in an absolutely unserious frame of mind, which went something to the effect of mentioning a new film with the title, ‘Frankenstein Wolfs the Meat Man’,… But instead of laughing, Waggner’s eyebrows bent into a concentrated furrow and his face darkened.

    Later that day, interrupting, ‘you’ve got your next script assignment… And the money for that car you’ve been waiting to buy…’

    Siodmak insisted he was only kidding, but Wagner wasn’t buying…. He knew a great idea when he’d heard it.

    Has our friend does observe, the narrative respects both the Wolf Man and the Frankenstein monster’s lineages, fresh from Ghost of Frankenstein and the Wolf Man – and even more faithfully than most people would ever realize.

    Aficionados will recall that the climax of The Ghost of Frankenstein was a stunner indeed.. both inspired and bizarre, fascinating and horrifying, with the successful realization of the plot to transplant Ygor’s brain into the Monster’s skull, endowing him, in one fell swoop endowing him with speech and cunning and malevolence far beyond that which the monster ever might have had.
    Well, unbeknownst to many, this hybrid creature is the character that Siomack very faithfully and ingeniously developed in Frankenstein meets The Wolf Man… Lovers of the simple old Frankenstein Monster and his rather inept in lovable ways May understandably object, having lost their friend in the finale of the previous film, and having had the cantankerous and genocidal Ygor-mind replace and inhabit him, but once over that hump, the possibilities are literally endless, and the script writer took excellent advantage of them.

    However, as many know, both the speech and the scenes in which the monster intelligently discourses with Larry Talbot were all excised from the film prior to its release. The supposed explanation was that people couldn’t countenance the Hungarian accented voice coming from the lips of the monster.. and yet, ironically, this is exactly SHOULD have been the case if, as the prior film clearly reveals, the consciousness of Igor was now driving the monster, and as both son of Frankenstein and ghoster Frankenstein clearly taught us, Igor is the possessor of a curiously diverse European accent, with the flavor of Bavarian madman and a strong current of Hungarian allspice…. One of the ghosties greatest creations, if not, arguably, actually his greatest.
    So, gone were the dialogues with the doomed Talbot, and their philosophical ruminations of life and death, the hatching of the Ygor-Monster’s cynical and diabolical plans.
    Likewise, it is important to remember that the Monster goes blind at the end of the Ghost of Frankenstein due to the mismatching of blood types on the optic nerves, a clear and perfect justification to completely wipe away all the criticisms of legosi enacting the monster stumbling around through the catacombs stiffly his arms out in front of him, just the way a blind person might in a similar situation.
    And there are several moments where it is obvious that he cannot see but must feel for Talbot, making exaggerated moves until his hands clasped Chaney’s body. We see this clearly when the festival of the new wine is interrupted by the monsters entrance and Talbot goes up to him and seizes him placing his hands upon the Monsters body so that he can be felt as a friend, yet maintaining safe distance less the monster should strike out blindly.

    Finally, there is the peak moment at the climax when the monster opens his eyes with a strange and faithful knowing, indeed, almost a cunning. This is due to the fact that throughout the film, which he we have never been allowed to be informed, the monster has been suffering from profound weakness due to his mismatched blood condition, and he is a mere shadow of himself with regard to strength.. indeed, quite depressed. But at this point in the film, mannering has charged him to his prior superhuman levels of strength, and he is mightily empowered, bursting his bonds in a single stroke.

    Now, you seek, campers, it all makes wonderful sense! And that is the film that we should all keep in our ideal minds when we are assailed by some confusion or complaint that Lugosi is not doing it correctly or as well as Karloff… Of course not! He was doing it that way because he’s a great actor, and he was acting the part of a crazed Shepherd whose brain was transplanted into a dumb root, who then fell into blindness and illness, and encountered a friend who just happened to be a lycanthrope as well as a really nice guy, who befriended him and helped him along his way and his darkest hour, only to be betrayed by the return of his power, enabling him to implement his dark desires.

    As a musician I have no end of the lights and musical respect for the wonderful spectacle of the festival of the new wine, with h its marvelous ‘Faro-la, Faro-li’, a seemingly merrily tyrolian drinking song, but under lit with poignant gravitas, a creation of none other than producer George Waggner… With the faithful, ‘for life is short, and death is lo-o-o-ng,…’, as indeed they are, a painful fact which Talbot knows only too well, and about which he does not need to be reminded… But this is alone worthy of an Oscar for the gifted Mr Salter, who himself had conducted Opera at the Vienna Vilksopera before he fled Hitler’s Europe to come to America, and the music is full of delightful middle European harmonies and melodic turns… Bravo, friend Hans!
    For those who wish to see the depth both of Mr Salter’s art and my admiration for the man that is work, please have a gander at my 40 page essay in the Magic Image filmbook, The Wolf Man, in which will be found photographs of the master himself and of that Master with this writer, taken upon one of his visits to the Grand Old gentleman in his ninth decade on planet Earth.
    Frankenstein meets The wolfman contains Lon Chaney’s most brilliant and moving moments, it completely dedicated and infused portrayal of the tortured Lawrence Talbot character, so many of whose Dynamics he shared due to his own natural emotional intensity and inner torments.
    And it has to be said, because comparisons always seem to leave him slightly tarnished, no one could have done better.. not carlos, not the go see, that any straight dramatic actors of one’s choice.. Cheney had the strange, touching blend of tenderness, tragedy, emotional extremity and sheer balletic ferality of a man who had become a Wolf Man, who’s every turn of the head or rotation of the eye towards intended victims scares the living of daylights and of anyone who dares to behold it in a way far more electric and brinkish then any other horror actor that one can bring to mind. Carlos terror was a slower and more insensate one, his warning growl more submerged and dour, just as Lugosi’s Dracula menace was more the product of subtle inference and suggestion, and convey through mesmeric silence.
    And what I have never heard anybody mention it, and I’m not sure whether or not it was an intentional choice upon Curt Siodmak’s part, even in the very climax of this saga, what do we find?.. but the ever empathetic Lawrence Talbot character , well intention to the end, somehow managing to emerge even in his lycanthropion fury, to save the heroin from the attacking Monster, with a thrilling faithful run up the steps to tackle him just prior to his seizing Elsa under the stone archway, causing both to pile into the dust of the operating theater for their final confrontation.

    How delicious, in that battle of brute strength against animal cunning, the almost surreal floating away of the machine upon which The Wol Man threatens from above, sailing through space as if in defiance of gravity itself.

    And the gleeful gloating of the Ygor-Monster at the haddock his newfound power wreaksupon the wolf creature.

    Oh, I can go on!..

    But not to worry, I can’t, any more at least. Now, campers, it’s time, isn’t it?, To pluck that title from off your shelf, darken your own operating theater, and sink into the joys of yesteryear, Justice if you were all of 12 again

    Even a man who is pure in heart

    And says his prayers by night..

    😟

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    1. This is an excellent tribute to this film, for which I share your enthusiasm, having seen it first pre-grade school and many times since. It’s a shame no print has been found with the monster’s dialogue intact, although, quite honestly, it isn’t so great. Siodmak didn’t really capture the sly and manipulative Ygor from “Son of…” and “Ghost of…”, instead portraying the Ygor / monster as, well, loud and dumb. Still, I found it fascinating to read the dialogue. It brought a new aspect to the film.

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  2. This is a great post. And you’re right – this movie is goddam awesome. I have to respectfully make one correction: Larry’s father doesn’t shoot Larry. Instead, he clubs Larry to death (temporarily) with Larry’s silver headed cane.

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