Universal Classic Monsters: “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” (1943)

Frankenstein vs. The Wolf Man

The first of what is known as a “monster rally.” After playing the Monster in “Ghost of Frankenstein,” Lon Chaney Jr. reprises his signature role as Lawrence Talbot AKA The Wolf Man, while Bela Lugosi finally plays the part of the Monster after turning down the original “Frankenstein” twelve years earlier.

The first half of this film plays like a straight sequel to “The Wolf Man,” then midway it crosses over into the Frankenstein franchise. Maria Ouspenskaya returns as Maleva the gypsy, who is now a surrogate mother to Lawrence. The role of Elsa Frankenstein is recast with Ilone Massey, taking the place of Evelyn Ankers. This was a wise decision as Ankers had appeared in both “The Wolf Man” and “Ghost of Frankenstein,” so her presence as Elsa in this film would have been a bit confusing since she was far more recognizable as Lawrence Talbot’s love interest than Dr. Frankenstein’s granddaughter.

Lionel Atwill makes his third consecutive appearance in a Frankenstein film, playing the mayor of Vasaria, and the incomparable Dwight Frye was again featured as an angry villager. Patrick Knowles is upgraded from a thankless role of Lawrence Talbot’s rival in “The Wolf Man” to a compassionate doctor who is ultimately seduced by the legacy of Dr. Frankenstein.

Bela Lugosi’s performance as the Monster has been widely criticized. His dialogue, references to Ygor’s brain, and apparent blinding in “Ghost of Frankenstein” ended up on the cutting room floor, resulting in his very awkward posture and stumbling to be unintentionally comical. Though I greatly admire Bela Lugosi as an actor, I will admit that he was not physically imposing enough to be convincing as the Monster. In “Son of Frankenstein” and “Ghost of Frankenstein” the Monster is often referred to as a “giant.” The heavy brow and flat top head complimented Boris Karloff‘s features, but they don’t blend well with Lugosi at all. If Lugosi had originated the part in 1931, then monster makeup maestro Jack Pierce would have created a makeup that was unique to him.

The Wolf Man should have been the underdog in final scuffle, but Lon Chaney Jr. vs. Bela Lugosi seems to be a big mismatch in favor of Chaney. Even with suspension of disbelief, the cutting between Lugosi and his double is too apparent. It would have been a simpler if the filmmakers didn’t even bother casting an actor the caliber of Lugosi and just hired a stuntman to play the part.

I do enjoy that the villagers flood the castle as apposed to burning it down, which was already becoming a cliché. This historic clash of titans plays better as a sequel to “The Wolf Man” than it does the fifth “Frankenstein” film because that storyline was quite frankly becoming muddled.


About domcappelloblog

New York based screenwriter.

Posted on June 22, 2013, in Horror, Universal Classic Monsters and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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