Synopsis of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
Larry Talbot, the unwilling Wolf Man, is returned to life with the unwitting help of grave robbers. He wishes only to die, in order to avoid hurting anyone else as the Wolf Man. So, he gets the help of the old gypsy from the original Wolf Man film. He is striving to get the assistance of the reviled Dr. Frankenstein … A man who supposedly discovered the secrets of life and death. The doctor isn’t available, but Talbot uncovers his monster (played by Bela Lugosi). With a confrontation between the two monsters being inevitable.
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) starring Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi, Ilona Massey
I recently had the pleasure of watching a rerun of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man with one of my older children–we share a love for the old Universal Pictures monster movies, and we had two for the money, so to speak, in this picture–almost. The movie begins with two grave robbers, who make the bad choice of robbing the grave of Larry Talbot (played excellently with enough angst to evoke sympathy without becoming overbearing, by Lon Chaney, Jr.)–the deceased Wolf Man of the previous film. Unfortunately for them, they pick a night with a full moon to do it. The dead Wolf Man comes back to life, killing them both.
Larry wakes up in a hospital, with a serious head wound. A wound caused by his own father beating the Wolf Man to death in the climax of the original movie. Larry is shocked to find out that he’s been “dead” for four years–and throughout the remainder of the movie, he’s striving to find a way to truly die, in order to break the curse and protect innocent people from his lupine alter ego. In order to accomplish that, he seeks out Maleva, the old gypsy woman from the first film, whose son was the original werewolf that originally infected him–and she guides him to see a scientist, who supposedly has learned the secret of life and death–Doctor Frankenstein.
The doctor is long dead, as is his son … But his daughter, Baroness Frankenstein (Ilona Massey), is alive … And Larry Talbot accidentally finds Frankenstein’s Monster (played by Bela Lugosi) encased in ice in the basement of Frankenstein’s ruined castle. Sadly, the Monster’s role was slashed down to less than 5 minutes in editing. Every line of his dialog is cut out. This leaves a very disappointing experience since the audience is expecting to see both creatures on screen. For more than the climactic final confrontation.
Along the way, Larry’s doctor tracks him down, the townspeople form a mob and decide they need to destroy Frankenstein’s legacy “once and for all,” etc. All of the typical stereotypes that are expected in this type of film, served up well–and even with a touch of humor. My daughter and I both enjoyed Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, and I rate it 3 stars–if Frankenstein’s Monster had more screen time, I would likely rate it higher.
Quotes from Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
Maleva: He is not insane. He simply wants to die.
Inspector Owen: This is Inspector Owen speaking, in Cardiff. Have you got anything in your files about a man named …
Llanwelly Police Sergeant: Lawrence Talbot? Why of course, he lived here.
Inspector Owen: Well, that’s all right, then. We’ve got him up here in our hospital.
Llanwelly Police Sergeant: I wouldn’t want him in our hospital; he died four years ago!
Mayor Of Vasaria: We must be more clever this time. We must pretend to be friends with the monster.
Vazec, the Proprietor: Yes, why not elect it mayor of Vasaria.
Dr. Frank Mannering: Mr. Talbot, if you want us to help you, you must do as we say. Now, please lie down.
Lawrence Talbot: You think I’m insane. You think I don’t know what I’m talking about. Well, you just look in that grave where Lawrence Talbot is supposed to be buried and see if you find a body in it!
Vazec: There, that’s his burial place. A fire destroyed him and all his misdeeds.
Maleva: He is dead?
Lawrence Talbot: Oh but he can’t be!
Vazec: He didn’t die any too soon for us; we all wished he’d never been born!
Maleva: Are you the proprietor?
Vazec: I am. What do you beggars want?
Dr. Frank Mannering: I can’t do it! I can’t destroy Frankenstein’s creation. I’ve got to see it at its full power.
Trivia for Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
- The Frankenstein Monster, played by Bela Lugosi, is mute in this film, even though Boris Karloff‘s monster spoke in the earlier Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Interestingly, Lugosi had refused the role in the original Frankenstein (1931) because he would have had no lines. When Lugosi accepted the part in this film, the original script contained dialogue for the Monster, which was later edited out.
- When The Monster’s dialogue was deleted, also removed were any references to The Monster being blind – a side-effect of Ygor’s brain being implanted into The Monster at the end of The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942). As a result, Lugosi’s sleepwalker-like lumbering gait with arms outstretched is not explained and became the subject of ridicule. It also established the Frankenstein Monster-walk stereotype.
- The matte painting of the town of “Vasaria” is lifted from Universal’s My Little Chickadee (1940).
- The dog (Bruno) in the film is a German Shepherd named Moose, who Lon adapted from the Universal Lot just after Moose’s earlier appearance as the 4 legged werewolf that attacks Lawrence in The Wolf Man (1941).
- Evelyn Ankers who played Elsa Frankenstein in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) does not reprise her role in this film. It was decided that Lawrence shouldn’t have two love interests played by the same actress so Ilona Massey was cast. This is not the first time in a Frankenstein film that the female lead was recast from an earlier film. Mae Clarke played Elizabeth in Frankenstein (1931) while Valerie Hobson took over the role for Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Editorial review of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, courtesy of Amazon.com
Over 10 years after first turning down the role, Bela Lugosi donned the neck bolts and platform boots to play Frankenstein’s monster for the first and only time in Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr., reprising his most famous role), killed at the end of The Wolf Man, is inexplicably alive and searching for the brilliant Dr. Frankenstein but instead finds the Monster, frozen in ice beneath the castle, and an ambitious scientist (Patric Knowles) who revives the creature and promises to cure Larry. Lugosi is lurching and clumsy as the Monster, while Chaney is appropriately tortured as Larry but stiff and snarly as the Wolf Man, more man than wolf.
Last-minute cuts by the studio renders much of the film incomprehensible: the monster was left blind and vocal at the end of Ghost of Frankenstein, but all references to either were deleted (which partly accounts for Lugosi’s performance) and he’s now sighted but mute. Roy William Neill, a talented B-movie director best known for his Sherlock Holmes films with Basil Rathbone, can’t do much with the perfunctory script, but he does deliver a highly entertaining conclusion: the Wolf Man battles the Monster while a spectacular disaster (accomplished with obvious but charming models) wipes the castle off the face of the earth … at least until House of Frankenstein the next year. —Sean Axmaker