Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Wednesday Horror: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

Film: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
Format: DVD from personal collection on The New Portable.

I’ve gone on record as saying that I like the Universal monsters as a general rule. Of them, I’d have a hard time picking a favorite between Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolf Man. I like the monster because he’s probably the most sympathetic of all of the Universal monsters. He’s the one most easily misunderstood. Frankie is sort of the poster child for anyone who’s ever felt a misfit in this life. The Wolf Man, though, is the most tragic of the creatures. He is, at heart, a good man who has been cursed by something he didn’t ask for and didn’t deserve. Having them both in one movie? I couldn’t wait to watch Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man when I bought a set of Frankenstein movies recently.

Despite his top billing, though, this is far more a vehicle for the Wolf Man, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.). Of course, with any monster sequel from this era, we need to start by resurrecting the monsters. The Wolf Man is first, as a pair of vagrants break into the Talbot family tomb to steal the jewelry they heard Larry was entombed with. They find a surprisingly preserved corpse instead of the bones they were expecting, and when they remove the branches of wolfs bane from the body, he reanimates. And of course it’s a full moon, so he goes lycanthrope on our hapless thieves and wakes up miles away in a hospital having been allegedly dead for four years.

Of course no one believes anything he has to say about his being a werewolf despite having admitted to committing a murder during his first night in the hospital. Eventually, Larry breaks out and heads to the continent where he tracks down the Romani woman Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) who originally told him about the curse. Recognizing him as the man who received the curse from her son, she agrees to help him, and the two decide to seek out the famous Dr. Frankenstein, who is said to be able to work miracles in the area of life and death.

Of course, Dr. Frankenstein is dead (and this is Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein we are talking about here), and his castle (circa Ghost of Frankenstein) is in ruins. Hunted by the townspeople for even mentioning the hated name, Larry finds himself once again transformed. He eventually winds up at the castle, where he discovers the Monster (Bela Lugosi!), and revives him.

So here’s the thing--Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is both a joy and a little disappointing. It’s really short, and a movie that pairs up two truly iconic monsters could stand to run at least another 15 minutes to give us the team up (or battle) we deserve. That said, I’m not sure where I’d beef up the running time. The movie gets right to the point of the story and goes along at a nice clip. There’s not a lot of fat to trim here, and adding more might end up just feeling like padding.

It does feel strange that Frankenstein gets the top billing, though, because he’s not in the movie until after the halfway point, and he’s not in it a great deal after that, either. And yes, I know it’s Frankenstein’s Monster and not the doctor himself. Allow me a shortcut now and then.

Still, Lon Chaney reprising the role of Larry Talbot is a real treat. Chaney made a lot of terrible movies in his career, but he makes up for all of them with this character. The Wolf Man, as I said above, is the most tragic of the Universal Monsters, and a great deal of that can be credited directly to Chaney’s loser-like persona and hangdog expression. He’s easy to feel sorry for, and that’s exactly how we should approach Larry Talbot.

Of course I liked this movie. It’s loads of fun for what it is and while I could stand more of the Monster and more in general, it’s a hard movie to find fault with in any serious way.

Why to watch Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man: Two classic Universal monsters in one movie.
Why not to watch: Despite his top billing, Frankenstein’s Monster isn’t in this that much.


  1. This film is considered quite historical as it is sort of the first film of a shared universe between two big characters in both Frankenstein and the Wolfman. I would like to see it if I ever decide to do a Universal Monsters marathon.

    1. It's worth seeing. It's exactly what you assume it's going to be, but if you love the era and the classic monsters, it will not disappoint.

  2. This movie …

    I could go on and on …

    I saw the first ten or fifteen minutes when I was a kid, and I fell asleep. I knew I hadn't seen the whole thing, but 20 years later when I saw it again, the amazing fight scene that I thought I remembered from this film wasn't there. I had dreamed an entire fight where the Wolfman knocks the monster down and tears at his chest, and the ferocious attack revives the lethargic monster, who hurls the Wolfman across the cavern where he SPLANGS into a metal generator of some kind and leaves a big dent in the metal shield. The monster struggles to his feet, and there's this weird, very thick blood oozing down his chest. It's the first time he's seen his own blood and it enrages him! They start fighting again!

    The best fight scene in any Universal monster film happened only in my head!

    Did you see that the tavern keeper's daughter is Martha Vickers, most famous for playing Carmen Sternwood in the Big Sleep?

    I totally love this movie, but I also get what you mean when you say it's disappointing. Part of the problem was the heavy editing on Lugosi's performance. The script reflected the end of The Ghost of Frankenstein, so the monster was blind and had been given Igor's brain. So Lugosi's monster is groping around and awkward because he's blind! And the original script had dialogue for the monster. As the story goes, somebody thought it sounded stupid and it looked dumb, the monster talking like Lugosi and groping around blindly, so they edited it down, but there were a lot of scenes like that, so the monster was largely cut. It sure would have been a shame if 1940s movie goers had been denied the Festival of the New Wine!

    1. It's a movie impossible not to like and impossible not to be a little disappointed in. There's so much potential here that doesn't get fulfilled, and yet there's a great deal of charm here.