31 Weeks to Halloween: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
Prepare for the shock of your life! Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man to overwhelm you with horror twice as grim!
Soulless Cult's 31 Weeks to Halloween countdown has officially crossed the halfway point, which means we are well underway on the road to Halloween 2020! And what's a better film to celebrate the sixteenth film in our countdown than the legendary meeting of two of Universal's greatest monsters in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man! It's the match-up everyone didn't know they wanted and now cannot live without! The film not only brings two of our favorite monsters together on screen, but two of the finest actors in the classic horror game together as Lon Chaney Jr. reprises his role as Larry Talbot - The Wolf Man - and Bela Lugosi as he stars in another Frankenstein film, but this time as the Monster himself! It's one of the most epic stories told in the Universal Monsters storyline, and some might even consider it the saddest simply because of Talbot's desire to just die. But the film sees the return of other various actors we've seen in the Universal films before, including Ilona Massey as Baroness Elsa Frankenstein (who was in Invisible Agent just a year before) and Maria Ouspenskaya as Maleva, who reprises her role from the original 1941 film The Wolf Man. The film takes us on a terrifying trip back to Frankenstein's Castle and does an excellent job of mashing together two fantastic beasts in an epic battle! If you even slightly consider yourself a fan of these two monsters, this film is an absolutely necessary viewing!
Written by Curt Siodmak (who also wrote the original Wolf Man film) and directed by Roy William Neill, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man tells the story of Larry Talbot's tomb being opened by two graverobbers, only for them to remove the wolfsbane that has been keeping Talbot at bay for the last four years since the finale of The Wolf Man. Once the wolfsbane is removed, Talbot is free to roam the Earth once again, where he returns to his werewolf state on nights that the moon is full. After being picked up and brought to the hospital after his escape from the tomb, Talbot is thought to be mad by the doctor and police officer working his case, even though he insists that he broke out of the hospital and murdered while in his werewolf form. Talbot insists that he just wants to die already - that is life is misery knowing he cannot control his urge to kill when the moon is full and bright. So he seeks out the gypsy Maleva - who knows the truth about the werewolf - and begs for her help. She suggests they travel to Vasaria - home village of the Frankenstein estate - in hopes they can find Dr. Frankenstein's notes on the mysteries of life and death that they hope to utilize to help Talbot finally die. But once there, Frankenstein's Monster is brought back to life and given new strength which leads to the ultimate battle of the century... Frankenstein vs. The Wolf Man!
What I really loved about this film was how it's told in two parts, even if the main focus of the film really is on The Wolf Man. The first part of the movie focuses on Talbot's freedom of his tomb, his return to the murderous ways of werewolf life, and his desire to finally meet death once and for all. The second half of the movie is all about his journey to Vasaria, his plan to find Dr. Frankenstein's notes and eventually, his face-to-face battle with the Monster himself! I think the story was done extremely well and also plays out excellently. The film really can be considered a direct sequel to The Wolf Man, since it literally picks up right after the original film ends - and it's absolutely more of a Wolf Man sequel than a Frankenstein sequel. But what's really important is the monsters, right?! Talbot has two pretty badass transformation scenes much like he did in the original film, where Chaney had to sit tight as the hair slowly takes over his face and body over the course of a few shots. His silent, immobile facial expressions speak volumes as his eyes scream out in pain and discomfort as he sheds his human form and becomes his feral werewolf form! I'll never get tired of seeing Chaney transform, but the best part is the end result - he looks fucking awesome. As he runs through the streets bringing havoc to the village, he really is one hell of a terrifying beast. But you can't help but hurt for him as he desperately wants to die so that he never has to kill again; it's obvious knowing he cannot control his urge to kill is literally eating away at him.
And of course, seeing Lugosi bringing shock and terror to the black and white screen as the Monster is also a huge highlight to this movie! I've been a big Lugosi fan since I first saw Dracula years and years ago, but I've definitely become a bigger one since we've begun this countdown. That being said, Lugosi's Monster look in this film unfortunately just doesn't do it for me. The Monster has looked way better in all of the previous films we've seen him in - not saying he looks bad necessarily, but it's definitely one of the weaker looks of the Monster. There's some really unsettling close-up scenes of Lugosi's face as the Monster and I just can't get behind it! But, that doesn't mean that his performance is anything less than stellar - in true Lugosi fashion, he delivers a spine-shivering performance as Frankenstein's Monster as he roams around with the iconic outstretched arms and groans and grunts. Those close-up scenes aside, the movie has some really great Monster scenes in it where Lugosi delivers a totally awesome presence as the beast. The fight scene the movie leads up to is nothing short of sheer brutality as the two monsters battle it out to the death!
Honestly, the only thing not to like about Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (which it should really be named the other way around since its The Wolf Man that goes out and seeks Frankenstein, but that's besides the point) is the ending. The ending feels rushed, uneventful and uncreative - I feel like there's so many other ways this could have ended that would have really made this film end epically, but it gets wasted on a weak ending that comes up out of nowhere and has zero significance. Without giving the ending away, let's just say it's one of the more disappointing endings we've seen in our Universal Monsters countdown so far. For a movie that did so great at telling a terror-ific story, I can absolutely see why the films ending might leave a sour taste in the mouths of many viewers. Regardless, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man is an necessary viewing simply because of its great storytelling and the iconic characters. If you can look past the weak ending and Frankenstein's Monsters' unpleasant look, there's plenty to love about this movie. Check it out!!!