I am doing the 31 Days of Horror Challenge. Every day in October, I will watch a different horror film I have never seen before and write about it here on the blog.
What do you say about a movie called Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man? Pretty much everything you need to know is right there in the title. But for a film that feels like a last-ditch attempt by Universal Studios to squeeze out just a few more bucks from two of their classic monsters, it’s a bonkers little movie.
Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.), seemingly killed by his father in the tragic ending to The Wolf Man, is accidentally returned to life by two grave robbers. When he is discovered on the street with a severe blow to his head, he is taken to a hospital where his life is saved by Dr. Mannering (Patric Knowles). Talbot tries to explain to Mannering and the police who he is and what happens when the moon is full, but he is dismissed as an insane man. While the police and Mannering discover Talbot’s history, he escapes from the insane asylum. When he realizes that as a werewolf, he is unable to be killed, he travels across Europe looking for Dr. Frankenstein, the one man he believes might be able to help him die before he kills again.
Of course, when Talbot makes it to the village where Frankenstein lived, he discovers the Doctor was killed along with his monster. Refusing to give up, Talbot visits the ruins of Frankenstein’s castle to search for the late Doctor’s notes. Instead, he finds the Monster (Bela Lugosi), encased in ice beneath the ruins. Talbot frees the Monster which does not go over well with the paranoid villagers who still have traumatic memories of the Monster’s last rampage. This makes them more than a little reactionary when Mannering and Dr. Frankenstein’s daughter Elsa (Ilona Massey) arrive in the village.
This is a goofy little movie. Despite a running time of only 74 minutes, there is a ton of plot stuffed into the film. Not all of it is necessary, but all of it is entertaining, even if it’s unintentionally so at times.
Unlike the best of the Universal monster films, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man looks pretty threadbare with much of the action confined to three interior sets. The acting is also not up to the quality found in films like the original Frankenstein and Dracula productions. Even The Wolf Man had the good fortune to include talent like Chaney, Claude Rains, and Ralph Bellamy. This time around, other than Chaney, the performances range from hammy and entertaining to painfully incompetent.
But those limitations are embraced by director Roy William Neill who lets the film get sillier as the plot spins out of control. The uneven performances and the relatively pathetic Frankenstein’s lab set (especially when compared to the James Whale Frankenstein films) build to an over-the-top ending that finds the Wolf Man and the Monster battling while a flood threatens the entire village. Do the events leading to this ending make sense? Not especially, but the ending is the kind of thing you want from a monster mash-up film like this. It’s not a classic, but it is fun. Sometimes, that’s all you need.
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