Monday, January 6, 2020

Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, Universal pairs the monsters

Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman, 1943, Universal, directed by Roy William Neill, starring Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Patric Knowles, Ilona Massey, Maria Ouspenskaya, Lionel Atwill, Dwight Frye. Schlock-Meter rating: 8 stars out of 10.

Frankensten Meets the Wolfman is a fun movie that classic horror film lovers will enjoy. It's not quite at the level of the 1930s Frankenstein tales, and it's a little short -- or perhaps it just ends too abruptly for this reviewer. Nevertheless, it has three stars of the genre (Lugosi, Chaney Jr., Frye), a gorgeous female lead (Massey) and the reliably sinister Atwill and Ouspenskaya.

The plot involves the wolfman (Chaney Jr.) desperately trying to find a way to die so he can stop killing when the moon turns full. He's on the run, with gypsy Ouspensakaya helping him, when he encounters Dr. Frankenstein's granddaughter (Massey). From her he seeks the secret to ending an immortal life. Eventually, they stumble upon the frozen Frankenstein monster (Lugosi)within a decaying castle. A doctor who wants to take the cursed Chaney Jr. back to an asylum falls under the Frankenstein obsession and revives the monster to full strength. The full moon rise, and, you guessed it: We have a climatic monster battle royale.

The film is hampered by Lugosi's performance as the Frankenstein monster. He shambles around in a pathetic manner with his arms akimbo, looking every bit the 60 years of age he was during filming. In fairness, however, the original script called for Lugosi to be blind and included a speaking role for him. That was scrapped by Universal, and as a result Lugosi looks a little silly to unaware audiences. Still, he portrays little menace as the monster, even despite the sabotage by Universal. However, the look on Lugosi's monster's face, when he realizes his strength is back, is a highlight of the film.

Chaney Jr., as the cursed Larry Talbot, is very good. The first half of the film, as he makes his way to the Frankenstein castle, is very chilling and atmospheric. Knowles as the obsessed doctor fails to inspire, but the attractive Massey adds to the film. Old horror hands Atwill, Frye and Ouspenskaya add atmosphere. As mentioned, the final fight scene between Lugosi and Chaney Jr. is too brief, but it's good while it lasts. It's a pity both needed stunt men to finish the scene.

-- Doug Gibson

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