Thursday, October 25, 2007

31 Days of Halloween - Day 25 - Movie 1

"Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman" (1943) is more of a sequel to "The Wolf Man" (1941) than a sequel to "Ghost of Frankenstein." The story really centers around Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.), who upon the full moon transforms into a murderous werewolf. At the end of "The Wolf Man" Talbot is killed by his father. In a very effective opening sequence, two grave robbers enter the Talbot crypt and pry open Lawrence's coffin only to discover him perfectly preserved within a bed of wolfsbane. When light from the full moon falls upon the corpse of Lawrence, he revives, killing one of the grave robbers. He's later found unconcious and with a severe head wound in an entirely different city. His claims of being a werewolf are met with dismisal, as are his claims to be the deceased Lawrence Talbot and poor Larry is placed in a straight jacket. He escapes, and with the aid of the old gypsy woman, Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) travels in search of Dr. Frankenstein, hoping the renowned scientist can help him find peace in death. Lawrence, to his despair, discovers that Frankenstein is dead, but discovers his monster, still alive, yet frozen. He revives the monster then seeks out Frankenstein's daughter Elsa (Ilona Massey) in the hopes that she can help him. Dr. Mannering (Patrick Knowles), who treated Talbot's head wound has tracked him through the trail of the Wolfman's crimes, and initially plans to help Talbot, and also destroy the Frankenstein monster by draining away his energy. Instead, becoming obsessed with the need to see the monster at his full strength begins to revive it by draining away Talbot's lifeforce and transfering it to the monster. Frankenstein's monster breaks loose, attacking Mannering and Elsa. talbot transforms into the Wolfman and battles the monster as a dam above the castle is blown up with dynamite, washing away the castle and the two battling monsters.

Except for the novelty of two monsters in one movie, "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman" doesn't have a whole lot to offer. The monster, this time played by Bela Lugosi (a logical casting choice as the monster now houses Ygor's brain, not that you'd know it, as all of Lugosi's dialogue was removed from the film, leaving his stiff movements--the actions of a blind monster, unexplained and somewhat ridiculous) is barely in the movie at all, and does little more than point at a bookcase, and then wrestle with the Wolfman at the end of the movie. Lawrence Talbot, sympathetic, and one of the best characters in the Universal horror cannon in "The Wolf Man" is less likeable, and more whiny here, seemingly in a fog most of the time. Ilona Massey, taking over the Elsa role from Evelyn Ankers (possibly so as not to confuse audience members who would now associate her as Gwen from "The Wolf Man") is a refreshing addition to the Frankenstein clan. This daughter of Ludwig Frankenstein from "Ghost of Frankenstein" had little to do in the prior movie, and here, she is neither a scientist, nor is she at all interested in seeing her father's, uncle's and grandfather's work continued. She wants the monster destroyed. Mannering is along the same mold as most of the bland leading men characters in the Universal horror films. Lionel Atwill returns again, this time as the mayor.

Audiences who thought of Frankenstein as being the monster and not the scientist, must have been expecting more monster vs monster action as the title of the movie would indicate. However, the title is "Frankenstein meets the Wolfman" not "Frankenstein vs the Wolfman" and Frankenstein, the monster does meet the Wolfman, albeit in his human form as Lawrence Talbot. Frankenstein, the baroness also meets the Wolfman in the form of Lawrence Talbot, and for all the fighting the monsters do, versus is a bit too lofty a term. The monster versus monster battle occurs only for the final few minutes of the movie, it's hardly anything epic. While I've always enjoyed this movie, it's more of a footnote in the Universal horror cannon than an essential part of it.

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