Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) – In the 1940s, a company called Timely Comics (now known as Marvel Comics) had two big characters: the Human Torch and Namor the Sub-Mariner. They decided that the only natural thing to do was put them together and make them fight. The whole Marvel Universe was born in that decision. They weren’t the first people to combine two separate characters and they were far from the last. I only mention it because I like comic books a lot and I’m always pretty desperate to pad the word count on these things… Around the same time as this momentous occasion of comics history (a couple years later actually), Universal Studios decided to try the same thing with their monster movies. You can take a guess from the title as to who meets whom. The films fits in both characters’ continuities following both The Wolf Man and The Ghost of Frankenstein. Lon Chaney Jr. reprises his most famous roll. This left him unavailable to reprise the role of the Monster he so ably portrayed in The Ghost of Frankenstein so since (spoiler) at the end at that film Ygor’s brain is put into the Monster’s body, Béla Lugosi steps into the role he famously turned down in 1931.

Some grave robbers are attempting to loot the tomb of everyone’s favorite reluctant lupine Lawrence Talbot. Of course the Wolf Man is not really dead and is soon loose. Once human again, Larry is pretty dismayed to learn that he will have to go on forever living life knowing he turns into a murderous beast. He wants to die but doesn’t know how. Of course Dr. Manning (Patric Knowles), the psychiatrist at the hospital he gets sent to, believes Larry is just crazy. The gypsy woman Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) however has heard of a doctor who might be able to help… Dr. Ludwig von Frankenstein! Unfortunately when they get to the village of Vasaria, they learn Dr. Frankenstein is dead (The Ghost of Frankenstein spoiler, I guess). Larry is despondent until he finds the Monster. Dr. Mannering, who may have a bit of mad scientist in him, believes that the key to saving the Monster and ending Larry’s suffering could be one and the same…

Ilona Massey takes over the role of Elsa von Frankenstein from Evelyn Ankers (in The Ghost of Frankenstein) because Ankers also played the romantic interest in The Wolf Man and they thought audiences would be confused by seeing her and Chaney together again. Yet Lionel Atwill returns in yet another role for the Frankenstein franchise (the mayor of Vasaria). However as he did with Inspector Krogh and Dr. Bohmer in the previous films he creates a distinct character. Chaney’s new death-seeker take on Talbot became the character model for most of the sequels. His despair is visible on his face (when not covered in fur) and while not as well written as The Wolf Man (though both were written by Curt Siodmak), he still does well with the character. Lugosi, on the other hand is an awful Monster. He’s a great Dracula and a great Ygor but seeing this movie makes me even more happy he passed on Frankenstein 12 years earlier. With Ygor’s brain in the Monster’s body it makes a certain amount of sense I suppose but certain things don’t add up. The Ygor-Monster was left blind at the end of the previous movie but in this one he sees well enough… but still walks with his arms in front of him as Chaney did at the end of The Ghost of Frankenstein. The physical action no longer makes sense but has become part of the popular perception of the character. This was the only time Lugosi played the Monster and good riddance. He was an iconic Dracula and a great Ygor but this is not a role he was meant to play. This is more a Wolf Man movie than a Frankenstein movie anyway. It doesn’t really bring the best of both worlds as you’d hope but it’s passable enough entertainment.

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