Director: Roy William Neill
Writer: Curt Siodmak
Cast: Ilona Massey, Patric Knowles, Lionel Atwill, Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskaya, Dennis Hoey, Don Barclay, Rex Evans, Dwight Frye, Harry Stubbs, and Lon Chaney
Composer: H.J. Salter
Release Date: 3/5/1943
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
By exposing the remains of Larry Talbot to the full moon, two grave robbers unwittingly resurrect the Wolf Man. Upon locating Maleva the Gypsy, Larry is informed of a scientist whose discoveries concerning life and death may grant him a long-sought-after release; sadly, Larry travels to Visaria and learns that Ludwig Frankenstein had been killed by the Monster (Bela Lugosi) many years prior. Desperate for answers, Larry contacts Baroness Elsa Frankenstein (Ilona Massey) in order to retrieve her father’s diary. Dr. Mannering (Patric Knowles)—overseer of a hospital in Wales—agrees to utilize Ludwig’s knowledge only to destroy the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s monster, thus prompting Elsa to grant Larry’s request. Unfortunately, the good doctor has a last-minute change of heart that leads to a frightening outcome for all involved.
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is a poor follow-up to The Ghost of Frankenstein, the continuity of which is fragmented at times and thoroughly discarded at others. Curt Siodmak’s then unique premise does, however, allow for exceptional insight regarding the Larry Talbot character, whose journey from carefree young man to tortured soul reaches its darkest destination in this chilling installment.
A direct sequel to The Wolf Man, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man wastes no time in establishing an eerie atmosphere. Specifically, an assortment of grave markers and dead trees combine with the luminosity of a full moon, thereby encompassing the Talbot mausoleum with a haunting picture of death, decay, and symbolic lunacy—all elements that serve to foreshadow the tormented existence of Larry Talbot following his “rebirth” via moonlight.
Maria Ouspenskaya should likewise be applauded for her performance as Maleva, who adopts Larry as a surrogate son in the absence of Sir John Talbot. On many occasions, Maleva convincingly demonstrates an understanding of Larry as only a mother could; in one such case, Maleva goes so far as to offer a succinct and empathetic defense of Larry’s desire to die—a strangely effective rebuttal to Elsa’s accusations of insanity.
Given that Siodmak’s original screenplay described the Monster as a blind character (a consequence of his body rejecting Ygor’s brain in The Ghost of Frankenstein’s climax), Bela Lugosi should not be criticized for portraying him as such. Even so, with all references to visual impairment having been excised from the final product, Lugosi’s now iconic “Frankenstein walk” is introduced without proper context. (Note that in the preceding films, Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff rarely extended their arms while performing the natural movements of Frankenstein’s creature—a mannerism that would make sense only if the Monster could not see well enough to navigate his surroundings.)
Though mesmerizing in Dracula, Lugosi’s Hungarian features were a decidedly poor match for the well-defined bone structure typically associated with Frankenstein’s monster. Compounding Lugosi’s physical limitations are any scenes wherein the Monster is positioned beside Larry Talbot, whose stature nearly parallels that of his not-so-jolly green companion. As evidenced by the fact that Karloff managed to exude an imposing presence for the Monster despite being shorter than Lugosi, the above problem might have resolved itself if more substantial depth had been added to Bela’s shoes.
In arguably his greatest performance of all, Chaney forever solidified Larry Talbot as the most complex and sympathetic figure among Universal Studios’ classic monster ensemble. Notably, by attempting suicide as a means of sparing potential victims, the Wolf Man assumes the role of a tragic anti-hero—much in contrast to Dracula; Imhotep; and Kharis, all of whom relish the malevolent forces that compel them to commit unspeakable acts of evil.
As Chaney himself indicated, the best monsters are motivated by factors beyond their control and elicit compassion from audiences as a result. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man contains the quintessential example of such, with one of its eponymous characters working to end his life and thus permanently kill the beast within.
While Lugosi lacked the elevated cheekbones, sunken features, and narrow jawline for which the Monster is usually identified, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man will nonetheless appeal to fans of the latter character in its title. Especially commendable is Chaney’s nuanced acting, which reinforces the incredible concept of a man at war with his primal instincts—the true conflict underlying Siodmak’s narrative.
Overall Quality: 8/10
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