FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN(director: Roy William Neill; screenwriter: Curt Siodmak; cinematographer: George Robinson; editor: Edward A. Curtiss; music: Hans Salter; cast: Ilona Massey (Baroness Elsa Frankenstein), Patric Knowles (Dr. Frank Mannering), Lionel Atwill (Mayor of Vasaria), Bela Lugosi (Frankenstein’s monster), Maria Ouspenskaya (Maleva, old Gypsy woman), Dennis Hoey (Insp. Owen), Lon Chaney Jr. (The Wolf Man/Larry Talbot), Don Barclay (Franzec); Runtime: 74; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: George Waggner; Universal; 1943)
“A lot of fun.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Universal hopes to bring in some bank for its sagging studio by giving the viewer two monsters for the price of one. Noted B-movie filmmaker Roy William Neill directs this wacky horror film from a script by Curt Siodmak. This is the fifth film in Universal’s “Frankenstein” series, and Bela Lugosi gets to play a role he originally desired but was given to Boris Karloff in 1931. The film proved to be big box office and initiated two other sequels: House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, both of which added Dracula (John Carradine) to the monster bash.
The film opens as grave robbers in Llanwelly, Wales, open up the crypt of Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr), the Wolf Man, who was shot to death by his unknowing father four years ago. Talbot revives through the influence of wolf-bane and the powers of the full moon and kills his unwitting lifesavers, and is found on a nearby Cardiff street unconscious by a bobby. Transferred to Queen’s Hospital, he’s operated on for a fractured skull by Dr. Frank Mannering (Patric Knowles) and has a startling recovery. When questioned by Inspector Owen (Dennis Hoey), he says he’s Larry Talbot. The inspector finds this incredulous when he talks to the police in Talbot’s village, who relay that Talbot is dead. That night, under the full moon, Talbot turns into the Wolf Man and flees from his hospital bed to do his werewolf thing. In the morning, he tells the skeptical Mannering that he was the murderer and how he became that way because he was bitten by a werewolf he killed and now only wishes to die to end the curse. Figuring him to be a lunatic, the doctor puts him in a straitjacket. But that night Talbot escapes by biting through it and heads to the village where the old gypsy woman Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) resides, whose son was the werewolf he replaced. She treats him as a son, and tells him she can’t cure him but knows someone in Eastern Europe who can. That someone is Dr. Frankenstein. But when they arrive together in Frankenstein’s hometown village of Visaria they are told the eccentric genius is dead. Talbot ditches Maleva and under an assumed name sets up through the mayor (Lionel Atwill) a meeting with Frankenstein’s daughter, Baroness Elsa Frankenstein (Ilona Massey), to buy her father’s castle. When alone he tells her his real purpose is to get a hold of the doctor’s diary and learn the secret of how he created the monster. He believes he can thereby find a way to kill himself and end his eternal curse.
It all leads to the all-purpose Dr. Mannering tailing Talbot to Visaria and with the help of the baroness locating the diary and finding all her dad’s equipment intact despite a fire leaving the castle in ruins. Mannering instead of going through with the destruction of the two monsters after discovering Frankenstein was frozen and drained of his power, decides to revive him to see what he’s like. Fortunately one of the local drunks, Franzec, comes along and blows up the dam with dynamite which sweeps both monsters away to their death before they can go on a rampage.
More a werewolf film than a Frankenstein one, this atmospheric B-movie though tacky and not as powerful as the 1941 “The Wolf Man” it is still a lot of fun. The acting was good from everyone but Bela Lugosi, who wasn’t up to the role and was made mute. His meeting with the Wolf Man failed to provide any sparkles, and left the film without the big payoff it should have had in seeing the two monsters go at each other.
REVIEWED ON 2/29/2004 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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