In Universal’s next outing for Frankenstein, they would team him up with one of their other properties, The Wolf Man, and together they would make history. This would be the first time that any of the monsters from any studio would team up together in one film and it would set the stage for many more to come. But as the first, it is the best with the slightly damaged Lawrence Talbot seeking out help for his condition and coming across the even more damaged monster, the progeny of Henry Frankenstein. With only a year having passed since the release of the last film, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man would rejuvenate the franchise and if one had ever wondered what would have happened if the two creatures would have ever met, this film answers that question. Not only is it a sequel to The Ghost of Frankenstein, but also to The Wolf Man as the film also continues the trials and travails of Lawrence Talbot and his curse.
Returning to the film are many of the actors from the aforementioned films such as Lionel Atwill, Bela Lugosi, Patric Knowles, Maria Ouspenskaya and Lon Chaney Jr. Even though the film did not carry a budget as large as those films and being delegated to B status, its direction by Roy William Neill and its overall look was much improved over the last. Gone were the brightly lit scenes and back were the darkened shadows and dimly lit sets that made most of the previous films as suspenseful and scary as they were. As such, the atmosphere was far more moody and grim and it looked more like a horror film whereas Ghost, did not. The movie would be darker not only in set design and lighting, but in nature itself as well thanks to the script by Curt Siodmak. Also aiding to this darker tone would be the performances from our various actors, specifically Lon Chaney Jr., who stars as the tortured and troubled Larry Talbot, who merely wants to die and the movie would essentially be a chronicle to that end.
In telling this tale of life and death, the setting returns once again to the village of Frankenstein. The villagers are still wary of strangers and still live in fear of the abandoned castle, even though the monster is dead. But coming to town after being revived by the full moon and a couple of bumbling graverobbers, Lawrence Talbot is looking for a cure to his condition and nothing will stop him. He finds the monster in the ice underneath the castle and frees him, seeks out Elsa Frankenstein to gain her father’s journals and enlists Dr. Mannering’s help. But things do not go as planned as Dr. Mannering is curious and prideful, like the many Frankenstein men who had come before him, and decides to take matters into his own hands. Suffice it to say, there is no happy ending.
While the film was enjoyable on the whole, it did suffer a couple of problems that the writer and director seemed to have overlooked or had been told by the studio to simply ignore or cut out. At the end of Ghost of Frankenstein, the monster was blinded due to Ygor’s brain having a different blood type. In Lugosi’s performance here, which was good in and of itself, how the creature can wander around and see perfectly is a big point to not have noticed. Secondly, the creature no longer talks, which supposedly was not how it was originally going to be and the studio had Bela’s lines cut. The fact that they did so actually kind of fit in with the events as it is possible he suffered brain damage from having either the different blood type, being stuck in the ice for so long, or possibly both. That is slightly forgivable, but it is a lack in the consistency of the storytelling that is not. This would not be the only film in the series to suffer such inconsistencies going forward, which would not overly take away from them, but would be a bit of an annoyance. The devil is in the details as they say.
Lon Chaney Jr. is fantastic in the role of the Wolf Man, just as much as he was the first time around. His morose demeanor and sad but empathetic manner really puts his character across to the audience and you cannot help but feel bad for the guy. Once again, he steals the show from everyone else around him, even though everyone else was good in their own right, Chaney was the man you could not take your eyes off of. New to the bill is the stunning Illona Massey as Elsa who provides our monsters with the means to their destruction, and if you are not watching Chaney, you cannot help but be drawn in by her. Seeing Maria Ouspenskaya as Maleva again was a nice surprise as was the dependable Lionel Atwill as the Mayor. Patric Knowles was good as Dr. Mannering, but could not fit the bill of the mad doctor role as well as his predecessors did. As the monster, Lugosi was dependable though not as good as Karloff or even as good as Chaney Jr. was in the previous film. While he did a decent job, his facial look was off and his perpetuation of walking with his arms outstretched did not really make any sense as to why he was doing it, especially if the reference to his being blind was not in the movie. When it came right down to it though, the film would be quite entertaining.
Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man was not the greatest of the films to come out of the franchise, but it was a good one and it was incredibly fun to see two iconic film monsters battle it out at the end of the film. The movie continues not only the tale of the two movie properties, but also carries on the thematic qualities established in the previous films, specifically that of life and death and man versus nature, men playing at god when they should not be doing so. The film title ended up being a little bit misleading as it is really the Wolf Man who meets the monster, also seeing as how the monster rarely appears in the film compared to Larry Talbot who was front and center the entire time. There is a lot to love about this film and a few things not to, but as long as you take it for what it is and never mind the few little faults that there are, you are bound to have a great time watching these two monsters meet up for the first time, though certainly not the last.
4 out of 5