Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

Before the House of… series threw all of Universal’s monsters together in hopes of resuscitating their failing franchises, there was Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. A film that would take what Edmund Goulding’s Grand Hotel did for melodrama, and apply the same process to horror. Grafting horror icons Lon Chaney (reprising his Wolf Man role) and Bela Lugosi (here relegated to playing the hated Frankenstein’s Monster) into one semi-coherent tale. Universal going all out with this first multi-monster bash by actually creating a story that fits into _both_ series’ timelines! (For those keeping count, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is the Wolf Man’s sequel, as well as being part V of the Frankenstein series. A fact used to great effect right from the start.

The film opens with two men carrying pry bars and shovels sneaking around a grave yard. They’re clearly grave robbers, but are they there to rob graves for someone (a la Frankenstein), or to rob the grave of someone (Lawrence Talbot, “Larry” from the Wolf Man). Director Roy William Neill apes famed Frankenstein director James Whale set design beautifully; you’d be hard pressed to distinguish between the two.

The grave robbers, there to steal the fortune Lawrence was purportedly buried with, remove the wolf’s bane ringing Larry’s head, and wake him up. Yes, only a weapon made of silver can “kill” a werewolf, but apparently said werewolf must then be buried in wolf’s bane forever. Lest he gain a healing ability akin to Wolverine’s; waking Talbot from a crushed skull death slumber mere seconds after the bane is removed!

This will make for some interesting dialogue if and when this film is ever tapped for a remake. When the detective asks the hospitalized Talbot where he received his head injury, Talbot would now snarkily jab, “You mean a fatal head wound” quietly at the camera for a cheap laugh.

Even better, if Talbot can’t be killed per se, this means that Bela the Gypsy, true star of the Wolf Man, is still alive and running around somewhere. Reading the hands of engaged women everywhere, before murdering them in mist-filled swamps. Forget zombies, we’re looking at a world overrun by werewolves!

So the film had realistically two directions in which it could go: either keep the Wolf Man running loose in a metropolitan city causing havoc, or tracking down the old Gypsy woman (Maria Ouspenskaya) from the first film to figure out why her son Bela isn’t causing the world to be overrun by werewolves. If you chose the second option, you’ve either seen this film before, or have a very poor imagination.

Lawrence and Gypsy woman travel across Europe looking for the second cure for lycanthropy, the good Dr. Frankenstein. (Gypsies being gypsies, she refuses to tell Lawrence why her own son has not returned from the dead.) Gypsy woman feels if there’s anyone capable of changing Talbot’s curse it would be the man who mocks God by creating hell-beasts in his basement (Dr. Frankenstein), rather than, say, a man who has a deep knowledge of all things supernatural, who’s also a vampire hunter (Van Helsing).

Frankenstein’s dead, having been burnt up with his destroyed castle at the end of Ghost of Frankenstein. But Talbot falls into the castle’s frozen crypt, where the Monster lies frozen. The Wolf Man frees him, and then badgers him into revealing the location of Frankenstein’s revolutionary notes. (We’re also treated to a awesomely catchy “Faro-la Faro-Li” musical interlude.)

Enter Frankenstein’s daughter, Baroness Elsa (Ilona Massey), and the requisite doctor/scientist, Dr. Mannering (Patric Knowles). Talbot begs the doctor to figure out a way to drain the life from him; a process Frankenstein’s notes make strange mention about. (Basically, the human life-force runs on the same polarity as disposable batteries. Only with a psuedo-magnetic twist, so that if you put two negative ends together, it drains the power out of it.) The doctor though, becomes corrupted by the power given to him by Frankenstein’s notes, and decides to super-power the Monster.

Leading to the climatic battle to end all battles, once Talbot wakes up mid-operation to find the processes running backwards. Frankenstein’s castle, in ruins after Ghost of…, now runs off of hydroelectric power supplied by a dam conveniently located right behind it. A villager blows up the dam, submerging the castle while Frankenstein and the Wolf Man wrestle in the lab. The remainder of the castle is destroyed, bringing both their tales to a fitting end.

(The Frankenstein series would stop here, except for the aforementioned House of Frankenstein; who’s plot wasn’t anything like the films of the past. The Wolf Man would then find himself relegated to a supporting monster in those House… films.)

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