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The Test of Time: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

05.05.2016by: Ryan Doom

We all have certain movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? Do they remain must see? So…the point of this column is to determine how a film holds up for a modern horror audience, to see if it stands the Test of Time.

Director: Director: Roy William Neill
Starring: Lon Chaney Jr, Ilona Massey, and Bela Lugosi.

Team up movies seem all the rage these days. Heroes and villains not only share the same universe, but the screen as well. The idea that Batman and Superman could be in the same movie seemed a pipe dream to a young Mr. Doom (me), but by the time it finally arrived, it was too late to feel special, as Marvel had already completed that task ten times over. We just expect it now as with CAPTAIN AMERICA back in theaters as he teams up with 252 Marvel characters.

But this phenomenon isn’t limited to the superhero genre. No, Universal Studios has entered into the “shared universe” race with Tom Cruise and The Mummy leading the way. However, this isn’t the first time monsters collided. In fact, the first monster mash was filmed during the height of WWII as it brought two of Universal Studios most iconic characters and actors, but does it hold up against the test of time?

Under the examination: FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN. .

Frankenstein, Wolf Man

The battle...almost begins.

THE STORY: FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN starts when a couple grave robbers venture into the Talbot family tomb in search of the late Larry (who they believe was buried with riches). Unknowingly, they wake not only the seemingly dead Talbot, but the wolf within him as well. He goes out on the kill and later wakes in a hospital. The man is tired, and only wants his wolf curse lifted. With the help of a gypsy woman, they venture to seek the help of one Dr. Frankenstein. Instead, Talbot finds the Monster frozen in a block of ice. He chips away at the ice until the big fella is free and then…shenanigans.

Wolf Man, Chaney

Always keep that shirt tucked.

WHAT STILL HOLDS UP: I have to admit, the more times I watch Lon Chaney Jr, the more I love the guy. Seriously, it’s too bad he isn’t remembered with the same reverence as his peers because he deserves it. He’s the best Wolf Man in cinema and his Larry Talbot truly looks conflicted, scared, and bewildered. Chaney plays the character like a man haunted by this curse, but he’s also likable, which seems like a tough act to pull off. Even more, you gotta give respect to an actor who plays a ferocious Wolf Man, yet his shirt remains tucked in at all times.

The best part about revisiting something like FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN comes from the Gothic styling. The use of shadows that only black and white movies allow. It’s not as gorgeous as the original FRANKENSTEIN, but there’s still some fantastic looking scenes. As for the story, the first 30 minutes really works. Talbot’s journey to erase the curse is much more interesting than the rest of the movie. In fact, the first 25 minutes focus solely on his story. I actually forgot about the Frankenstein factor until they travel to Vasaria (aka Germany but it was during WWII so no one wanted to make the Germans seem likable) and someone drops the good doctor’s name. Of course, when our two monsters finally do meet, that’s the pay off, and it’s a good one though it’s just not long enough.

Fight night.

WHAT BLOWS NOW: I can’t help but have admiration for the late Bela Lugosi. He’s a true icon of the genre thanks to DRACULA, and for a whole other generation thanks to Tim Burton’s fantastic ED WOOD. Without question (you’re an asshole if you do), Lugosi captured the essence of Bram Stoker’s character and set the blood sucking bar high for all vampires to come. But as Frankenstein’s Monster …eh…not so much. Lugosi stinks, looking like a cartoon version of the character with his arms out stiff and bobbing from side to side with each step. Hell, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN gave the character better respect, and it was a spoof. He simply can’t match the intensity that Boris Karloff brought. Not only is he not good, he’s too short and not menacing enough for the role. What’s worse, Lugosi supposedly only took the role if the Monster spoke. And he did…with actual dialogue, but then it was all cut from the final print. Too bad. That would have really added to the film.

But the worse offense…despite the title of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, it’s a scam. It should be called THE WOLF MAN’S VERY BRIEF ENCOUNTER WITH FRANKENSTEIN. Seriously, Lugosi only appears for about five minutes. Supposedly he had more screen time (which makes sense considering he had dialogue), but still. At the same time, the story starts strong, but honestly once they arrive in Vasaria, it just drags. Without Dr. Frankenstein around, the movie really lacks.  

Perfectly frozen. 

THE VERDICT: FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN is entertaining to revisit. It stars two of Universal Studios iconic actors and characters, but it plays more like a B flick. And with a run time of only an hour and fourteen minutes, you’d think time would fly by. But it doesn’t.

GET FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN DVD HERE

Even the Wolf Man needs style.

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