Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man


Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

Infobox_Film
name = Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man


caption = Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man movie poster
director = Roy William Neill
writer = Curt Siodmak
starring = Lon Chaney, Jr.
Ilona Massey
Patric Knowles
Lionel Atwill
Bela Lugosi
Maria Ouspenskaya
producer = George Waggner
distributor = Universal Pictures
released = March 5, 1943 U.S. release
running time = 74 min
language = English
budget =
music =
preceded_by = "Ghost of Frankenstein" (1942)
"The Wolf Man" (1941)
followed_by = "House of Frankenstein" (1944)

"Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man", released in 1943, is an American horror film produced by Universal Studios starring Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Wolf Man and Bela Lugosi as Frankenstein's monster. The movie was the first of a series of "ensemble" monster films combining characters from several film series. This film, therefore, is both the fifth in the series of films based upon Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" and a sequel to "The Wolf Man".

Plot summary

Larry Talbot, the "Wolf Man", is awakened from death by grave robbers. Seeking a cure for the curse that causes him to transform into a werewolf with every full moon, he goes to Frankenstein's castle, as he hopes to find there the notes of Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein so he might learn how to permanently end his own life through scientific means, knowing now that being struck by silver was not the final cure the legend claims. By chance, he falls into the castle's frozen catacombs and revives Frankenstein's Monster. Finding that the Monster is unable to locate the notes of the long-dead doctor, Talbot seeks out Baroness Elsa Frankenstein, hoping she knows their hiding place. After the Monster's revival becomes known to the villagers, she gives the notes to Talbot and Dr. Mannering, who has tracked Talbot across Europe, so that they may be used in an effort to drain all life from both Talbot and the Monster. Ultimately, however, Dr. Mannering's desire to see the Monster at full strength overwhelms his logic, and to Elsa's horror he decides to fully revive it. (While the explanation of the Monster's degree of incapacity was cut from the film, Lugosi's portrayal clearly shows him to be blinded and stiffened by his ordeal.) As an unfortunate coincidence, the experiment takes place on the night of a full moon, and Talbot is transformed just as the Monster regains his strength. After the Monster lustfully carries off Elsa, the Wolf Man attacks him, she runs out of the castle with the doctor, and the two title characters perish in a flood that results after the local tavern owner blows up the town dam to drown the castle's inhabitants.

tructure

As ultimately edited and released, "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" is told in two almost precisely-equal halves. The discovery of the Monster and pursuit of the notes don't begin until thirty-five minutes into the film; the preceding scenes tell the story of Talbot's resurrection, killing spree, hospitalization, and escape across Europe. Most synopses of the film's plot begin with his discovery of the Monster and describe the first half only briefly. Much time is spent with a secondary police inspector character and on scenes with a desperate Talbot hospitalized by Dr. Mannering; a well-regarded opening sequence notwithstanding, the first half of the film is largely forgotten. The second half introduces the Monster, Elsa, and the village of Vasaria and its inhabitants.

Production

Immediately following his success in "Dracula", Lugosi had been the first choice to play the Monster in Universal's original "Frankenstein" film, but Lugosi famously either turned down the non-speaking part or was disinvited after director Robert Florey was replaced by James Whale; the virtually unknown Boris Karloff then was cast in his star-making role. (Florey later wrote that "the Hungarian actor didn't show himself very enthusiastic for the role and didn't want to play it.") Eight years later, Lugosi joined the franchise with one of his greatest portrayals, the Monster's twisted companion Ygor in "Son of Frankenstein". He returned to the role in the sequel, "The Ghost of Frankenstein", in which Ygor's brain is implanted into the Monster (now Chaney), causing the creature to take on Lugosi/Ygor's voice. After plans for Chaney to play both the Monster and his original Larry Talbot in the next film fell through for logistical reasons, the natural next step was for Lugosi, at 60, to take on the part that he once was slated to originate.

That next film was "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man," which as originally written served as a sequel both to "The Ghost of Frankenstein" and "The Wolf Man." The original script — and indeed the movie as originally filmed — had the Monster performing dialogue throughout the film, including references to the events of "Ghost" and indicating that the Monster is now nearly blind (a side-effect of the transplant as revealed at the end of the previous film). According to screenwriter Curt Siodmak, a screening audience (studio or public) reacted negatively to this, finding the idea of the Monster speaking with a thick Hungarian accent unintentionally funny (although the Monster spoke with Lugosi's voice at the end of "Ghost of Frankenstein" and audiences didn't hoot it off the screen). Though it cannot be confirmed through any other sources, this has been generally accepted as the reason virtually all scenes in which Lugosi speaks were deleted (though two brief scenes remain in the film that show Lugosi's mouth moving without sound). Consequently, Lugosi is onscreen literally for only a few minutes, leaving the Wolf Man as the film's primary focus.

Lugosi suffered exhaustion at some point during the filming, and his absence from the set, combined with his physical limitations at age 60, required the liberal use of stand-ins. Stuntman Gil Perkins actually portrayed the Monster in the character's first scene (thirty-five minutes into the film) and during much of the monsters' fight. Although a still exists of Lugosi in the ice, when viewers see the Monster for the first time (including closeups), it is actually Perkins. Stuntman Eddie Parker is usually credited as Lugosi's sole double, but his primary stunt role was that of the Wolf Man. However, he does appear as the Monster in at least one shot, and yet a possible third stuntman also stands in for Lugosi. The edited result unfairly suggests that Lugosi had to be doubled even in non-strenuous scenes, and the multiple use of alternating stuntmen in both closeups and medium shots damages the continuity of Lugosi's characterization. As an example, the doubles in the fight scene stiffen their arms, even though that was a cautious habit of the previously-blind Monster; for instance, a medium shot shows Lugosi pulling down a cabinet with his arms naturally bent at the elbows, but the next shot is of a double completing the task with straightened arms.

Lugosi as Frankenstein's Monster

While Lugosi has suffered years of critical derision for his performance, many horror buffs have attempted to rehabilitate his reputation as the Monster. Allowing for the extensive edits and poor continuity during the stunt sequences, some believe an extremely original portrayal still remains. From the previous film, we do know that Monster has an all-new personality from the brain of a broken-down grave robber who thought his new super-human body would allow him to exact vengeance on a world that cruelly disdains misfits like himself (and the Monster).

Lugosi's debilitated creature is defeated but proud; though he is unable to see very much in front of him, he walks with a patrician assurance. He is noticeably pleased with himself when he finds the documents, and he assumes the self-confident stance of a mandarin when Talbot opens them and finds nothing but personal papers. He hisses and gurgles when cornered, and the reanimation sequence during the film's climax allows an engaged Lugosi some of the most celebrated close-ups of the Universal horror canon. Scenes like that one (and a village musical number) also have helped elevate the film to camp status, the very notion of Bela Lugosi as Frankenstein's Monster engendering a perverse affection among absurdists.

Another subject of contention is whether the clumsiness of Lugosi's Monster is rendered ludicrous by the cutting of all references to the reasons for it. There were, after all, precedents in each of the three earlier sequels for audiences to expect the Monster to suffer physically from the calamity at the end of the film it followed. While he survived his first ordeal (the windmill fire) with his strength intact, he was cosmetically damaged, and in the next two films he is introduced with greatly diminished physical capacity. Therefore, it is perfectly logical to attribute the Monster's clumsiness to his years in a frozen state. (Interestingly, it is Lugosi's performance that firmly established the Frankenstein's Monster stereotype of walking stiff-legged with arms outstretched.) And his obviously poor vision would appear to be a form of "snow blindness" to viewers unaware that it was a result of the transplant rather than his entombment.

The deleted footage with Lugosi speaking as the Monster has become legendarily elusive, and few horror-film fans are willing to accept the thesis that Lugosi's speaking voice would have ruined the film, at least not without seeing it first. Some speculate that the megalomaniacal dialogue written for him by Siodmak would have been more likely to cause the audience to laugh, if in fact they did. As of mid-2007, the footage has yet to surface.

This would be the final Universal horror film in which the Monster played a major role; in the subsequent films "House of Frankenstein" and "House of Dracula", the Monster, now played by Glenn Strange, comes to life only in the final scenes. In the 1948 Universal comedy "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (the second and only other film in which Lugosi plays Dracula), Strange has a larger role and the creature once again has the ability of speech, albeit very limited dialogue, twice muttering, "Yes, master".

Tribute

A tribute to this meeting of two horror film legends happens near the beginning of the film "Alien vs. Predator" when this film is seen playing on a television at the satellite receiving station.

External links

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