Editor’s Note: The links within all point back to the original sources. Perhaps one day I will fix them but more than likely I will keep them as is to honor the past (and because it is so much easier). Links to the AVC are likely off due to the Kinja switchover.
10/12/2016 – Universal: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
Directed by Roy William Neill
Well thanks a lot TCM for showing the sequel weeks before the original film. Well at least one of the films it is a sequel to since this is the sequel to both The Ghost of Frankenstein and The Wolf Man. See, this is the granddaddy of all crossover films and as good a place as any to look at both them and the Universal horror movies. While dating back to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Phantom of the Opera, The Man Who Laughs, and more of the silent era, the Universal Monsters as they are frequently called stepped into their most recognizable period as some of the first sound horror films.
The most famous of the films come from there the six major monsters with Dracula(1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), Frankenstein (1933), The Wolf Man (1941), and Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and their accompanying sequels. Aside from Creature from the Black Lagoon (infected by the misogyny of director Jack Arnold), they are all classic films with plenty of the sequels being great on their own (or better in the case of Bride of Frankenstein. They also turned out quality films such as The Old Dark House, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Raven, The Invisible Ray, Black Friday, The Black Cat, The Monolith Monsters, and Curse of the Undead. All these films basically established the very way we think of and look at horror with all its darkness, shadows, and fog far beyond their nearly four-decade long run.
Following up the great Son of Frankenstein and mediocre The Ghost of Frankenstein(which actually starred the Wolf Man himself Lon Chaney Jr. as the monster replacing the far superior Boris Karloff), it was clear the series needed something new to keep it going and breather some life into it so to speak. Throwing him together with the hot new Universal Monster seems like a no-brainer now and sure enough this was far from the last time Frankenstein’s monster would crossover with the other Universal Monsters (House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein). Since Lon Chaney Jr. was unable to play both roles, the original Dracula and Ygor from the prior two Frankenstein movies, Bela Lugosi, has taken over the role of Frankenstein’s monster.
The film is far more of a story of the wolf man who’s trying to find a way to die (believing Dr. Frankenstein holds the answer) than of Frankenstein’s monster (who starts the film frozen in ice) which makes sense since even the Frankenstein films were more about the doctor. It’s even more noticeable since while Karloff was able to infuse the monster with a personality and heart, Lugosi just plays him as a lumbering beast, albeit one who seems remarkable chill most of the time. This time, our designated member of the Frankenstein family is his daughter who being a woman clearly couldn’t have taken up the mantle next (Dracula’s daughter is clearly the superior one) or even show any signs of being one. Instead we get introduced to the wolf man’s doctor SPOILERS who in something I shouldn’t even have to mark as a spoiler, is the one who goes mad. The message I guess of the film is that it isn’t just doctors with the Frankenstein name who start with distaste for the original’s work only to go mad replicating it, it’s all doctors. I hope the stupid villagers update their prejudices accordingly or they might look silly. END OF SPOILERS
The important questions of course are “do they fight?” and “do we get a winner?” with the answers being SPOILERS at the end and fuck no with the last bit feeling incredibly cheap as the film just ends anticlimactic with them being flooded out as the wolf man is busy recreating his routine from SummerSlam on the monster. END OF SPOILERS Still the answer to the first question and the fairly natural way it all ties in is enough for me. I could watch these movies all day and Chaney (who I hope to talk about more in his role later this month) carries the film. It may not recapture the legacy of the Frankenstein franchise, but it does succeed in reenergizing it.