Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man marks a significant moment for Universal Pictures as it was the first instance that the production company introduced an ensemble of monsters in a single feature.
This film would initiate the birth of the classic horror universe and would pit two of its iconic creatures, Frankenstein’s monster and The Wolf Man against one another.
Clearly aware that Universal had a hot property on their hands and the chance to ride on their previous successes, a strong cast would be required and they didn’t fail to deliver.
Reprising his role of Larry Talbot would be Lon Chaney Jr., and accompanying him would be Maria Ouspenskaya (The Wolf Man) as the gypsy woman Maleva, Lionel Atwill (The Atomic Monster) as the Mayor, Ilona Massey (Invisible Agent) as Baroness Elsa Frankenstein, Patric Knowles (The Strange Case of Dr. Rx) as Dr. Mannering, and Dwight Frye (Dracula) as Rudi in his last credited role in feature film.
Interestingly Bela Lugosi was cast as Frankenstein’s Monster, a role he was initially cast to play in Universal’s 1931 feature but turned it down.
Here at the age of 60, Lugosi would try to inject some of the character’s previous personality as imbued from Ygor’s brain swap from The Ghost of Frankenstein.
These characteristics included a paralysis of his arm, blindness, and the ability to talk.
The latter however was cut from the final film as people found the notion of The Monster speaking in a deep Hungarian accent too humorous.
Lugosi’s suppressed efforts didn’t end there as scenes were cut, especially any reference to the Monster’s blindness as it was deemed too confusing. The result saw Lugosi’s actual screen time reduced significantly and the feature feels more like a sequel to The Wolf Man than it does as a continuation in the Frankenstein saga.
The positive outcome to this is that Larry Talbot’s story and plight is one worth telling, reawakened when grave robbers remove the wolfbane from his coffin during a full moon.
(These moments of reanimation would become more far-fetched throughout the Classic Monsters universe but somehow part of its charm too).
Here, Talbot is doomed to walk the earth in his hairy transformation whenever the moon is full until he can end his life.
When Talbot learns of Frankenstein’s experiments, he believes this may be the answer to his prayers.
So, the first half of the feature plays out Talbot’s resurrection, turmoil, and recovery at Dr Mannering’s hospital, while the latter half sees him travel to the village of Vasaria, where he would encounter Frankenstein’s descendant Elsa.
The heart of the film is ultimately what connects us to the narrative, but unfortunately the final showdown between the two iconic monsters was something of a let down and an opportunity was squandered when they clashed at the ruins of Frankenstein’s castle.
Despite this weak ending the film does still entertain, but this is primarily down to its strong cast and able screenwriting from Curt Siodmak.
Frankenstein’s monster and The Wolf Man would not reanimate again until 1944’s House of Frankenstein in something of a support role.
- Saul Muerte