Universal must have realized after the dreadful The Ghost of Frankenstein that its big green dope was probably too played out a concept to successfully carry a picture on his own anymore. The solution? Take the onus off the Monster and have a different monster carry the load in this movie.
The result was that Lon Chaney, Jr. got out of the Monster’s make up he had donned for The Ghost of Frankenstein and put back in the fangs and strapped on the hairy wig of the Wolf Man again. As for the now vacant role of the Monster, since Bela Lugosi’s brain had already been implanted in the beast at the end of the last movie, they decided to just go all the way and have him play the Monster himself.
This is really a sequel to The Wolf Man and as far as the Frankenstein Monster goes, he’s merely a supporting character. This means you get lots of scenes of Chaney reprising the Larry Talbot gimmick, which involves a lot of sweaty hyper activity as he alternately tries to convince everyone that he is a werewolf and bitches and moans about how awful he has it and why won’t somebody kill him? I should also add that at times, Lon resembles Shemp Howard.
Since this is a Universal horror movie, everything starts out with a grave-robbing scene. Two guys break into the Talbot crypt and get into Larry’s coffin. One of the guys takes a ring from Larry, then Larry grabs the guy and won’t let go. Later, Talbot is found in the street sleeping off his Wolf Man bender and he is transported to the hospital.
It is there that we are introduced to Dr. Mannering, a psychiatrist (later, he inexplicably turns into a mad scientist) who checks out Talbot. Talbot tells them who he is and where he’s from, but the official information is that Talbot died four years ago. Following an attack on a police officer that no one believes Larry was involved with, he escapes and goes in search of Maleva, the old gypsy whose son bit him and turned him into a werewolf.
Maleva displays the sort of evil cunning you would expect of an old gypsy and tells him to seek out Dr. Frankenstein for help. Following yet another attack, Talbot falls into the snowy ruins of the Frankenstein estate and locates the Monster frozen in a wall of ice. Talbot frees the monster and tells him that he needs Frankenstein’s secret diary so that he can read the notes about the experiments and find a way to finally be dead for good.
Right away you can see that this movie ignores the Frankenstein films that have gone before. When last seen, the Monster had Ygor’s brain and could speak, just like Ygor. He also was blind because of a blood incompatibility between Ygor and the Monster. This Monster shows none of the intelligence that was transplanted into it with Ygor’s brain. He can’t talk and only is able to point a lot in between grunts and howls, but he can see just fine. Anyway, as you might expect, the whiney Larry Talbot and the dimwitted Monster are unable to locate the doctor’s diary.
Dr. Mannering reappears and agrees to a questionable experiment that will supposedly drain the life out of both the Monster and the Wolf Man. I really don’t recall why the Monster went along with all this since he seemed to have an aversion to being killed in at least some of the sequels.
The script takes several liberties with common sense in this portion of the film. For one thing, Mannering is doing the big experiment the evening of a full moon. Why wouldn’t he set his alarm clock about an hour earlier so that he could drain the juice from Larry before he turned into the Wolf Man? The other problem arises when Mannering has all the cables connected up. He decides at the last instant that he can’t destroy the Monster and wants to see what that baby can do when fully charged, so he reverses everything, throwing a bunch of power into the Monster. Based on everything we know about Dr. Mannering, there’s no reason for him to behave this way, except that it provides a reason for the Monster to break free and tangle with the Wolf Man.
The Monster busts loose, Talbot turns into the Wolf Man, they roll around on the floor together and surprisingly the Wolf Man is much more spry than Lon Chaney’s doughy body would indicate! One wad of dynamite chucked from a villager later and a model of a dam blows up sending cupfuls of water crashing into a model of the castle, burying the two monsters inside.
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man further cements Bela Lugosi’s and the Monster’s reputations as has-beens with this unmemorably generic performance. That could have been anyone under that make-up stumbling around like he had a corn cob up his butt.
The Monster has been completely stripped of any of the depth that made him an interesting character and he does little other than stand awkwardly around, periodically swinging his arms menacingly like the dumbest of flesh eating zombies. At least Larry Talbot still resembles the character he was in The Wolf Man, his plight making the film a little more interesting than the green paint-by numbers affair of some of the other sequels. There’s no real character development with the Wolf Man though as Larry is still crying about what’s happened to him and begs everyone else to fix it.
After The Ghost of Frankenstein, this sufficiently reinvigorated the series for two more films. The only thing left to do following this one was to add more monsters to future films with Universal hoping it wouldn’t run out of ticket buyers before it ran out of monsters.
© 2015 MonsterHunter