FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN. (1943) BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY. DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES. DIRECTED BY ROY WILLIAM NEILL. WRITTEN BY CURT SIODMAK.
STARRING LON CHANEY, BELA LUGOSI, LIONEL ATWILL, DENNIS HOEY, MARIA OUSPENSKAYA, REX EVANS, DWIGHT FRYE, ILONA MASSEY AND PATRIC KNOWLES.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
“Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.”
This sounds like another hilarious horror movie monster crossover but it’s actually very dark, with the very real anguish of Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman running the whole way through it, like the line of writing down the middle of a stick of seaside rock. He’s never played the Wolfman as a comedic character, but rather as a terrible curse forced upon him by the bite of a werewolf.
It happens on the moors one night while Lon Chaney Jr.’s human character, rich boy Lawrence Talbot, is back staying in his ancestral home with his father, played by Claude Rains, after an absence of some years. He’s a tragic character from the start, unable to live with this fiendish curse that causes him to turn into a wolf and kill people every time there’s a full moon. Howwwwwwwwwwwl…!
The film opens very atmospherically in a dark windswept graveyard by night in the little Welsh village of Llanwelly. A couple of grave-robbers are breaking into the tomb of Lawrence Talbot, who’s been dead for four years now, hoping to pinch any jewels or money that might have been buried with him.
Lawrence Talbot isn’t really dead however, and is thrilled of the opportunity to abscond from his crypt as his alter-ego the Wolfman. He ends up injured on a Cardiff street without any knowledge of how he got there.
He’s immediately deposited in the local hospital, where he gives Dr. Mannering and local copper Inspector Owen a cock-and-bull story about turning into a wolf when the moon is full. In march the orderlies with the strait-jacket for the nice crazy man…
Inspector Owen is played by Dennis Hoey, who brings the exact same detective’s outfit and brusque bedside manner to Inspector Owen as he does to Inspector Lestrade in the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies (1939-1945).
He doesn’t believe Larry’s mad story for a minute but, when Larry escapes from the hospital to go in search of the gypsy woman Maleva, whom he thinks can help to lift the curse from him, both he and Dr. Mannering are forced to take Larry’s wild claims seriously.
When Maleva tells a distraught Larry that she can’t take the curse away from him, Larry decides that, in that case, he wants to just die instead and have the whole thing over and done with. The two of them travel together to the little village of Vasaria somewhere in Europe in search of Dr. Frankenstein, whom Maleva has heard is a brilliant doctor who can cure the ailments other doctors can’t.
But Dr. Frankenstein is dead, and so is his creature, the Monster who wreaked such havoc in the town and caused such distress and horror to the townspeople. Would he have left a diary by any chance, some written records that might have the secret of life and death in them? Maybe the Baroness Elsa, the late Dr. Frankenstein’s attractive grown-up daughter, will know if such records exist and, if so, where to find them?
Elsa is only too happy to assist the handsome and tortured (a winning combination with the broads, lol) Larry Talbot, who by the way has come across an astounding discovery in the ruins of Dr. Frankenstein’s castle in the form of… well, I can’t tell you that, lol, but maybe you can guess?
Can Larry and Dr. Mannering- who’s caught up with them by now- recreate the conditions under which the original Dr. Frankenstein created life from the body parts of corpses and, if they can do that, can they reverse the process to end poor Larry’s tormented existence?
Oh, and, while they’re at it, can they manage to rid Vasaria of the mad Dr. Frankenstein’s evil creation once and for all? They can if the power of being able to play God doesn’t go right to Dr. Mannering’s head…
Dwight Frye is on the ‘right’ side of the law for once here, as a mouthy villager with a sharp haircut who calls for the destruction of Castle Frankenstein and all its warped inhabitants. Screen villain Lionel Atwill in a twirly moustache plays the Mayor of Vasaria and Bela Lugosi is brilliant- if voiceless- as Frankenstein’s Monster. Frankie’s head is flatter than ever, God bless his little electrodes…!
Check out the fabulous bling on the Baroness Elsa too, the pearls and the furs which I’m prepared to bet my bottom dollar are all real. This rather stunning Hungarian actress looks like a Viking Queen in her long blonde bedtime plaits. She really brings a touch of cool blonde glamour to the proceedings in Vasaria.
She’s clearly attracted to Larry but she’d be better off setting her sights elsewhere, like on Dr. Mannering, for instance. Larry is doomed, there’s no point at all in her hitching her wagon to his star. It’s a dead horse, a non-runner, a foregone conclusion. Dr. Mannering is smitten by the Baroness. If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with, that’s what I say.
The showdown between the Monster and the Wolfman doesn’t take up too much time but it’s massively endearing. I love them both so much I don’t want them to hurt each other but they don’t really.
It’s the external forces that will bring about their inevitable destruction, not a bit of petty in-house squabbling between the two monsters, lol. Who’d your money be on though, if they really did have a big pay-per-view showdown on d’telly? I’m undecided…!
It’s a visually beautiful film to look at, deliciously atmospheric and wreathed in swirling mist. There’s a very catchy song in it too, a song sung with gusto by all the villagers to celebrate the season of the new wine. Wine, in my humble opinion, is always worth celebrating. Will you join me in a rousing chorus or two? All together now: ‘Faro-la, faro-li…!’
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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