Thursday, October 7, 2010

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

Director: Roy William Neill

Starring: Lon Chaney Jr, Ilona Massey, Patric Knowles, Lionel Atwill, Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskaya

More info: IMDb

Taglline: A Death Fight . . . Between Two Beasts !

Plot: Larry (Chaney Jr.) seeks out Dr. Frankenstein to help him lift the curse, but encounters the doctor's monster (Lugosi) instead, which leads to a classic showdown.

My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again? I don't think so.

#5 of 31 Days of Horror 2010.

I should just say it showed promise and blew it and leave it at that. Apparently all it takes to revive a dead werewolf is to expose the corpse to a full moon. They could have at least come up with something better than that but whatever. I liked having the gypsy woman, Maleva (Ouspenskaya), back to help Talbot by taking him to Dr. Frankenstein. That was brilliant. She certainly would have know about Frankenstein in her travels. That's the neatest aspect of the picture.

Once they arrive they discover that the doc had been killed in a fire but, upon snooping around the grounds, they find the underground portion of the castle with a lot of the machinery still intact AND the doc's frozen (?!?!?!) creation (this time played by Lugosi which I didn't realize until halfway into the movie). The dead doc's daughter is in town and there's a scientist friend or something that offers to help Larry and the monster which leads to a scene that clearly inspired Mel Brooks for the climax of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974).

The next thing you know, the monster gets pissed, breaks loose, goes after the girl. The moon is full so Talbot turns into a werewolf and Wolfy goes after Franky. A very small scuffle erupts until a hateful villager dynamites a dam that floods and destroys what's left of Frankenstein's castle, Wolfy and Franky.

You'd think that all of this fits nicely in 74 minutes but it doesn't. There's a solid ten minutes or so of fat that needs to be trimmed like most of the business of Talbot in a hospital in the beginning and the brief investigation into what's going on with this man who claims to be a dead man killing folks (Talbot). Lugosi as the monster should have been more inspiring than it was. As mentioned, I didn't even realize it was him for much of the film. More should have been given to Lugosi's creature. I could have used more werewolf action and less Chaney acting (fortunately there's less of Chaney in this than THE WOLF MAN (1941)) and a much larger battle between him and the monster at the end.

I thoroughly enjoyed the last 20-30 minutes except for wanting a bigger climactic fight. It's the first half hour or so that's flawed. Shit, it had only been two years since TWM was released and all that exposition at the beginning with Talbot was probably aimed at people who hadn't seen it but it seems like you would be perfectly OK by having someone say one or two lines that would have accomplished the same thing as 10-15 minutes of bland storytelling. If it weren't for the great ending and fantastic sets and set-ups, it would have been a major disappointment.

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