Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

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(4/10) Universal’s first monster mashup, made in 1943, is an audience divider. Some enjoy it as a brainless schlockfest, while others find the denigration of the Frankenstein franchise painful to watch. Arguably miscast from the start as the Frankenstein monster, Bela Lugosi saw all his lines cut in the editing room, which created both confusion and very unintentional comedy. 

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. 1943, USA. Directed by Roy William Neill. Written by Curt Siodmak. Suggested by Mary Shelley’s novel. Starring: Lon Chaney Jr, Bela Lugosi, Ilona Massey, Patric Knowles, Maria Ouspenskaya, Lionel Atwill, Dennis Hoey, Rex Evans, Dwight Frye. Produced by George Waggner IMDb: 6.5/10. Rotten Tomatoes: 25% Rotten. Metacritic: N/A. 

1943_frankenstein_meets_wolf_man_014By 1943 Universal’s Frankenstein franchise had lost all roots to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein apart from the name. Scriptwise there isn’t even much proof that Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is part of the same franchise as the original 1931 Frankenstein (review).  According to legend, screenwriter Curt Siodmak actually proposed the film as a joke to producer George Waggner one day when he needed money for a downpayment on a new car he wanted to buy: Hey, wouldn’t that be a cool movie, ”Frankenstein Wolfs The Meat Man”, as the German expat allegedly mispronounced it in the conversation. A few hours later a baffled Siodmak got a call from Waggner telling him to go ahead and buy the car.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man started a new chapter in the Universal horror franchise by teaming up two of their most popular monsters, thus creating the first monster mash, or monster bash. More than anything, this decision was probably motivated by dollar signs, as it was clear from the previous Frankenstein installation The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942, review) that Universal now saw the franchise as a commodity rather than as anything worthy of artistic consideration. Siodmak was now the studio’s number one horror writer, having worked his way up from lesser features like Black Friday (1939, review) and Man Made Monster (1940, review) to the studio’s new horror flagship The Wolf Man (1941). By this time German-born Siodmak had also made a minor splash as an author with his seminal brain-in-a-vat novel Donovan’s Brain (1942).

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Bela Lugosi as the Frankenstein monster and Lon Chaney Jr as the Wolf Man.

There is no Dr. Frankenstein in the Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. The original Dr. Frankenstein, Colin Clive, passed away in 1937 and  it is to the studio’s credit that they didn’t try to replace him with another actor (apart from a ill-advised hallucination sequence in The Ghost of Frankenstein), but instead had not one, but two, sons of Frankenstein take up the mantle, Basil Rathbone and Cedric Hardwicke. Maybe Universal thought that a third son might be pushing it. We do, though, get a granddaughter of Frankenstein in the shape of Ilona Massey, but she is no doctor (perhaps because she is a woman).

What we do have is a Larry Talbot, better known as The Wolf Man from the 1941 film, in the shape of Lon Chaney Jr., despite the fact that his brother killed him with a silver-capped cane in the first movie. In fact, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is more sequel to The Wolf Man than to the Frankenstein saga.

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Ilona Massey as Elsa Frankenstein and Patric Knowles as Dr. Mannering.

The film has a very promising beginning, where director Roy William Neill proves that he certainly has an eye for visuals, especially when teamed up with Son of Frankenstein (1939, review) photographer George Robinson, who stood out The Ghost of Frankenstein. In what is perhaps the best graveyard scene in the whole franchise, we see two graverobbers entering the crypt of Larry Talbot, hoping to steal some jewellery from old Lawrence. Down winding staircases and withered trees they go, draped in fog under a full moon. You can almost hear the wolves howling. Horrified, they find that four years after the his death, Talbot is still in perfect shape, and seeing his body covered with wolfbane, one of them recites the age-old poem:

Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the moon is full and bright.

This old piece of “folklore” was written by screenwriter/author Curt Siodmak when he basically invented the modern werewolf myth in the first film. In that film the last line was actually: ”when the autumn moon is bright”, and there were no allusions to Talbot turning into a werewolf specifically during a full moon. This piece of mythology is now altered by none other than screenwriter Siodmak himself in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. And nothing more needs to be said: the good old werewolf comes to life and offs the two graverobbers.

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Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot and Maria Ouspenskaya as Maleva.

Talbot next wakes up in a hospital, and soon figures out that he has been killed and unkilled and still turns into a werewolf that kills people at night. When he tries to tell this to his doctor, Mannering (Patric Knowles), the doctor assumes that he is a loony and has him restrained and calls for Inspector Owen, played by Dennis Hoey, best known as inspector Lestrade from a string of Sherlock Holmes films starring Dr. Wolf von Franken … pardon, Basil RathboneHoey was most certainly brought on by director Neill, who also directed a string of Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone. Between the hulking and ”why does no-one believe me?” Talbot turns into a werewolf and chews through his strait-jacket (unfortunately off-screen). When the full moon has passed he travels (off screen) through Europe to find his old confidante, the gypsy soothsayer Maleva (the wonderful Russian old lady Maria Ouspenskaya), to ask her how he might kill himself and rid the world of the curse of Larry Talbot.

Now, just to be clear: it seems a silver cane does not kill werewolfs, but simply puts them in some kind of suspended animation, ready to spring to life again when hit by the light of a full moon.

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Lon Chaney Jr and Bela Lugosi.

Maleva tells Talbot that the only man who can help him die is Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein (who was played by Cedric Hardwicke in The Ghost of Frankenstein). And together they set off in a horse-drawn cart to the town of Vasaria to find the man. Unfortunalety a very rude innkeeper called Vazec (Rex Evans) informs them that the despised doctor is dead and his castle lies in ruins. Also unfortunately, the moon becomes full again, and Talbot kills Vazec’s daughter (Martha Vickers), who for some reason seems to be out wandering the woods in the middle of the night. This sets the angry mob of Vasaria (it wouldn’t be a Frankenstein film without an angry mob, would it?) out to get the monster. During his escape the wolf man tumbles down a hole and passes out. And this is basically the end of the first part of the film, and now we settle into a completely different film.

When Talbot wakes up he realises he is in an ice-filled cave. Because in these horror sci-fi films of the forties there are loads of conveniently located ice-filled caves despite the fact that there isn’t a flake of snow visible anywhere else in the area. Boris Karloff has sometimes described it as ”glacier ice”, which would make sense if there was a glacier anywhere nearby. Just as conveniently as Ygor played by Bela Lugosi found the Frankenstein monster played by Lon Chaney Jr. embedded in a dried sulphur pit in the Ghost of Frankenstein, Larry Talbot now finds the Frankenstein monster embedded in a block of ice. Or, actually, hidden behind a thin wall of ice that has miraculously formed completely vertically in front of him. This time, of course, the tables have turned and the Frankenstein monster is played by Bela Lu … no, wait. That isn’t Bela Lugosi, that is his stunt double Gil Perkins, which is plain to see despite the makeup, as his face is in close-up.

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Gil Perkins on ice.

After being chipped out of the ice, though, the monster transforms into Bela Lugosi. Talbot tells the monster to lead him to Frankenstein’s lab, where the monster shows him a hidden cabinet, but Frankenstein’s diary is nowhere to be found. The Frankenstein monster moves his mouth, but there is no sound. Then he flails around with his arms stiffly stretched in front of him as if blind. In fact, he is blind, as we can remember from The Ghost of Frankenstein, but this is never explained in this film.

Talbot then gets hold of Ludwig Frankenstein’s daughter Elsa, played by leggy Hungarian actress Ilona Massey, who we had seen as the female star of Universal’s Invisible Agent (review) the year before. Ms. Frankenstein refuses to divulge the whereabouts of her father’s journal, and then both Maleva and Dr. Mannering turn up, and as we can all guess, Elsa and Mannering become an item. Then the monster also turns up and starts throwing stuff around in his blind rage.

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Ilona Massey and Lon Chaney, Jr.

I sort of lost track of what was actually happening there at one point, but the gist of it is this: 1. Mannering wants to destroy the monster. 2. Mannering wants to help Talbot. 3. The monster wants to get his brain back in shape. 4. The townspeople want to destroy all of the newcomers. 5. The mayor (Cedric Hardwicke) calms everyone down. 6. Mannering somehow convinces Elsa that if he can get Frankenstein’s diary, he can destroy the monster. 7. Mannering lies and tells the monster he can fix his brain. 8. Dwight Frye makes some appearances. 9. They all end up in the ruined castle. 10. Elsa opens a secret cabinet inside the secret cabinet and there is the journal. 11. The journal says that Talbot can be cured by ”draining him of energy”, i.e. we need to fire up old Frankenstein’s lab. 12. Mannering is suddenly not only surgeon and psychologist but also electrical engineer. 13. Mannering suddenly turns from the only rational person in the film to a bonkers mad scientist, who despite his former wish to kill the monster, now all of a sudden has an urge to see it ”restored to full power”. Why on earth, we will never know. 14. There’s a Frankenstein lab scene with a few Tesla coils and arc generators. 15. The monster is juiced up. 16. Conveniently a full moon comes up. 17. The monster breaks loose. 18. The Wolf Man breaks loose. 19. Bela Lugosi’s stunt double Gil Perkins fights Lon Chaney’s stunt double Eddie Parker. 20. Despite the mayor’s protests, Vazec blows up a dam, and drowns the castle, ridding the world of the two monsters forever (yeah, right). The end.

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Frankensteinean brain drain. Note that it is stuntman Gil Perkins to the right and not Bela Lugosi.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is a movie that gets a lot of love from Universal fans, and many critics, and is generally considered an improvement over the previous instalment, Ghost of Frankenstein. AllMovie gives the film 4/5 stars, with Richard Gilliam writing that “William Roy Neill was among the most stylish of B-moviemakers, achieving an atmospheric look with lighting and camera creativity that might elude directors with larger budgets”. Jon Davidson at Midnite Reviews awards the film with 8/10 stars, writing that “especially commendable is Chaney’s nuanced acting, which reinforces the incredible concept of a man at war with his primal instincts—the true conflict underlying Siodmak’s narrative”. Geoff Rosengren at The Telltale Mind likewise calls Chaney “fantastic” and gives the movie 4/5 stars: “There is a lot to love about this film and a few things not to, but as long as you take it for what it is and never mind the few little faults that there are, you are bound to have a great time watching these two monsters meet up for the first time, though certainly not the last”. Another 4/5 rating comes from Mitch Lovell at The Video Vacuum who calls F Meets the W M “a stellar B picture that really delivers”.

It’s true, there’s potentially a lot to like about Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. It was the first monster bash — and it was the first of the Universal horror movies to bring in a real element of action. The final four minutes are riveting, a great performance from both stunt men, with superb practical effects creating a stunning action finale for the movie. That it’s difficult to imagine these two agile monsters leaping across the screen as 60-year old morphine addict Bela Lugosi and slightly overweight alcoholic Lon Chaney Jr. does somewhat take you out of the moment. And as the critics above note; William Roy Neill creates some great atmosphere in the movie, far surpassing that in Ghost of Frankenstein. And as a sequel to The Wolf Man the movie also works well, if you get past some of the inconsistencies.

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Wolfie.

However, I can not in good conscience say that I agree with the rave reviews above. The film has numerous problems, and I suppose it all comes down to the question of whether you are able to see past these and enjoy the movie all the same or not, and I was not able to do that.

The script, like the film, gets off to a good start, and I would have enjoyed the movie that was sort of promised in the beginning with Talbot stuck in a hospital trying to get to grips with being brought back to a miserable life as a werewolf once again. It seems that Curt Siodmak had a good idea going here, before it all slipped downhill.

But after the first 20 minutes the film starts dragging until we get to the Frankenstein part of it, where it gets jumbled, illogical and derivative. Despite Neill’s atmospheric direction, the script feels a lot like it’s just a transport device to get the audience to the final four minutes, and in order to pad out the running time to a full 75 minutes — instead of the usual B-movie length of an hour — Neill really has to stretch some of the sequences. At one point, during a street celebration, there is a whole musical number, which doesn’t seem to serve any sort of purpose, other than – well, having a traditional folk song in the film.

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Bela Lugosi in monster makeup.

Maleva tags along all the way, but plays out her role when she brings Talbot to Vasaria, and just acts as dead weight after that. Someone at the studio probably felt sorry for the original boogie man Dwight Frye and had him stuck in a supporting role as a villager (again). This is probably his biggest bit-part in the latter Universal horror films, after playing Renfield in the 1931 Dracula, and the creepy henchmen Fritz and Karl in the two first Frankenstein films. The only problem is that his role is completely inconsequential, and feels like it’s been expanded just to give Frye a few more inconsequential lines. The stunts are not very well filmed, but they are impressive, especially in the final fight where Eddie Parker does high leaps from lab equipment and lockers onto Gil Perkins. But the scene is jumbled, ill-cut and ends abruptly.

As we know, in The Ghost of Frankenstein Lon Chaney played the monster, and Bela Lugosi played the villain Ygor. In the end of the movie Lionel Atwill tricks Cedric Hardwicke into replacing the monster’s brain with Ygor’s. This leads to the monster not only getting Ygor’s mind, but also his voice – Bela Lugosi’s voice. But, since Ygor’s and the monster’s blood types didn’t match, it turned the monster blind (”the blood won’t feed the optical nerve”). And that is why Lon Chaney as the monster flailed around with stiff arms in the end of the picture – because he couldn’t see. Now, in that film, even though it was utterly silly, it all sort of made sense.

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Monster bash!

And in the original script for Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man it also probably made sense – because in the script the monster had lines, and a whole storyline, which would probably have explained his blindness and his other ailments. And since the monster was actually Ygor, it made some sense to put Lugosi in the role, as the monster would still speak with Lugosi’s voice. As it turns out now, with a mute monster, we are never informed of the Ygor plot, and it makes no sense whatsoever that the filmmakers put the 60-year-old, slumming Lugosi in the role. He had none of the physicality of Karloff, nor even Chaney, and looked nothing like either of them. The makeup on Lugosi just looks completely and utterly silly, and his over the top grimacing turns the monster into an unintentional comic relief. And for the first time in the franchise, makeup guru Jack Pierce´s makeup is really bad, and looks glued on. This may have partly had to do with time constrictions, and partly that Lugosi wasn’t fond of long makeup sessions. The stupid rigid outstretched arms, that get no explanation in the film, don’t help matters at all. Nor does the fact that we actually see Lugosi speaking at several instances, but without sound. It is all just a mess.

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Aaagh!

Add to this the fact that we have Gil Perkins standing in as the monster in the first shots, and Gil Perkins looks absolutely nothing like Bela Lugosi. The reason to this was the fact that Lugosi hurt his leg at one point of filming and had to be replaced by Perkins in some scenes where a stunt double wasn’t actually needed. And even in the stunt scenes, like the fighting between The Wolf Man and the monster at the end, many shots are filmed in such a way that everyone clearly sees that it is not Lugosi wearing the makeup, but Perkins, and possibly another (uncredited) stunt man. Many of these shots actually aren’t especially difficult from a stunt point of view, but rather pretty basic wrestling scenes. But since Lugosi was a 60 years old, substance abusing man with a chronic hip problem, he was unable to do even the most basic action scenes, and was mostly cut into the scenes in closeups or just swinging his arms. Again: why on earth would you make this guy play the Frankenstein monster?

The only reason, of course, would be if he spoke. Which he doesn’t. Why? Well, according to film historians the test audiences burst out howling with laughter when they heard the Frankenstein monster speak his lines with a thick Hungarian accent, especially as Lugosi would intentionally send up his accent and mannerisms when playing Ygor. In a panicked attempt the save the movie, the studio cut all his lines, and with them a good deal of exposition and plot, and probably made the movie even worse. And it didn’t do much to help Lugosi’s already declining career. It also explains some prolonged scenes where nothing happens, as the editor probably had to pad out the running time with all of Lugosi’s lines cut.

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Bela.

Everyone acknowledges the problem with Bela Lugosi’s character in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, but there are many who maintain that it is still a great movie. I suppose that this is to some degree a matter of taste and perhaps expectations. Fans of The Wolf Man and Lon Chaney Jr. appreciate it as a good sequel to said film, and it does work as such infinitesimally better than as a sequel to the Frankenstein saga. I have never been a big Wolf Man fan, nor a Lon Chaney Jr. fan. I know this verges on blasphemy, but I think Chaney was miscast as Larry Talbot, in fact I think he was miscast in almost every Universal horror movie.

Still, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man plays to Chaney’s strengths. This was the guy who made a splash playing the childlike Lenny in a 1939 adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, which remains his crowning achievement as an actor. But the problem, in my opinion, is that it overplays to his strength, as he does little else in the movie but whine, sulk and sob. He is the tragic character of the film, we get it! But his character gets no chance to develop from the one-dimensional role of being a victim of his circumstances. As Lisa Marie Bowman of Through the Shattered Lens puts it: Larry Talbot is the “whiniest werewolf in film history”. And his was written after Twilight.

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Ilona Massey and Lon Chaney Jr. on a day off.

Richard Scheib at Moria, giving the film 2/5 stars, calls it “dully set up” and continues: “Things happen for absurdly melodramatic reasons – about to pull the switch that will revitalize the monster, Patrick Knowles for no apparent reason suddenly changes his mind and announces ‘I can’t destroy Frankenstein’s creation – I have to see it at its full power.'” Scheib also notes that “Chaney was a big, lugubrious, hulking actor who only ever came across as dim-witted. As the nominal hero here, he seems simple-minded.”

Michael Popham at Horror Inc. also points out the myriad plot holes, inconsistencies and lapses of internal logic in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. Such as the fact that at one point Talbot wears pyjamas when he turns into the wolf man, but when we see him in the next shot he is wearing the classic wolf man getup of dark trousers and a white shirt. I would have loved to see the scene where the monster strolls up to his dresser, unfolds a pair of slacks and peacefully starts buttoning up his shirt. Always look your best when going on an animalistic killing spree. Still, Popham concludes that despite all its flaws, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is “at least a passable entry in Universal’s horror-film cycle”.

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Italian, Swedish and French posters.

In a tongue-in-cheek comment, Tim Brayton at Alternate Ending gives the film 2/5 stars and writes: “If pressed, though, I’d have to say that the single worst part of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is not the aimless, brainless screenplay; the slack performances; the perfunctory direction that loses all sense of style once the action leaves England; it’s the song. During the Festival of the New Wine, we are subjected to the profoundly annoying Song of the New Wine, in which a far-too-enthusiastic singer (Adia Kuznetzoff) leads the whole town in a romping, three-minute sequence with metaphorically suggestive lyrics including “Life is short but death is long, faro-la! faro-li!” Of all the many random musical numbers in the 1940s – and they are far more common than anyone would like or need – I can’t think of another that damages the tone of the film this badly, and without even the benefit of being a half-way decent song.”

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is probably the Frankenstein film that most divides audiences. The film has an IMDb score of 6.5 — which is decent — but a lowly 25 % approval rating on the review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes, compared with a 91 % approval rating for Son of Frankenstein and even 75 % for The Ghost of Frankenstein.

And while I might agree with Brayton that the performances in the film are slack, they are at least adequate. Perhaps most memorable is Ilona Massey, who brings a lot of charisma to her proud European blonde bombshell, just as she did in Invisible Agent, and even loses some of the stiffness from that film. British Patric Knowles does what he can with his role as Mannering, but it must have been impossible to create any sort of coherence in a role that was turned on its head time after time so that the script could get to where it was awkwardly going. Confusingly, he also appeared in The Wolf Man, in a completely different role, namely that of the romantic rival to Lon Chaney. And Lionel Atwill in a somewhat inconsequential role as the mayor gives it his best, as always. Maria Ouspenskaya is a force of nature, and brings her wonderfully hammy sensibilities to the benefit of the movie.

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Patric Knowles, Ilona Massey and Maria Ouspenskaya.

Patric Knowles started his career in England and worked himself up the career ladder as a dashing, dark leading man. At Hollywood in 1936, he was quickly typecast in clean-cut heroic roles, but often played second fiddle in moderately successful A films or leads in cheap B films. He starred as Erroll Flynn’s brother in The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), and again teamed up with Flynn as Will Scarlet in the all-time classic The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), which is probably his best remembered role. Although his career never moved much forward neither did it ever collapse, and he continued to act all the way up to 1973, in his later years he often played stern military types. His only other sci-fi film was the half-good Jules Verne adaptation From the Earth to the Moon (1958), where he had a substantial supporting role as one of the arms manufacturers that are highly sceptical about shooting a rocket to the moon. In private Knowles was an amateur aviator and a close friend to Erroll Flynn. Both Massey and Knowles have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Lionel Atwill and Ilona Massey.

Lionel Atwill, a staple in B horror films in the late thirties and early forties, was often cast as a mad doctor or other villainous characters, but was perhaps at his best when he played less sinister roles, which often allowed for a bigger range of character traits and emotions. Atwill is splendid here as the mayor of Vasaria, giving a showcase of the good-hearted and jovial Atwill, something of a moral compass of the town. He gets a considerable amount of screen time, but more could have been done with his role. For Atwill, however, being in a Universal movie in 1943 was a win in and of itself, considering he was more or less blacklisted by all major studios as a result of a highly publicised trial involving a Christmas party he hosted a few years earlier, one that included porn screenings with a minor present, as well as an alleged rape account (that Atwill was not personally involved with). More on this elsewhere on this blog (Click Atwill’s tag at the end of the post if you’re interested in the whole story).

Maria Ouspenskaya was a praised stage actress and instructor (studied under the legendary Konstantin Stanislawksi) in Russia and the Soviet Union, who stayed in the US after her theatre company had visited the country in 1922. She became a dominant Broadway actress and founded her own acting school in New York, which she moved to Los Angeles after entering Hollywood with a splash in 1936 in a tiny bit-part in Dodsworth, for which she earned her first Oscar nomination. Her second came in 1939 with Love Affair, again in a small role.

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Dennis Hoey, Lon Chaney and Patric Knowles.

The short, skinny Ouspenskaya was known and notorious for her overbearing and domineering attitude, and often acted as a diva on movie sets. She was obsessed with astrology and would always arrange her shooting schedule and her travels according to phone calls to the L.A. Times horoscope writer. This made her fiercely disliked by crew and cast on many films, and as a result she didn’t appear in more than a dozen films in as many years. She also darted between prestigious A-listers to dodgy B films, like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and Tarzan and the Amazons (1945), where she played the Amazon queen. Chain-smoker Ouspenskaya fell asleep smoking in bed in 1949, and suffered severe burns when her sheets caught on fire, which led to her demise of heart failure three days later.

Dennis Hoey is another highlight of the film, but the problem with the movie is that there are too many characters that get lost for too long stretches and have too little to do for them to make any lasting impression. Hoey’s police inspector is a perfectly well played role that gets dragged down with the bad acting of the two monster leads. Hoey is well known to all Sherlock Holmes fans for his recurring role as Inspector Lestrade to Basil Rathbone’s Holmes in many films in the forties. This led to him being typecast as police inspectors and other men of authority in a number of films. His son Michael A. Hoey was a jack of all trades in Hollywood, best known for directing the schlock horror sci-fi film The Navy vs. The Night Monsters (1966), and was nominated for two Emmys for his work as editor and title designer on the TV series Fame (1982). Michael’s son Dennis Hoey was an extra on two Z movies in the early nineties (one starring Roseanna Arquette) and even tried his luck as a makeup artist in one straight-to-video erotic thriller, a Penthouse porn film and an episode of the TV series Real Sex. His career never really took off …

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Jeff Corey, Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner in the 1969 Star Trek episode Cloud Miners.

Universal bit-part extra Harry Stubbs as Guno (can’t remember who that was) was probably at this time the actor who had appeared in most werewolf films in the history of cinema, as he appeared in the very first American werewolf movie, Werewolf of London in 1935, and The Wolf Man.

In a small role as Talbot’s crypt keeper we see one of the United States most revered acting instructors, Jeff Corey, in an early role. Never a big movie star, he nonetheless was revered within Hollywood and a much respected character actor, and no stranger to genre cinema in neither film nor TV. Among his appearences in sci-fi films one can find him in the third biggest role in Superman and the Mole-Men (1951, review), as the leader of the mutant humans in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), a bit-part in the Roger Corman Star Wars ripoff Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) and The Creator (1980) starring Peter O’Toole. He guest starred in a number of sci-fi series, including the co-lead in an episode of The Outer Limits (1963), and as Plasus, the leader of the floating city of Stratos in the Time Machine-inspired episode The Cloud Miners in the original Star Trek (1969). He also had a recurring role as the supervillain Silvermane in the animated Spider-Man series (1995-1997). He guest starred on The Bionic Woman (1977) and Babylon 5 (1996).

Friends of fantasy films might spot him as Craccus in The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982) and as High Vizier in Conan the Destroyer (1984). Apart from all this genre work, he also appeared in a number of A-films, many of them westerns, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, True Grit (both 1969) and Little Big Man (1970). He also appeared in films like My Friend Flicka (1943) and Joan of Arc (1948). Among his acting students were many of Hollywood’s greats, like James Dean, Kirk Douglas, Peter Fonda, Roger Corman, Irvin Kershner, Jane Fonda, Leonard Nimoy, Cher (didn’t help much), Barbra Streisand, Jack Nicholson and Robin Williams.

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Martha Vickers.

Martha Vickers was a photo model who did her acting debut in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man – if you can call being a corpse ”acting”. Vickers did a few other small genre roles for Universal, including Captive Wild Woman (1943, review) and The Mummy’s Ghost (1944). In 1946 she raised many eyebrows, especially male eyebrows, as Lauren Bacall’s wild sister in the Humphrey Bogart-helmed film noir The Big Sleep, which catapulted her to celebrity status. The role made her typecast as a bad girl, as which she appeared in a number of films in the forties, without ever proceeding to leading lady status. In the fifties she appeared as a guest star in a number of TV series.

Among the crew we find many of the usual suspects of the Universal horror stable: composer Hans J. Salter, not providing one of his most memorable scores, as he relies partly on stock music, editor Edward Curtiss, set decorator Russell A. Gausman, costume designer Vera West, makeup artist Jack Pierce and special effects legend John P. Fulton.

1943_frankenstein_meets_wolf_man_016 bela lugosi

Hnnnnnh.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man was awarded with a Retro Hugo Award for 1944 in August 2019, for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. This doesn’t necessarily say as much about Worldcon’s appreciation for the film as it does about the abysmal state of SF films in 1943. The main rivals for the award were another Lugosi clunker, The Ape Man (review), a Donald Duck short and a Bugs Bunny short. I gave The Ape Man 1/10 stars.

Janne Wass

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. 1943, USA. Directed by Roy William Neill. Written by Curt Siodmak. Sort of suggested by Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. Starring: Lon Chaney Jr, Bela Lugosi, Ilona Massey, Patric Knowles, Maria Ouspenskaya, Lionel Atwill, Dennis Hoey, Rex Evans, Dwight Frye, Don Barclay, Harry Stubbs, Jeff Corey, Martha Vicker. Music: Hans J. Salter. Cinematography: George Robinson. Editing: Edward Curtiss. Art direction: John B. Goodman. Set decoration: Russell A. Gausman. Costume design: Vera West. Makeup: Jack Pierce. Assistant director: Melville Shyer. Sound director: Bernard B. Brown. Visual effects: John P. Fulton. Stunts: Gil Perkins, Eddie Parker. Produced by George Waggner for Universal.

 

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