Unlike The Monster films of the
1930's, the later
Universal films are not always plausible. In the 1940s, Universal found
successful formulae and stuck to them, such as the
FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN is good but nowhere near the film THE WOLF MAN was. It opens with grave robbers opening the tomb of Lawrence Talbot, only to find that he is still alive and still a werewolf. That the Universal Monsters could never die was an "innovation" of the 1940s films, one that would make sequelizing them much easier. Talbot meets up with a gypsy woman from THE WOLF MAN (Maria Ouspenskaya), and she leads him to the crumbled ruins of Castle Frankenstein, where he hopes to find a way to kill himself. He stumbles upon the frozen body of The Monster, and immediately frees it from its icy grave in the hope that it will lead him to the not-so-good Doctor's notebooks. (Sounds like a plan.) For the first and only time, Bela Lugosi, star of DRACULA, plays The Monster. Although in 1931 he had turned down the role (thus helping to make Boris Karloff the star of the lot), by 1943, his own star had fallen, and he seemed willing to take just about any part that came his way.
Lugosi brings the good with the bad in the role. His face brought much needed character to The Monster, and he grunts and growls with convincing authority. However, he was not the right physical type for the role, being too short to convey such a towering figure as The Monster. In addition, in an attempt to keep something like continuity going from the previous THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN, The Monster was written so that he would be blind but capable of speech. However, preview audiences laughed every time Lugosi opened his mouth; they could not comprehend a Frankenstein monster that spoke with a thick Hungarian accent. So all of Lugosi's dialogue was cut, leaving no explanation as to why The Monster spent the entire movie stumbling around like Lou Costello. Nevertheless, Lugosi's arm-waving stance made its way into monster lore and is the way most people remember The Monster walking.
By this time in the Universal Monster Cycle, it seemed mandatory to have Lionel "Where There's a Monster, There's a Paycheck" Atwill around in the cast. He was to 1940s monster movies what Whit Bissell was to 1950s sci-fi.
As the sequels went, FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN was an enjoyable if somewhat forced entry, but still better than the next two sequels, HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and HOUSE OF DRACULA. Especially good is the climax, a five-minute, no-holds-barred wrestling match between The Monster and The Wolf Man. There are fewer more memorable images in the series than The Wolf Man taking flying leaps off Dr. Frankenstein's equipment, knocking The Monster to the ground again and again. Also impressive is the flood from an exploded dam that destroys (yet again!) Castle Frankenstein and, presumably, both monsters. Though not a top-notch entry into the series, FMTW is nevertheless the last above-average Universal horror movie to feature either the Monster or The Wolf Man. ½ - JB
WAS EDISON MAD WHEN HE INVENTED THE
Lionel Atwill appeared in
many memorable films
including Mystery of
the Wax Museum
(1933), Mark of the
and Hound of the
Among his most famous roles are the one-armed Inspector Krogh in Son of
Frankenstein, ham actor Rawitch in To Be or Not To Be
Professor Moriarty in Sherlock
Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943).
A sex scandal in 1943 hurt his career, but Universal Studios rescued
him, continuing to use him in several entries of their monster
series. Atwill died of pneumonia in 1946.