Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
Remember when The Avengers first assembled and it was all the rage? To think of a Marvel crossover universe at the time was such a big deal, it was considered unprecedented, and a giant leap forward in the was comic book movies were handled. But the idea of the crossover film in general dates all the way back to 1953, with this particular title, technically making this the first "team-up" movie (it isn't 'Frankenstein vs The Wolfman')
The film opens about four years after the events of 'The Wolfman' and 'The Ghost of Frankenstein'. Since I never reviewed 'Ghost', here's a Wiki link for all the details. Two unknown men break into the Talbot family crypt, where they find Larry Talbot's (Lon Cheney) body, and a ring they seem to be after. The full moon shines through the crypt, and brings the Wolfman back to life. Larry is found the next day, and brought in for a head wound (sustained in 'The Wolfman') to be treated by Dr. Mannering (Patric Knowles). During the next night, Larry transforms again, kills, and begins reliving his curse all over again.
Larry eventually seeks out the Gypsy woman, Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) for help. Being the only one who could possibly understand what Larry is going through, Maleva leads him to the village of Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein, and given the history of the village, the townsfolk aren't too keep on helping. The goal is to find the doctor's notes, and end his life through scientific means, since he's immortally cursed. The problem is, the good doctor is now dead.
After another attack, Larry finds himself fleeing from an angry mob and into the ruins of Frankenstein's castle where he finds the Monster, frozen in ice. The Monster, funnily enough, was portrayed by Lon Chaney Jr. in 'Ghost', but here is portrayed by the legendary Bela Lugosi who actually played Ygor in 'Ghost'. So there's this interesting swap-out that happens here based on a sort of limit of go-to horror actors. Imagine such a thing nowadays. Anyway, he befriends the Monster, and soon seeks out the help of Baroness Elsa Frankenstein (Ilona Massey), daughter of Ludwig as well.
It all leads up to the whole mad scientist thing yet again. Dr. Mannering eventually helps with the experiment that will potentially allow Larry to rest, which involves using the Monster. But he gets a bit of that "big red button" syndrome, wanting to see the Monster at full potential. This all takes place during another full moon (they get a lot of them around those parts somehow), and soon the movie finally sees the Monster and the Wolfman duke it out for just a few minutes before the end of the film. Waiting for it is a bit like waiting for New York to appear in 'Jason Takes Manhattan', but surprisingly worse.
The film is very representative of the time in which the Universal Monster films started to become parodies of themselves. It's basically the 'Scream' for its time, for just as 'Scream' ultimately farces the slasher genre that it belongs to, this seems to be a playful experiment as opposed to a solid story in which the monster in question represents something internal. This is where they finally said "this is just fun now". Although it's not the best of them, I can't deny that I had fun with it, and it's interesting to see that Universal seemed to just have a set of specific actors for these monstrous roles. It shows a very different time
My only real criticisms about it are that it ends too abruptly, and I very much prefer Boris Karloff as the Monster. Bela doesn't really sell me on it, but he's still an awesome Dracula and Ygor. Lon Cheney Jr. and Maria Ouspenskaya are just as great here as they were in 'The Wolfman', but I got way more out of that than this. I can still, however, give it up to the film's attempt at taking a stab at trying something very new, and unprecedented for its own time. Further to that, this is at least pretty fun to watch nowadays, and a decent Halloween watch. I don't think I can quite dig at this as much as other critics have in the past though, because at worst, I just see it as a failed first attempt. I'm not sure I would have expected it to be anything amazing at the time. But will these crossovers improve? We'll find out soon enough.
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