Thursday, October 20, 2016

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

Year 8, Day 294 - 10/20/16 - Movie #2,472

BEFORE: The Universal Frankenstein franchise continues, and both Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, Jr. carry over from "The Ghost of Frankenstein", but both play different roles here.  Chaney played the monster in last night's film, but he was also famous for playing the Wolfman a few years before (1941).  The original plan was for him to play BOTH monster roles here, but then Bela Lugosi took over the role of Frankenstein's Monster, having played Ygor in the previous film.  Confusing, to say the least.

THE PLOT: After being awakened, Larry Talbot chips Frankenstein's Monster out of a block of ice. When Talbot changes to the Wolfman, the two creatures battle each other.

AFTER: This is a really thin premise, since both monster characters were believed dead in their last appearances - Frankenstein's Monster was last seen in the burning wreckage of the Frankenstein estate, and the Wolf Man was beaten to death by his own father at the end of his film.  So some aspiring writer had to find some loopholes to bring them back to life.  So we get some grave robbers who open up Larry Talbot's crypt, allowing some moonlight to fall upon his body, and that does the trick.  Hey, comic book writers do this all the time now, they'll kill off a character when they don't know what to do with him, and then the next writer who wants to use that character just needs to write him back to life.  Sometimes they don't even bother to explain how, the character just appears back on the scene and has to figure out how he was brought back to life.  At this point, does it even matter?  The characters will go on forever, as long as people keep buying movie tickets and comic books.

The latest was the Incredible Hulk, who was killed by Hawkeye in an issue of the current series "Civil War II", because the Avengers got a tip from a precog that even though Bruce Banner seemed to be cured of his hulks curse, pretty soon he'd go all gamma-crazy again and kill several bystanders.  So, by all means, it's best to put an arrow through his brain while he's human, just to be on the safe side.  But no joke, in a follow-up story about three weeks later, the Japanese ninja outfit known as the Hand dug up the body, and they've got a great track record for bringing people back to life (Elektra, Bullseye, etc.)  So I'm sure we'll be seeing Banner's Hulk again, really soon, but in the meantime, enjoy the adventures of the new, teenage Hulk (Amadeus Cho).

Anyway, back to "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man", which was a successful film from 1943 - it was received much better than "Dracula and the Mummy Get Formally Introduced" or even "Dr. Jekyll and the Creature From the Black Lagoon Go Out for Brunch" (Spoiler alert, Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde so he can communicate better with the Creature, but then does something very evil and doesn't leave a tip.)

I think the main problem with the ineffective title here is the word "meets" - it makes me conjure up a scene where the two monsters are shaking hands, with the Frankenstein Monster saying "Gaarggghh!" and the Wolf Man answering, "Snarl, Growl!" OK, good meeting, everyone, I think we broke some new ground and settled a few outstanding issues, now let's get started on maximizing our core competency to attain new corporate synergy.  Jeez, couldn't they at least have called it "Frankenstein vs. the Wolf Man", that's a little more exciting, at least.

On the run from the 5-0, Talbot meets up with the Gypsy Maleva and together they travel to Frankenstein's castle, where they find the Monster preserved in the frozen catacombs.  Again, how convenient.  As I mentioned before, the Monster looks different now, because he's played by Bela Lugosi, so did the filmmakers think that by putting Ygor's brain inside the Monster, the Monster would then come to resemble Ygor?  Or is this just a coincidence of the storyline?  But as in the previous film, the Monster doesn't seem to open his eyes during the whole film, so this leads to a lot of questions about just how alive he is, or whether he's blind, and if so, is he just stumbling around?  And why isn't he talking and (relatively) smart, like he was at the end of "Ghost of Frankenstein"?  What happened to Ygor's brain inside its new container?  Or were we supposed to forget about that little plot point?

EDIT: Ah, the trivia section on the film's IMDB page does shed some light on these matters.  The editors ended up removing all references to the Monster being blind (for fear that people might not remember this plot point from the previous film, and to help this film stand on its own.  They also removed all of the Monster's dialogue, because Ygor's brain did re-state his desire to conquer the world, but Universal executives felt he sounded a little too much like Adolf Hitler.

Chaney plays Talbot like a real sad-sack, desperately seeking a cure for his lycanthropy, even though Dr. Frankenstein's work was in a completely different monster-based arena (bringing dead flesh back to life) he tracks down yet ANOTHER Frankenstein descendant, this one female.

There are a lot of strange reversals in the plot, probably because if Talbot did get cured, then we wouldn't have a plot any more.  So this leads to some very confusing dialogue, such as the following:
Talbot: "Would you help me find a cure?"
Baroness: "Sure, I'll do whatever I can."
Talbot: "Oh, why won't anyone HELP me?"

Even though she's not a scientist in any way, Elsa's just a baroness, at least she knows how to find yet ANOTHER copy of Dr. Frank's journal.  I think he must have also invented the xerox machine, because these journals just keep popping up every time somebody needs one.  But then after this film's mad scientist reviews the journal, and says some random scientific-sounding things like "Reverse the charge" and "Connect negative to negative, got it!" - well, it makes me think that instead of finding Dr. Frankenstein's journal on creating life from dead flesh, instead they found the instructions for jump-starting his 1941 Pontiac.

And then, just when our resident mad scientist has wrapped his brain around this whole life/death conundrum, he breaks down.  "I can't do it, I just can't destroy Frankenstein's creation!"  OK, yet another reversal.  You do know that's why you were hired, right?  And that if you don't kill the monster, he's probably going to break free and strangle you, right?  OK, your loss.

The pieces all go back into the box at the end, ready for the next game.  And the famous castle gets destroyed again, only this time by a flood and not a fire.  What's the point of even rebuilding the castle at this point?  And why are villagers cheering, when the dam flooded the valley, probably destroying all of their crops as well?

Also starring Ilona Massey, Patric Knowles (last seen in "Another Thin Man"), Lionel Atwill (also carrying over from "The Ghost of Frankenstein"), Maria Ouspenskaya (last seen in "The Wolf Man"), Dennis Hoey, Don Barclay, Rex Evans, Dwight Frye, Harry Stubbs (last seen in "The Invisible Man"), with a cameo from Jeff Corey (last seen in "The Cincinnati Kid")

RATING: 3 out of 10 folk songs

No comments:

Post a Comment