I wanted to get one more show out in October and boy is it a Duesy. I haven’t seen this movie in a couple of decades but man does it age well. This movie not only closes the October 2014 Frankenstein line, it intersects with the Patric Knowles line and puts us back on course for mid-November. Today’s film is Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943).
Lon Chaney, Jr. played the role of Lawrence Talbot and the Wolf Man. I don’t know if Chaney Jr. was the greatest actor ever or that was real pain that he shows in every scene. Chaney was the son of legendary actor Lon Chaney, of such films as The Phantom of the Opera (1925), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and about another 160 movies. Juniors is perhaps best known for playing the role of Lennie in Of Mice and Men (1939).
Patric Knowles played Dr. Mannering. Knowles has 127 credits from 1932 to 1973. Knowles was cast as Frank Andrews in The Wolf Man (1941) and help track and kill the wolf man. Knowles played the role of Will Scarlett in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and the unrequited love in Auntie Mame (1958).
Bela Lugosi played the role of Ygor the friend and controller of the monster. I have to try to read this: Lugosi was born Be’la Ferenc Dezso Blasko in 1882 in Lugos, Austria-Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania). During WWI Lugosi was an infantry lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian Army. Yes, that is correct, it’s the other side. Since he was active in the Actors Union during the Hungarian Revolution of 1919 he was forced to leave his homeland. For a time he continued to act in Berlin but left for America in 1920. he arrived in New Orleans in December 1920. This makes me wonder, where the rats disappearing on the boat and did he mingle with the Crescent city vampires.
After working on the stage for three years he got his first silent screen role in America, he had been in a dozen or so in Hungary. By 1927, he was back on Broadway in the role of Dracula. It has always been rumored the Lon Chaney Sr. was the first choice for the role but died before shooting began. There is some controversy with this a Chaney was under contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and would not have been available. Well, Lugosi got the role and since then he has been the archetypical vampire to most of us. However this stuck Lugosi in the horror genera.
Helped organize the Screen Actors Guild in the mid-30’s, joining as member number 28.
Lugosi was typed into the horror genre because of his accent. a change in ownership at universal causes the number of horror roles to decrease. He also began taking opiates for his war wounds.
He finished his career in B-movies such as Glen or Glenda (1953) and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) which was completed with a stunt double following his death. He died of a heart attack August 16, 1956. Buried in his full Dracula costume, including a cape.
Lionel Atwill played the role of the Mayor. He was educated in London and began his screen work at the age of 20. In 1915, he came to America. He was in 25 plays on Broadway and has his first major film role in 1932.
He had a deep voice and bullying manner which severed him well in his roles as noblemen, mad doctors, military, and policemen. He usually wore a trademark thin mustache. His roles include Captain Blood (1935) and To Be or Not to Be (1942).
His career was ruined in 1943 after he was implicated in what was described as an “orgy” at his home that included, naked guests, pornographic films, and a rape occurred during the event.
Maria Ouspenskaya played the role of Maleva. Ouspenskaya was a 90-pound dynamo that was born and trained in Russia and had a great stage career and only started doing movies to keep her drama school going. She was a devout astrologer and in many ways echoed the part she played. Ouspenskaya was only six years older than Bela Lugosi, who played her son in the Wolf Man and the monster in this movie.
Ilona Massey played the role of Baroness Elsa Frankenstein. Massey was a beautiful Hungarian singer that tried to make her mark in the American cinema. Her voice was deemed to light as a soprano for the movies and her acting ability was in generally questioned. She made a total of 11 movies. She was quite good in the movie as the aristocratic Baroness and child of Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein. Once again she was probably named Elsa as a tribute to Elsa Lancaster who played Mary Shelly and the Bride of Frankenstein in the movie of the same name.
Dwight Frye played the role of Rudi. That part was cut down so much that he was only seen dancing at the wine fest. Not a good use of the actor that first played the role that would become Ygor.
In Llanwelly village, two grave robbers break in the crypt of Lawrence “Larry” Stewart Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) to steal his possessions. When they open the casket, they find the body covered with wolfbane. They take a little time to recite the wolfbane poem.
“Even a man who is pure in heart,
And says his prayers by night
May become a Wolf when the Wolfbane blooms”
But change the last line to “And the Moon is full and bright”.
When the full money shines down the body moves. Ok first off who goes grave robbing on a full moon. I know you can see and all that but there is too much stuff moving around in the moonlight. Secondly are they the only two people in town that didn’t know Larry was a werewolf?
So when the creature grabs the robber’s arm, the robber lets out a cry of “it’s alive.” Very appropriate for a Frankenstein movie!
Larry is found by a bobby lying in the streets of Cardiff, Wales. Larry has a large head wound. When he awakes he is recovering from surgery at Queen’s Hospital. He has been operated on by Dr. Mannering (Patric Knowles). That’s Dr. F. Mannering. That’s Dr. Frank Mannering. That’s Dr. Frank Man. You get it.
Well naturally there have been a string of murders including one of the grave robbers – I mean the moon is full so there have to be murders. Beware the moors. Inspector Owen (Dennis Hoey) is ready to start questioning him about the recent murders in Cardiff but the medical Dr. F holds him off.
I checked the NASA website for this next part. Technically the moon is only full for a brief instant when it is the earth is between the moon and the sun and we see the full reflected light of the sun. But to most human, it’s full for two or three nights. Therefore your average werewolf rampage can continue for 1-3 nights. So since the moon still appeared full Larry left his hospital bed and went on a bit of a killing spree.
The MD thinks Larry is mad so he locks him in a straitjacket and along with the Inspector heads to the Talbot hometown where the murdered grave robber and Larry’s empty tomb. They receive word that Larry has chewed through the straitjacket and has escaped.
We rejoin Larry, who was in western England searching for the gypsies. Somehow he makes it to the mainland of Europe and eventually finds Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya). Remember from The Wolf Man (1941) that Maleva was the mother of the first werewolf, Bela played by Bela Lugosi. Bela bites Larry and that is how Larry became cursed with the mark of the pentagram, the five-pointed star.
Larry wants to die as he is currently immortal. Maleva agrees to help Larry so they get on a wagon and go on one of those buddy road trips with much bonding. I don’t remember them crossing the English Chanel but they end up in what would normally be called Germany. However, this movie came out in 1943 during the middle of WWII when the outcome was not clear. So they kind of cleaned up the Germanish. Although the town had people wearing lederhosen, pipes on the wall, wine fests, and Frankenstein’s castle, it was not called Goldstadt or Frankenstein but was named Vasaria which loosely translates to “water place” in German.
They drop by the local guesthouse to ask about Dr. Frank but receive a cold shoulder as they are told that he and his monster are dead. There is an attractive young lady working in the guesthouse so you know she is going to get the chomp.
Now Maleva understands how werewolfing works as she protected her son Bela for many years so it amazes me that she would ride along with Larry with a full moon rising. So Larry wolfs out and runs off, gives the girl the chomp, finds the castle and falls through the floor into the icy dungeon. There is no burning sulfur pit here like in Son of Frank.
Larry stops around a bit as the werewolf and tries to get out of the hole but can’t. He wakes up in the morning as a human lying halfway in a frozen stream in the dungeon. There is a wall of ice in the corner and Larry sees something inside. He breaks the ice and sees it Frankenstein’s monster (Bela Lugosi). But he breaks it out anyway.
They become best buddies and spend a little time looking for Dr. F’s notes. Since he can’t the notes he goes to town mayor (Lionel Atwill) to contact the Baroness (Ilona Massey) on the pretext of buying the castle. When they meet he confesses that he only wants to book. She says no but oddly agrees to meet him at the dance. Dr. Mannering (Patric Knowles) shows up at the dance as he has been following Larry by the trail of murders across Europe.
About this time the monster comes into town arms straight out at shoulder level – I’ll explain that in a bit. Larry, the MD, the gypsy, the monster, and the Baroness all toddle off to the castle where the Baroness reveals her father’s notes so the MD can kill the monster and help Larry die.
The villagers under the leadership of the Mayor decide to take a different tack on the monster. The Mayor states “We must be more clever this time. We must pretend to be friends with the monster.”
Vazec, the Proprietor “Yes, why not elect it mayor of Vasaria.”
That castle is completely burned down but fortunately, all of the lab equipment is intact. How fortunate. The process is pretty simple you just reverse the wires on the neck bolt and suck all the power out. There is also a damn above the castle that provided water driven power so no need for lighting.
The Mayor the village is trying to keep everyone calm but the gypsy is buying food and more electrical/medical equipment is coming in every day. Vazec (Rex Evans) is a hot head and wants to blow the damn. He makes statements like “I want to handle this with my fist” which I took as a war-time shot against the Nazis.
The Baroness can see that Dr. MD is becoming power mad just like her father and she is very concerned. Well, true to form the Dr. get Larry and the Monster on two tables and he begins to amp up the monster rather than destroy it. The Doc cries out “I can’t do it! I can’t destroy Frankenstein’s creation. I’ve got to see it at its full power.” Frank gets to full power and Larry wolfs out and they get to scraping. The wolf man is fast and can jump. The monster is strong and deliberate. It the classic battle quandary – light and fast or slow and strong.
The villagers see the flashing at the castle and begin to head off pitchforks and lanterns in hand. Vazec slips away and puts dynamite by the dam. The dam breaks after the explosion sweeping away the monster and the wolf man. Dr. MD and the Baroness make it out okay. What happened to Maleva?
There are a few things you didn’t see in the movie.
In the screenplay, the transplantation of Ygor’s brain that happened in The Ghost of Frankenstein(1942) caused the Monster to become both blind and deaf. The Monster was supposed to have speaking lines but they were all cut after production. Lugosi had refused the role in Frankenstein (1931) because he would have had no lines. Universal executives feared that World War II audiences would find it too close to Adolf Hitler’s own rhetoric. Since the audience did not know the monster was blind, his outstretched arms and lumbering gait made him look ridicules. It also became the way every single person imitates the monster to this day.
Originally, Chaney was going to play the wolf man and the Monster, but the producers decided the make-up demands and schedule wouldn’t permit this to happen. Evelyn Ankers who played Elsa in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) was cut because she was Larry’s girlfriend in the Wolf Man film.
Screenwriter Curt Siodmak, a German Jew himself who had fled his country after hearing anti-Semitic speeches there in 1937, deliberately changed the location of Frankenstein’s castle from Germany to the fictional “Vasaria.”
The villagers have two pitchfork parties during the movie. In one there is a nice German Shepard. The dog was actually Chaney’s dog that he fought in The Wolf Man (1941).
World-Famous Short Summary – Man struggles with his identity while traveling in Europe until all his troubles are washed away.
Maleva: He is not insane. He simply wants to die.
Vazec: There, that’s his burial place. A fire destroyed him and all his misdeeds.
Maleva: He is dead?
Lawrence Talbot: Oh but he can’t be!
Vazec: He didn’t die any too soon for us; we all wished he’d never been born!