Friday, June 10, 2016

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

Screenwriter Curt Siodmak was having lunch with producer George Waggner at the Universal commissary. During their lunch Siodmak told Waggner that he needed a down payment for a new car and jokingly told him that he had a great title for a new film “Frankenstein Wolfs the Meatman".  Later that day Waggner called Siodmak to his office and told him to change the title to “Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman” and go buy the car.   With that Siodmak went to work on Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), which became the sequel both to The Wolf Man (1941) and The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942).

Lon Chaney Jr. was selected to return and reprise his role as the Wolfman and at one point the producers had planned to have Chaney play Frankenstein’s monster as well. However due to the extensive makeup demands and scheduling logistics that plan was dropped. The producers turned to Bela Lugosi, who accepted the role of the monster. Ironically he had turned down the role of Frankenstein’s monster 12 years earlier due to the fact the monster had no dialogue. In the original version of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) the monster did have dialogue. But the dialogue was cut after preview audiences found the monster’s lines humorous due to Lugosi’s Hungarian accent.  

Lugosi’s age also proved to be a disadvantage for him, he turned 60 during the production and stuntman was hired to do the stunt work the action scenes and in the scene of the monster being released from the ice, as a result Lugosi’s total screen time was less than six minutes.
With the monsters dialogue deleted and all references to the monster being blind (a side effect of Ygor’s brain being transplanted into the monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)) were left out.  As a result audiences found Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) confusing and hard to follow and Lugosi’s performance became the subject of ridicule by audiences and critics alike.  It was, however Lugosi’s portrayal of the blind monster that created indelible image of Frankenstein’s monster walking with his arms outstretched.

The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) had marked a downward turn for the quality of Universal’s horror production and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) continued the downward spiral. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) would be the first pairing of two monsters in one film and the last time that Frankenstein’s monster would play a major role in a Universal horror film. Despite its flaws and criticisms, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) became one of Universal Studios highest grossing films in 1943 and remains a favorite with horror fans today.

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