A year after The Wolf Man became a huge success, Lon Chaney Jr played the part of Frankenstein in the latest sequel "Ghost of Frankenstein". He was excellent in the role, and from that you can clearly see where the inspiration came from to combine the two strands and have these characters meet each other. Incidentally, Chaney also played a vampire later that year in "Son of Dracula", even though he was completely unsuited to the part, but that makes him the only actor to play all three of Universal's main monsters. Oh, and he also played the Mummy in "The Mummy's Tomb".
Anyway, I digress ... here we have Curt Siodmak, writer of The Wolf Man, returning again as screenwriter. All of the ingredients are there for a great sequel. It opens in Larry Talbot's tomb, with two graverobbers breaking in and disturbing his resting place. The moonlight comes through the window and falls on Larry's corpse, waking him from his slumber as the wolf man. He then gets taken to a hospital where he is deemed insane due to his insistence that he's a werewolf, but promptly escapes in search of the gypsy woman from the original film. She takes him to Frankenstein's town in search of his scientific expertise, and there he encounters Frankenstein's monster encased in ice ... my memory is a little hazey, but wasn't he consumed in fire at the end of the last movie? Ah, well.
It should really have been called "The Wolf Man Meets Frankenstein", because Frankenstein here is only a fairly minor character in the story. Lon Chaney Jr delivers another great performance, at least as good as that in the first film if not better. Of course, he does only have to have one mood to convey here -- desperation. Bela Lugosi, much as I love him, is a terrible Frankenstein. He's the wrong size and shape, and he clearly has no respect for the role. Thank god he doesn't appear for that long. Although having said that, it does kind of make sense that he plays the monster, as the brain of his Igor character was placed in Frankenstein's head at the end of the previous movie. Not that they have much continuity other than that.
The script certainly has it's moments, and the atmosphere of the two worlds of the Wolf Man and Frankenstein blend together fairly well, but on the whole this film just doesn't have enough interesting ideas and far too many dull moments. The set pieces are decent enough, but certainly not as striking as those in the earlier Frankenstein movies. Also, there's a fair bit of decidedly wooden acting from certain cast members, but that's to be expected from most of Universal's horror films.
This sequel is entertaining enough, but it's not half as good as it could have been. It's worth watching if you liked the original.
I have this movie along with The Wolf Man and a few other werewolf movies of the golden age of Universal Monsters. I must say this movie is not as good as the Wolf Man but its nice to see sequels that mix monsters together. The movie as a movie is ok. not too boring not too entertaining. Nuff said.
Once again in the opening scene of the movie, Curt Siodmak quotes his own poem "Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers at night, may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the moon is full and bright". The last line has been altered slightly, perhaps because the original line about the 'autumn moon' made people think that werewolves only change during one of the four seasons of the year.
Here he introduces the idea of immortality into the werewolf myth, even after being killed by silver it seems that a werewolf can be brought back to life simply by a ray of moonlight from the full moon (see top photo). Hmm. Also, the doctor uses the term "lycanthrope" when describing Talbot's condition, in the medical and psychological context of a person who believes that they are a werewolf. It has since then simply become another word for 'werewolf'. I'm pretty sure this is the first use of that word in the cinema, but I could be wrong.
I was a lot happier about the transformation effects in this movie. Here we see full-on dissolving shots of his face changing into wolf form, not just once but twice (see second photo down). The shots are smooth and convincing, although it's still a little weird when his head suddenly freezes in one place and stays there for the whole transformation. It meant that he appears perfectly calm, the complete opposite to Rick Baker's famous transformation sequence in American Werewolf. But in terms of special effects at the time, this is definitely the best thing since Werewolf of London. The Wolf Man makeup created by Jack Pierce looks great here, especially when compared to how out-of-place the Frankenstein makeup looks on Bela Lugosi. Like I said, I love Bela ... but as Frankenstein, I hate him. Okay, I'll stop ranting about that now.
At the end of the movie, there is of course the big fight scene between the Wolf Man and Frankenstein's monster (see bottom photo). We never get to see who wins because they're somewhat interrupted, but I'm fairly certain that our Wolf Man had a few tricks up his sleeve and was about to kick Lugosi's ass. Perhaps Karloff's Frankenstein might have won. Or even Chaney's Frankenstein. But then he'd be fighting himself. Ooooo.