Sunday, May 1, 2016

In short: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

Boy, do Universal horror films from the monster mash era make me cranky. I’m not even going to get into my usual synopsis here, seeing as the film’s plot is a pretty strained exercise in pointlessness despite the script being written by Curt Siodmak, who really could do better. Not only are character motives utterly incoherent, they’re illogical actions are not even setting up anything that’s all that interesting to watch. It’s one thing to use “It’s in the script!” as a motivation when it at least gets a film somewhere interesting or exciting, but you don’t really need to go into any contortions of this sort when your film isn’t planning on going anywhere of note anyhow.

I suspect it’s that legendary disinterest of the Universal higher ups in using their horror franchises as anything more than an unloved money making machine that’s responsible for how little of interest or dramatic impact is actually happening in Roy William Neill’s – who also could do so much better - film. This certainly is not a film made by people giving much of a crap about making a good movie; to my annoyance, though not to my surprise, it’s not even one terribly interested in at least giving its audience what its title promises. Sure, Frankenstein’s monster (Frankenstein himself being dead and all, and his daughter Elsa alas isn’t a mad scientist because that might have been entertaining) and the Wolf Man do meet, and even have a thirty second fight without any reason the script actually bothers to set up for it in the end, but that leaves us with a film mostly dragging its feet for seventy minutes, particularly once Lon Chaney Jr.’s Larry Talbot leaves beautiful Wales and goes on an odyssey of very little interest.

To add insult to injury, Bela Lugosi’s (whom I love dearly) performance as the Monster that somehow – for a reason the film of course doesn’t bother to explain but just treats as a given – has lost much of its strength is absolutely dreadful, lacking the physical presence as well as the pathos Karloff gave the role. He’s a good aggressive grunter, though.

And you know what? That’s really the kindest thing I have to say about this thing.

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