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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Movie Talk - Universal Studio's Wolf Man Movies and Team-Up Movies


Well, I hope y’all had a safe Halloween. I was at work doing my thing as usual. Yes, I’m a little late on this one. It was actually a pretty busy weekend. Next up on this week’s edition of Monster Talk, here are the Wolf-Man movies and the “monster team-ups.” Unlike Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man wasn’t based on a book. He shares that distinction with a couple of other monsters.

I first saw the Wolf Man as well as the Frankenstein Monster through Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man years ago. I actually didn’t see the movie, The Wolf Man, until later. I think I also saw Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein around that time too. I saw House of Frankenstein on AMC when they did a marathon of the movies. As for House of Dracula, I just recently watched it for the first time a couple of nights ago. I had seen snippets of it online, though. I also did a re-watch with the others.


The Wolf Man
The Wolf Man was released in 1941. It starred Lon Chaney Jr. in the lead role as Lawrence Talbot. It also had Claude Rains from The Invisible Man as Talbot’s father and Bela Lugosi as Bela, the first werewolf. In the movie, Larry returns to Wales to help in the family business. While he’s getting used to his new life, he gets bitten by Bela, a gypsy who’s also a werewolf. Bela’s mother warns him that he will transform into a werewolf when the moon is full. Larry does what he can to tell his father the truth and keep his love interest safe. Unfortunately, it can’t end well for ‘ole Lawrence Talbot.
I guess this is one way to pick up women: Peeping Tom. Where's Marty McFly when you need him?

This was a pretty good monster movie. The story itself is pretty good. While it is a somewhat simple plot, it’s helped a lot by the acting and characters. While Lawrence Talbot’s ways for finding pretty ladies is suspect, he is a nice guy. You felt sorry for him in this predicament. The pretty tragic ending also brings the feels. I also liked his father, his love interest, and Bela’s mother, Maleva. It also had some nice funny moments to help balance the film’s moodiness.
Yeah, it is a cool cane, ain't it?

When it came to the look of the film, it didn’t feel too cheap. Everything from the town to the foggy areas looked cool and a little creepy. The Wolf Man himself looked cool. While one wonders why he decided to throw on dark clothes after the transformation, it’s still an iconic look. The music was also pretty cool. Heck it’s so good, it gets reused in later films. There really aren’t many bad things to say about the movie. It can get a little slow at times, but that’s really it. In the end, it’s a pretty good one.


Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
This movie was released in 1943. It takes place four years after the events of the previous movie. This time, Bela Lugosi plays Frankenstein’s Monster and that kind of makes since when you consider Ghost of Frankenstein. 
Hey, I didn't know President Teddy Roosevelt decided to go Hollywood! Good for him!

In this movie, Lawrence comes back from the dead when a couple of robbers open his grave. He’s later taken to a hospital where a doctor (Dr. Mannering) fixes up his injuries. He tries to tell him of his problem, but he’s thrown into the asylum.  Lawrence escapes and finds Maleva. She takes him to the village where Ludwig Frankenstein used to live in hopes of a cure. Unfortunately, Frankenstein’s dead and Lawrence transforms again. After his transformation, he finds the Monster frozen in the ruins of Frankenstein castle. He gets his daughter, Elsa, to help find Frankenstein’s old notes and Mannering tries to help both Lawrence and the village by conducting an experiment. Fortunately, that didn’t exactly happen and we get to see a mighty throw down between the Monster and the Wolf Man.

While this movie brings good memories, I have to unfortunately say that it’s pretty uneven. It does start out well. The stuff involving the Wolf Man is pretty good. He’s out searching for a cure or death. I guess either would apply for ‘ole mopey Lawrence. It was also nice seeing Maleva again. We also had a different actress playing Elsa Frankenstein and I liked this version a little better. Even though it feels out of place, I like the music interlude. It’s freakin’ hilarious especially at the end. Lugosi’s Monster was okay at best though.  At least the fight was entertaining. The overall look of the film was nice too.
Does anyone think this movie influenced Return of the Jedi a bit?

Now, here’s the bad. When the Monster pops on the scene, the movie takes a sharp turn downward. Some things didn’t make sense and the Monster felt less of a thing until the ending, of course. A couple of years ago, I found out why the last half of the movie felt so off. Originally, the Monster was supposed to speak since this took place after Ghost of Frankenstein. They even had the guy who played Ygor playing the Monster this time. Apparently, some folk thought the voice was funny. To be fair, hearing it in Ghost of Frankenstein was jarring.

Those scenes involving the Monster talking and most things involving Ghost of Frankenstein were cut out of the final product which really sucks. It makes all of what’s still there a little confusing especially if you just came off of watching Ghost of Frankenstein. The movie also pulls other weird moves involving the story. Why did Mannering repower the Monster? It really made no sense for his character to do so. Also, what happened to Maleva? I hope she wasn’t left in that castle! Overall, the movie is still enjoyable but it is a flawed product. It’s probably best viewed without seeing the previous Frankenstein movies.


House of Frankenstein
House of Frankenstein was released in 1944. It takes place about 15 years after the previous movie. We get Boris Karloff back in the role of a mad scientist. Actor Glenn Strange takes the role of the Monster and John Caradine plays Dracula. In the movie, Dr. Niemann and his hunchbacked assistant escape prison to perform experiments in Vasaria. They kill a man who ran a traveling show of horrors. Through this, Niemman somehow runs into Dracula. After that mild inconvenience happens, they find the Wolf Man and the Monster in Frankenstein’s ruins. He promises to end Lawrence’s curse but ultimately doesn’t. He also tries to take revenge on those who wronged him. Ultimately, it all ends with a lot of the main folk dying and Niemann ends up in quicksand with the shortly revived Monster.
Beware my servant's jazz hands!

This was okay. It was far from good but not really bad either. It was cool to see Boris Karloff in a monster movie again and I think it was one of his last ones. I’m not sure on that. Dr. Niemann was okay as a whole to me. Daniel, the hunchback, was also okay. The gypsy girl the two help out was okay but a little annoying. It was also cool to see Lawrence Talbot again and continue his story. We even got an okay re-introduction to Dracula, a character that we really hadn’t seen since the original from 1931.
Wow... go home, Dracula! You're drunk.

Unfortunately, that’s all the good it has. The movie is hurt by a pretty unfocused and busy story. It was weird how everything was laid out. Dracula’s role in the story felt so inconvenient since he just comes and goes. Plus, Carradine wasn’t that good as the Prince of Darkness. You really could have removed him from the movie and no one would have noticed. He doesn’t even interact with the other two monsters. The Monster and the Wolf Man don’t even fight here either. The Monster is pretty much laid out until the last few minutes of the movie. We also have another abrupt ending. Overall, it was okay but the story could have been much better than it was.


House of Dracula
This movie was released in 1945. It takes place a few years later in Varsaria.  It’s another “team-up” involving a lot of the same players from the movie but there is another scientist and a female hunchback. In the movie, Dracula and Lawrence Talbot come to Dr. Edelman in hopes for a cure from their ailments. Edelman was also able to find Frankenstein’s Monster but just leaves it powered down in his laboratory. Unfortunately for the doctor, Dracula injects his blood into Edelman and that causes him to go insane. He kills some people and revives the Monster. He did cure Lawrence, so that’s nice. The movie ends with another house burning down and the mad doctor and the Monster supposedly dying.
"Ah, what a random convenience" I sarcastically say!

If I could call this anything, it would be “Wash, Rinse, Repeat.” The movie is more or less a carbon copy of the previous movie. A lot of the beats were the same for the most part. We have Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Frankenstein’s Monster in another movie were they barely interact. The Monster only gets to do his thing in the last five minutes of the movie. We also don’t know how this fits with the last movie when Dracula and the Wolf Man are concerned. Continuity is pretty much something to forget about with these new batch of movies. We even get another abrupt ending. The overall story is as busy as the previous movie and not that good.

That being said, I did like some things that happen here. The overall story of Edelman trying to help Dracula, Lawrence, and, the Monster was fine. It also helped that Dracula actually doesn’t feel like a mild inconvenience since he causes Edelman to go mad and almost kills one of his nurses. I also liked the doctor and felt for him when he went mad. I thought it was interesting that we had a female hunchback. It was also cool that we got a bit of a resolution with the Wolf Man and his cure. Lawrence even transforms in front a bunch of people which was cool to see. In the end, while the movie is a retread of the previous movie, I kind of like it a little better. That doesn’t mean it’s all good though.


Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Finally, we get to this comedic turn with the franchise. While we have Bud Abbott and Lou Costello doing their thing, Lon Chaney Jr. and Glenn Strange return to their respective roles as the Wolf Man and the Monster. In a surprising move, Bela Lugosi returns as Dracula, a role he hadn’t played in years. In the movie, Chick (Abbott) and Wilbur (Costello) own a freight handling business and they end up receiving supposedly fake bodies of Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster. Unfortunately, they are the real deal and Wilbur sees this but isn’t believed. Things are helped when Lawrence Talbot shows up to tell the two that Dracula and the Monster need to be destroyed. It’s ultimately revealed that Dracula has teamed up with a female scientist so they can replace the Monster’s brain with Wilbur’s brain. The movie ramps to an all-out romp with the Monsters and the comedians.
Ooo... nice transition.

This was pretty nice after seeing the previous two movies. Even though Abbott and Costello’s comedy is thrown in, this felt more like a mash-up than the previous two movies did. The monsters all got to rumble more or less toward the end. Even though I haven’t seen many of A and Cs movies, I liked the comedy here. The comedy is pure gold or silver. Take your pick. All I know is that the slapstick did make me laugh. It was also funny to see the monsters get in on the fun.

It was cool to see Bela Lugosi as Dracula even though his age was really showing here.  It was also nice that Dracula was pretty much the villain of the piece. In the other two movies, he was off on his own and not that important. We even got an evil female scientist this time around and that was pretty interesting. Of course, Chaney is always cool as the Wolf Man and Glenn Strange is good as the Monster. He even gets to do more than lie around for a majority of the movie.

There aren’t many cons to the movie. Sometimes, the humor wouldn’t completely hit me. Also, there is a part of me that wishes we got a little more of the Monsters. It just sucks these movies were only so long in those days. The continuity problems are a bit of an issue too. How is Lawrence the Wolf Man again after the last movie and why is Dracula alive again? That never gets explained but you could take this as a stand-alone film that’s not based on continuity. Besides, Lawrence Talbot went through enough as the Wolf Man. In the end, this was a nice treat and an interesting way to have these monsters meet again.

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In the end, these movies are a little mixed. All of them are at least average with the Wolf Man and AACMF being pretty good. The other mash-up movies aren’t that good but they have enjoyable moments. Well, I’m outta here. Peace, God Bless, and don’t eat too much candy. After all, we have Thanksgiving coming up.

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