Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) – Episode 10

The Wolf Man (1941)

The Wolf Man (1941)

We must be more clever this time. We must pretend to be friends with the monster.

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.

Story

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 strait jacket 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 that 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 put 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.

Selected Quotes

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!

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

The Wolf Man (1941) – Episode 6

The Wolf Man (1941) Stamp

The Wolf Man (1941) Stamp

Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.

 

To get back to this classic horror flick I am creating a new line from Patric Knowles who was in Chisum (1970) to The Wolf Man (1941). There are a few biggies down this line that I want to get to.

Even a man who is pure at heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.

This beautiful little poem recited several times in The Wolf Man (1941) is said to have Eastern European folk roots. However, Curt Siodmak wrote it for this film and has joined the werewolf lore along with many other elements from this movie. The poem, be it somewhat change was quoted in Van Helsing (2004) as well as in every Universal film Wolf Man appearances.

I’m going to Patric Knowles line from Chisum (1970) to get to this movie.

Cast

The Wolf Man had an all-star cast by any standard.

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 seen. 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).

Perhaps the best well-known star in the movie was Claude Rains who played Sir John Talbot, the father of Lawrence AKA the Wolf man. Rains had so many good roles it is hard to sum them up without reading a laundry list. But I will try to highlight what I feel are a few of his best. He may be most commonly know from the movie Casablanca (1942) where he utters the lines “Major Strasser been shot, round-up the usual suspects” and “I’m shocked, shocked to find out gambling is going on in here” as he is handed his winnings. He was also the principal of Humphrey Bogart line ” Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship?

I have narrowed it down to seven more films. Rains had a role in the epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962). You must watch this movie even though it will be a challenge. I recommend that you begin early on a Sunday morning and watch Lawrence of Arabia (1962) first and then watch Doctor Zhivago (1965). This will stretch your emotions and your temperature from desert heat to frozen Siberia and you will have two must see epics out-of-the-way.

Notorious (1946) is a spy thriller set in Rio De Janeiro during WWII with lots of Nazis and other unsavory characters. Rains along with his co-stars Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman are on fire. I found myself sitting on the edge of the couch watching this film.

The next film, though not really in my favor genre is Mr. Skeffington (1944). However, this move is an excellent love story. Rains for nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar for his work on this movie.

In The Sea Hawk (1940) and Episode 80 – The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) Rains plays a couple of real slimy roles. In Robin Hood, he is so slippery that you want to go to the back yard and start practicing your bow skills.

Between the tow previously mentioned roles he was a leading character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). As good as Mr. Smith, played by Jimmy Stewart, Rains, playing the Senator Joseph Paine is evil. Evil that was good and maybe could be again.

Finally in The Invisible Man (1933) Rains takes on his best know horror role. Logically he is missing from the screen a lot of time during this flick.

Veteran actor Ralph Bellamy played Colonel Paul Montford the local chief of police. Patric Knowles was cast as Frank Andrews and help track the Wolf Man. Knowles played the role of Will Scarlett in Episode 80 – The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and the unrequited love in Auntie Mame (1958). Rosalind Russell is fabulous in this movie and takes you on an emotional roller coaster while making you laugh at the same time. But whatever you do, don’t watch the 1974 Mame starring Lucille Ball and Bea Arthur. Remember that once time is lost you can never get it back.

Three supporting characters carry the story line of this movie. They are Bela Lugosi as Bela (very creative), Maria Ouspenskaya as Maleva, the gypsy, and mother of Bela, and the beauty Evelyn Ankers as Lawrence Talbot’s love interest Gwen Conliffe. Because of the roles, she took on Ankers was known as “the Queen of the Screamers” way before Jamie Lee Curtis.

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.

Story

Now onto the plot – when Lawrence heard that his brother John had died he returns from America. To get past a knighted Welshman having an American son they simply added the information that he had been in American for 18 years working on the Mt. Wilson Observatory in California. I guess dialogue coaches were unknown in those days. Siodmak said the first version of the script had a non-related Lawrence coming to work on Sir Talbot’s telescope.

Eventually Lawrence AKA The Wolf Man AKA Larry makes his way to the observatory where he uses the massive telescope to spy into the bedroom of Gwen Conliffe played by Evelyn Ankers. Larry then heads to town to meet the shopgirl and eventually tells her the story. Given modern sensibilities about stalking the movie if made now would end at that point. But she decides to go to the gypsy camp on the night of a full moon. Is that a good idea anytime?

That night Bela turns into a wolf or a wolf man and attacks Larry and his party. Larry beats the wolf to death with a silver wolf’s head cane. However, he is bitten by the wolf. When Larry talks to Maleva, the old gypsy tells him the wolf was Bela and now that his is bitten he will turn into a wolf as well. The “wolf” that Larry fights was his German Shepherd.

At one point in the shooting, The Wolf Man battled a bear but unfortunately the bear ran away during filming. What few scenes were filmed were put into the theatrical trailer.

When Larry and his father attend church in the quaint little village. However, the church steps seem much too large and appear to be a cathedral. It is in fact part of the Universal set built for the silent version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), which of course starred Chaney’s father as Quasimodo.

Silent film actor Gibson Gowland appears in the Wolf Man as a villager and was present at the death of the Wolf Man (Junior). He had also been in The Phantom of the Opera (1925) and saw the death scene of the Phantom (Senior) and was the only actor to appear in death scenes performed by both Lon Chaney and Lon Chaney Jr.

There are three scenes where Larry transforms into the Wolf Man. It is quite odd that he was never referred to as the Wolf Man in the movie. In the first two scenes, only the werewolves feet are shown changing. This is a very good trivia question. In the final shot, they use 17 continuous face shots that take him from Larry to the Wolf Man.

Larry kills a few more people and goes after his love interest, as werewolves do. He does a pretty poor job of covering his tracks (see what I did there). A group of villagers, including his father, track him down and kill him freeing him from the curse at last. During this final scene, Gwen faints and lays in the smoke. When they finished the scene the actress Anker was found passed out in the fog.

While I have mentioned the Nazis a few times in this podcast already, I have one more note that must be made. Siodmak said the Wolf Man story was reminiscent of his time in Nazi Germany going from a normal life into a life out of control just like Larry’s life is changed

Also, the wolf man can be seen as a metaphor for the Nazis: a good man is transformed into a killer who his victim will be when he sees the symbol of a pentagram (i.e., a star) on them.

Spooky right?

Lore providers

Many of the modern myths of werewolves originated from this film, such as a person becoming a werewolf through a bite, the only way to kill a werewolf is with a silver bullet, and changing into one during a full moon. These are concepts created by writer Curt Siodmak.

However, silver, according to legend, was first used to slay a werewolf in the Beast of Gevaudan, dating from the late 19th century. Novels recounting the legend appeared in the 1930’s and featured the slaying of the werewolf with a silver bullet. The Wolf Man was the first to show these elements on the screen.

World-Famous Short Summary – Rich country boy returns to the country, falls for girl. Things end badly for the boy.

The Wolf Man (1941)