Written by: Matt Molgaard
There’s never been another thespian to make Larry Talbot so unbelievably sympathetic as Lon Chaney Jr.. The Wolf Man is a character that’s been toyed with too many times to count. Some performers have done the character justice, some have fallen short. But Lon… Lon was special. He understood the depth of the character. He understood the conflict of the character, the inner turmoil that plagued the man who – when the moon shone full – transformed into a monster of epic proportions, all but unstoppable by your Average Joe. Lon Chaney Jr. knew that Talbot had to work as a polar opposite of The Wolf Man. He had to, in order for fans to cling to the character; feel that compassion that the afflicted command.
I miss Chaney Jr.. He was certainly a special talent, and he brought something remarkably memorable to film. Not just genre works either, but film in general. He was a craftsman who earned a place in the history books with big dedication. His defining role – that of The Wolf Man, obviously, now carries a sense of nobility to it. That was a great man, portraying a great character who rose above and beyond plenty of other iconic figures. And that genius is on full display in Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man.
The story centers on Talbot, who’s decided the only way to ensure future safety for those around him, is to be done away with, permanently. But killing a werewolf isn’t like killing a human. It takes a bit more effort, and Talbot knows it. He seeks out Maleva, the gypsy who knows of his true burden (it was her son who attacked and subsequently transformed Talbot into what he now is) in the hopes that she can provide a source, or a means of termination. She makes it known that only one person can guarantee the slaying of a lycanthrope: Dr. Frankenstein. But Talbot soon learns that the mad scientist has perished, which ultimately leads to a hunt for his notes and an inevitable encounter with the long-frozen monster.
An early Universal favorite of mine, I’m pretty much always satisfied when Lon enters frame; if he’s on the bill, I’m interested, but this franchise crossover offers a lot more than just Chaney Jr. and his familiar expression of angst, it’s also a well-written piece that brings two legendary monsters of film together in a monumental meeting. Some may argue that FMTWM lacks the impacting atmosphere of The Wolf Man, but I’d argue against that stance. The sets still look great, the fog machine is still working overtime and the gloom of nightfall factors into the story heavily. It’s still an atmospheric slice of nostalgic cinema that I personally consider great.