For those of us disenchanted with the new films that have plagued theatres this year, the good news is there are a good many classic film revivals lighting up screens in the third quarter of 2012. Perhaps the imminent end of the worldis triggering a bout of movie nostalgia.
Four years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and four months after the bombing of Hiroshima, the Universal monster movies gasped their last as literary monsters gave way to monsters of the atomic age. The plot itself is a Frankenstein creation, cobbled together from bits and pieces of previous Universal monster movies for one last cash grab. That doesn’t mean it lacks any kind of enjoyable charm.
A bizarre revenge tale mixed with elements of horror tragedy. Universal went all out to bill this as an extreme monster mash-up, deliberately creating the archetypes that have become so familiar, reaching as far back as The Hunchback of Notre Dame to label the simpering Daniel (J. Carrol Naish) as the Quasimodo-ish assistant.
Arguably the best of the monster mash-ups. It begins with the awakening of presumed-dead wolf man, Larry Talbot, and follows him to a London asylum, from whence he then travels across Europe to the fictional town of Vasalia (which has inexplicably become Frankenstein’s home) to find a cure for his lycanthropy.
After a strong and memorable performance as the now iconic Ygor in the previous Frankenstein film, Bela Lugosi returns to wreak havoc once more, this time coaxing his new best friend, the monster, from the village of Frankenstein to the neighboring village of Vasaria, where yet another son of Frankenstein lives.
This is a more direct monster movie than Frankenstein. What it lacks in complexity, however, it makes up for in performances, especially Claude Rains, Ralph Bellamy, Maria Ouspenskaya, and no less than Dracula himself, chameleon Bela Lugosi as Bela, the cursed gypsy fortune teller who passes his burden onto Lon Chaney, Jr.’s Lawrence Talbot.