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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Horror Histories Vol. 16 - The Wolfman vs. Dracula

Continuing on last week’s theme of movies that were never made, let’s talk about the great (and not so great) monster mash films from Universal’s golden age.  After the success of Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein and The Wolfman, Universal  got the bright idea of teaming up two monsters in one film.  The result was Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman, which to be fair sounds like one is welcoming the other to the neighborhood instead of actually fighting each other.  Despite a slew of troubles, it was a hit and for the next couple of films, Universal did their best to cram every monster they had onto the same screen.

House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein featured werewolves, vampires, the Frankenstein monster, hunchbacked assistants and even a Dr. Jekyll character.  They’re hilarious and charming and to be honest, they’re two of my all-time favorite movies.  There’s one obvious team up that never happened though.  What about The Wolfman vs. Dracula?

In actual fact, it almost did happen.  Even better, it was slated to star Lon Chaney Jr. (again reprising his Larry Talbot werewolf role) and the return of Bela Lugosi as the Count.  

The script was commissioned and it’s got some pretty good ideas in it.  The story involves a woman who becomes the target of Dracula’s desire; however Talbot (always the ladies’ man in any Wolfman picture) loves her also and wants to protect her.  Dracula uses his powers of transformation to become a wolf and frames Talbot for a series of murders in order to get him away from the girl he’s protecting.  Obviously, a battle ensues and the Wolfman wins.

Except he doesn’t.

One of the biggest problems with this film was the budget.  The Wolfman vs. Dracula was slated to be a color film and due to the cost of color, the budget was tight.  This made it so the Wolfman got very little screen time and instead, Larry Talbot (in human form) ends up fighting and killing Dracula while the latter is in the form of a bat.  Only afterward, does Talbot transform in what feels like a tacked on scene in the final fifteen minutes.  The Wolfman attacks the girl he loves before she shoots him with a silver bullet.

Aside from that letdown, the other thing that ultimately scuttled the film was the aforementioned bat effect.  Universal didn’t want Talbot battling an animated bat and the script required Lugosi to be suspended by wires in the (anti)climactic battle.  Lugosi was in his 60’s by this point and in no shape for those kinds of stunts.

Universal pulled the plug and threw the money at an adventure film instead.  Some stills and the script survived though.  They’re collected in Phillip J. Riley’s excellent book The Wolfman vs. Dracula which will give you the whole story.  You can find it on Amazon. 

See you next week!

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