House of Frankenstein (1944 )

Directed by Erle C. Kenton

House of Frankenstein is a 1944 American monster, crossover, horror film starring Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr., directed by Erle C. Kenton, written by Curt Siodmak, and produced by Universal Studios as a sequel to Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man the previous year. The cast includes a mad scientist (Karloff), the Wolf Man (Chaney, Jr.), Count Dracula (John Carradine), a hunchback (J. Carrol Naish), and Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange). This “monster rally” approach would continue in the following film, House of Dracula, as well as the 1948 comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

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Plot

The film focuses on the exploits of the vengeful Dr. Gustav Niemann (Boris Karloff), who escapes from prison. He is helped by the hunchback Daniel (J. Carrol Naish), for whom he promises to create a new, beautiful body. The two murder Professor Lampini (George Zucco), a traveling showman, and take over his horror exhibit. To exact revenge on Bürgermeister Hussman (Sig Ruman), who had once caused his imprisonment, Niemann revives Count Dracula (John Carradine). Dracula seduces Hussmann’s granddaughter-in-law Rita (Anne Gwynne) and kills Hussmann himself, but in a subsequent chase, Niemann disposes of Dracula’s coffin, causing the vampire to perish in sunlight.

Niemann and Daniel move on to the flooded ruins of Castle Frankenstein, where they find the bodies of the Frankenstein Creature (Glenn Strange) and Lawrence Talbot the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.) preserved in the frozen waters. Nieman thaws out the two and promises to find Talbot a cure for the curse. However, he is more interested in reviving the Creature and exacting revenge on two former associates than in keeping his promises. Talbot transforms into a werewolf and kills a man, arousing the villagers.

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Talbot is also envied by the hunchback Daniel, as both love Ilonka (Elena Verdugo), a gypsy girl. She has fallen in love with Talbot. Daniel reveals Talbot’s curse to Ilonka but she is not deterred and promises to help him fight the curse.

Events reach a crisis point when Niemann revives the Frankenstein monster and Talbot again turns into a werewolf. Ilonka shoots Talbot with a silver bullet, thereby releasing him, but passes out on top of Talbot afterwards. Daniel blames Niemann and begins to strangle him. The Creature intervenes, throws Daniel out of the window, and carries the half-conscious Niemann outside, where the villagers begin to chase them and drive them into the marshes. There, both the Creature and Niemann drown in quicksand.

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Reception

A. H. Weiler of The New York Times compared the film’s collection of monsters to “a baseball team with nine Babe Ruths, only this grisly congress doesn’t hit hard; it merely has speed and a change of pace. As such, then, it is bound to garner as many chuckles as it does chills. However, lampoon or no, put this item down as a bargain for the bogie hunters.” Variety called it “a solid entry for the attention of the horror addicts” and called Naish “particularly well cast”. Harrison’s Reports called it “only a mild horror picture, more ludicrous than terrifying. The whole thing is a rehash of the fantastic doings of these characters in previous pictures and, since they do exactly what is expected of them, the spectator is neither shocked nor chilled.”

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Production

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) had been the first on-screen pairing of two Universal Studios monsters, but House of Frankenstein was the first multi-monster movie. Early drafts of the story reportedly involved more characters from the Universal stable, including the Mummy, the Ape Woman, the Mad Ghoul, and possibly the Invisible Man. Working titles—which included Chamber of Horrors (a reference to Lampini’s travelling horror show) and The Devil’s Brood—emphasized the multi-monster nature of the story.

The multi-monster approach, which emphasized box office appeal over continuity, was used in House of Dracula the following year and later in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. House of Frankenstein marked the debut, of Glenn Strange playing the monster, a former cowboy who had been a minor supporting player in dozens of low-budget Westerns over the preceding fifteen years. He reprised the role in House of Dracula and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and cemented the popular image of the monster as shambling, clumsy, and inarticulate. Boris Karloff, who had moved on from playing the monster to playing the mad scientist, reportedly coached Strange on how to play the role.

The scream that accompanies Daniel the hunchback’s fall from the roof is actually the voice of Boris Karloff, recycled from the scene in Son of Frankenstein where the Monster howls in anguish at finding Ygor dead. The face on the Monster dummy used in the ice and laboratory scenes was a mask of Lon Chaney Jr., who had played the Monster himself in The Ghost of Frankenstein.

Glenn Strange, presumably because of his physical skills, did his own stunt work on the film, notably in the climax where he flees across a field of burning grass (actually tumbleweeds, which nearly scorched him when they burned more quickly than expected) and sinks into a pool of quicksand. Stuntman Cary Loftin doubled for Boris Karloff in the fire scenes, but Karloff returned for the final scene in the quicksand.

Some continuity errors are evident in the finished film. After Dracula is thrown from the carriage, he looks over to where his coffin has landed; in a close-up, part of his mustache is gone. When Talbot transforms into the Wolf Man for the final time, his hands lack fur.

Karloff’s performance in this film is his last in Universal’s classic horror cycle

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Not bad Universal horror

19 March 2001 | by preppy-3 (United States) – See all my reviews

Mad scientist Boris Karloff escapes from prison with hunchbacked assistant Daniel (J. Carrol Naish). He plans revenge against the men who put him there and wants to revive the Frankenstein monster. Along the way they revive Dracula (John Carradine) and Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) pops up as the Wolf Man. Silly but enjoyable all-star monster mash. Naish, Karloff, Carradine are all very good as is Elena Verdugo as a gypsy who falls in love with Talbot. Chaney Jr. just walks through his role. No great shakes (or scares) but there’s tons of atmosphere, beautiful sets, pretty good special effects and it moves quickly. Worth seeing.

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The Gang Is All Here

Author: BaronBl00d (baronbl00d@aol.com) from NC
23 July 2000

House of Frankenstein was the first of the monster free for alls with all three Universal monster legends, the Frankenstein monster, the wolfman, and Dracula. It is not the most coherent story around, but you won’t care because the film has a brisk pace, imaginative scenes, creative sets, and some first-rate acting. Boris Karloff plays a doctor in the Dr. Frankenstein tradition trying to resurrect the Monster and appease the wolfman by finding him a path to death. He is the epitome of evil and has no moral compass whatsoever. Karloff does a fine job in his role, and Lon Chaney, as ever saddened at his lunar plight, does a wonderful job again as Larry Talbot(his third time in the role). Glenn Strange plays the monster..and plays him well although really has little to do in the film till the last five minutes. Dracula is played by John Carradine. The shining stars of the cast, however, are J. Carroll Naish playing a poor murdering hunchback with low self-esteem, and the bubbly and beautiful Elena Verdugo as a gypsy girl. Naish gives a very poignant portrayal. Look for cameos by Lionel Atwill and George Zucco(wish his part had been larger). House of Frankenstein is a great film in the Universal tradition of its monsters and mayhem. One of its other outstanding virtues is its famous score.

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