House of Frankenstein Reviews
Crap, crap, crap. The only reason this thing gets one whole star is because Karloff is in it. Otherwise it's pure trash. Not as bad as House of Dracula, but it still sucks.
Boris Karloff returned to the Frankenstein Series with this installment, and it's an asset to the picture to have him. Some fans have accused him of walking through his part as a mad scientist here, but I've always found this to be a very understated kind of calculated evil, and he's very good here. He portrays the mad Dr. Niemann, who once dared to follow in the footsteps of the original Frankenstein, and as a result was jailed for his unethical experiments along with his hunchbacked assistant, Daniel. When a severe thunderstorm destroys the foundation of the prison he's housed in, Niemann manages an escape and attempts to locate the original diary of Dr. Frankenstein, running into Dracula, the Wolf Man, and the Frankenstein Monster along the way.
J. Carrol Naish scores high points with his portrayal of the sympathetic hunchbacked assistant to Karloff, and manages to stir up our emotions as he pines away for cute gypsy girl Elena Verdugo. Lon Chaney plays The Wolf Man for a third time here, and though he's saddled with some silly dialogue ("why have you freed me from the ice that imprisoned the beast that lived within me?") he has now made the tragic character of Larry Talbot the werewolf all his own. He is desperate to aid Dr. Niemann however he can, in the hopes that the scientist may be able to return the favor by curing him of his curse.
John Carradine is exceptional as Dracula, playing the part differently than Bela Lugosi had. What Carradine lacked in the creepy "otherworldliness" of Bela, he made up for with aristocratic evil. His physical look is actually much closer to how Bram Stoker described the character in his novel, "Dracula". Glenn Strange takes on the role of the hulking and imposing Frankenstein Monster for the first time, and is the next best to Karloff's interpretation of the creature, in terms of appearance. Hans J. Salter again provides a wonderfully haunting music score. Director Erle C. Kenton accentuates the proceedings with gloomy sets, dark nights and the customary thunder and lightning.
This monster fest is light and breezy, packing much into its brief 70 minute running time. If there is any quibble to be made for HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, it would be with regard to the episodic way in which its three monsters are worked into the plot. Dracula has an early segment all his own, and then the second half switches to the Wolf Man and the Frankenstein Monster. None of the creatures cross paths with another, and their screen time as ghouls is limited (especially the case for the Monster). But this is just a technicality; for those who don't go into it expecting High Art, there is still much fun to be had within the House of Frankenstein.
Dr. Niemann and Daniel travel on to the town where Frankenstein's castle is located. Gypsies are camping in the area and Daniel, the humpback, falls for his own dancing Esmeralda. In this movie she is named Ilonka (Verdugo). Niemann and Daniel find the Wolf Man/Lawrence Talbot (Chaney Jr.) and the Frankenstein's Monster (first time by Glenn Strange) frozen under the castle ruins. The gypsy girl falls for Talbot instead, but he still wants his life to end so the beast within him will stop being a curse. They all somehow pack up the monster and travel to Niemann's laboratory. The mad doctor makes promises left and right, but plans his own twisted scheme that leaves none of his cohorts happy. Gypsy and Wolf Man fight. Humpback and Mad Scientist fight. Humpback and Frankenstein's Monster fight. Angry Mob and Frankenstein's Monster fight. And finally at the end of burning torches in a quicksand pit Boris Karloff's face as Dr. Niemann is the last one we see disappearing from sight.
In this unrated conclusion of the classic horror series, a mad scientist (Boris Karloff) and demented hunchback (J. Carroll Naish) emulate Dr. Frankenstein's "eternal life" experiments to enact vengeance on the three men (Sig Ruman, Frank Reicher and Michael Mark) responsible for sending him to prison, employing Dracula (John Carradine), the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.), and Frankensteins monster (Glenn Strange) to do so.
Amazingly, this marked Boris Karloff's return to the franchise. Granted, he's relegated to playing a stock mad scientist but he's still in fine form...if only the rest of the movie was. Playing a rather anemic vampire, John Carradine elicits more cries of Eat something! than Watch out! when hes on-screen. Lon Chaney, Jr. gives the Wolf Man another go, coasting through the undemanding role if on auto pilot. Though not the Crown Jewel in Universals horror crown, House of Frankenstein still boasts a few gems, albeit mostly for your funny bone.
Bottom line: House of Cruds
The problem that a movie faces, containing a few of the most profilic monsters in literature and cinema history, is obvious. You cannot possibly cast well-known or good actors for all of the creatures. Only Lon Chaney Jr. reprises his role of the Wolfman, while the Frankenstein monster and Dracula are portrayed by other, stinking actors. A fact that clearly sucks down the quality of this flick.
The strongest part of the movie is of course Boris Karloff, who oddly enough does not play the monster itself, but Dr. Gustav Nieman, a mad scientiest who, after having escaped from prison, treks through the country to A) Find Victor Frankenstein's records and B) Return to his lab and continue his experiments.
On his way he and his hunchback (besides kidnapping a gypsy woman) revive none other than Dracula, the Wolfman and the Frankenstein monster.
Of course, these abnormal beings cannot possibly get along and despise each other, partly over a colliding love interest with the gypsy woman.
It is a pity that not in ONE scene the three classic monsters fight against each other, which is a really a major stupid decision if you've already decided to throw them all into the same bowl alright.
How could a final fight between Dracula, Wolfman and The Monster had been a highlight in creature cinema.
Another basic rule of classic horror was not applied. You cannot have a strong antagonist without an equal protagonist and vice versa. I missed Van Helsing or a hard-boiled police constable.
All in all, compared to classic movies of the early Universal or later Hammer era, this nugget really does not shine. It is a chuckling laugh at most.
"I'm going to give that brain of yours a new home in the skull of the Frankenstein monster. As for you, I'm going to give you the brain of the wolfman so that all your waking hours will be spent in untold agony awaiting the full of the moon... which will change you into a werewolf."