Film Review - House of Frankenstein

Starring - Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, J. Carrol Nash, Glenn Strange, Anne Gwynne | Directed by Erle C. Kenton | Universal DVD FF Not Rated 67min 1944

Review By Xmortis

In the Monster's sixth Universal outing, he is once more flung in with The Wolfman but Dracula and a Mad Scientist come along for the ride!

Dr. Gustav Niemann is a man in jail who was following in the footsteps of Dr. Frankenstein. He and fellow prisoner Daniel (a hunchback) discuss the secrets of Frankenstein, and when a freak accident leaves a hole in the prison wall, the two escape. They kill a traveling carney and his crew and take over his operations that include the body of Count Dracula. Niemann's plan is to kill those who sent him to prison, and he uses Dracula as his pawn to get revenge on a Bourgermeister by seducing granddaughter (by marriage) and leaving him open for the attack. As Dracula drains his blood and steals the young woman into the night, Niemann does not repay Dracula for his deed. Instead he emptying the coffin, letting Dracula burn up in the sunlight. Niemann and Daniel then travel to Frankenstein's old lab to find any old notes. Along the way they help a beautiful gypsy named Ilonka. At night they enter the ruins and find the frozen bodies of Larry Talbot and The Monster. Larry helps them find the notes after Niemann promises he can break the werewolf curse by given him a new brain. Larry and Ilonka hit it off as Daniel gets more jealous of the budding romance. The monster meanwhile is in poor shape after being thawed out and must be recharged to unlock its secrets. Niemann kidnaps the last of the men who sent him away and decides to use their bodies for brain transplants involving the Monster and Talbot. In the end the Monster is made strong once more, Ilonka shoots Larry who's turning into a werewolf with a silver bullet and she also dies in the attack. The Monster kills Daniel when he turns on Niemann. Finally the villagers chase the Monster with Niemann in hand into the swamp where they sink into the marsh.

Here's yet another Universal Monster mash-up that works! The plot is about Dr. Niemann, a crazy doctor who wants to follow in Henry Frankenstein's footsteps of cracking the secrets of life and death. Along his mad journey he encounters Dracula, Larry Talbot and the Frankenstein Monster claiming to have means to help them all but really just using them for his own sick twisted gain. Of course his backstabbing and sinister ways blow up on him, and the monsters get the last laugh. It's a film that makes you wonder who the real monster is Niemann or the Universal Monsters? Boris Karloff this time plays the sinister Doctor Niemann, and while it would have been amazing to see him as the Monster once more, his evil performance as the crazed Niemann steals the movie in the sinister department from the monsters themselves. Glenn Strange puts the bolts on for this film, and while he is barely used, he has the look and build for the monster down. In fact he would go on to play him in two more films and be the last actor to play the iconic character for Universal. Lon Chaney Jr. once more shines as Larry Talbot aka The Wolfman, and John Carradine gives a mediocre performance as Dracula. The break out actress in the film is Elena Verdugo, who plays Ilonka the beautiful gypsy girl who has a charm to her that makes you want her to find happiness. The rest of the cast does a great job and keeps the feel of a traditional Universal Horror film from this era. The film's use of Dracula is a waste and his death is really lackluster, as the death of the Monster who only sinks in quicksand in a swamp. But the biggest let down in the film is that none of the monsters face off in a fight making it a battleless creature romp. Over all this film has a nice story, great acting, a familiar score and a great monster cast.

Once more I had to get a Region 2 PAL disc in order to bring you this single feature review because, as stated before, here in the USA you can only get it on a double feature or in a box set. The extras are original trailer and subtitles.

This is a creature feature Monster Mash that showcases some of Universal's top creatures in a single film doing what they do best: sending chills down viewers' spines and striking terror into the hearts of the villagers. Over all this film has some major misses like the lack of monster fights and the lame way the monsters are disposed of, but it has enough hits like great characters and amazing performances to make it a must watch for classic horror fans.

Next up in the series is House of Dracula, another monster mash film that brings back all the monsters from this film and marks the final serious film in the series.