Dave Galanter
December 1st 1969 - December 12th 2020
He was loved.

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Nose Norton

Location: Plainville
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 6,529
Subj: Creature Feature 61: House Of Frankenstein(1944)
Posted: Tue Feb 14, 2017 at 08:40:58 am EST (Viewed 342 times)

1944's House Of Frankenstein is the sequel to Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, introducing Glenn Strange as the Monster and bringing back Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolf Man. John Carradine plays Dracula and Boris Karloff plays mad doctor Gustav Niemann. It was written by Curt Siodmak.

Thanks to a lucky lightning strike, Dr. Gustav Niemann, with his hunchbacked assistant Daniel, escapes from prison and plans revenge on the people who put him away. They encounter and murder Professor Lampini(George Zucco) and take over his traveling Chamber Of Horrors show, which happens to have the skeleton of Count Dracula. Niemann removes the stake from Dracula, bringing him back to life, and offers to protect his coffin if he will murder for Niemann. Dracula kills the Burgermeister and seduces his grandson's wife, but the authorities soon give chase. Niemann tosses Dracula's coffin out of his carriage, causing Dracula to crash his carriage and perish in the rising sun.
Niemann and Daniel continue on to Castle Frankenstein, as Niemann's brother had been an assistant to Dr. Frankenstein. In the village, they pick up a gypsy girl whom Daniel falls in love with and find the bodies of the Wolf Man and Frankenstein's Monster preserved in the frozen waters from the flood that destroyed the Castle in the previous movie. Niemann thaws the monsters and plans a lot of brain-swapping with the hope of curing Larry Talbot and the hunchback, and controlling the monster, but, mostly, he wants revenge. The gypsy girl falls for Talbot and, when he turns into a wolf, she shoots him with a silver bullet as he attacks and kills her. The Monster is revived and kills Daniel who had attacked Niemann due to his guilt in the gypsy girl's death. The Monster flees with Niemann but is chased by torch-wielding villagers into the marsh where they disappear in quicksand.

My biggest memory of House Of Frankenstein is being disappointed that Boris Karloff played the Mad Doctor instead of the Monster. While that turned me off as a kid, watching as an adult I can say that Karloff elevates this movie with his performance. He really brings the role of the Mad Doctor to a higher level with his cool malevolence and manipulative scheming. He seems to outperform other Mad Doctors without really trying.
My other disappointment from this movie was that the monsters hardly interact. The story follows Dr. Niemann meeting Dracula and then the Wolf Man and Frankenstein in almost different stories. When I watched this movie a few years ago, I was surprised that Dracula was dispatched so quickly. With this watching, I knew to expect this and enjoyed the stories more. A contemporary review from the New York Times compared it to "a baseball team with nine Babe Ruths", and, IMO, each villain does steps up to the plate and takes his at-bats, but that prevents any real clashes between the monsters.
Finally, I didn't really care for Daniel the Hunchback. I know that the Hunchback used to be a horror staple, but that idea seems out of date now. J. Carrol Naish makes the character so sympathetic that it's hard to believe in him as a monster. He doesn't give a bad performance but this role has become such a trope of old movies that it is a turnoff.
I understand that when you get to the 5th or 6th sequels, there will be a decline in quality, and usually a decrease in budget. There is a decline in House Of Frankenstein, but it's still a good horror movie. It flows more like an anthology movie with a thread that connects the stories rather than the Monster Mash that fans would expect. If you can accept this from the start, you won't be disappointed.

Memorable Moments:

The introduction of Dr. Niemann. This is a great horror moment. A guard approaches Niemann's prison cell and as he checks the supplies he is dropping off, Niemann's hand reaches through the door window and grabs him by the throat. Niemann demands the chalk that he had asked for and as the camera moves into the cell you see that Niemann has been continuing his work on the cell walls.

Dracula being revived. Niemann doesn't believe that this is the real Dracula as he removes the stake with the intention of using it to defend himself should the Burgermeister remember who he is. Once removed, though, Dracula transforms from a skeleton to flesh(complete with clothes). Niemann quickly turns this to his advantage by making a deal with the vampire. Karloff is always scheming.

Dracula's demise. The carriage chase is exciting and Daniel pushing the coffin out is surprising. Dracula's story ended too quickly but Carradine gives a good performance.

The Wolf Man's demise. Chaney gives a nice performance using facial movements to show his change to an animal and the Wolf Man crashing through a glass door is exciting. His end, too, comes quickly but it is satisfying as he is killed by the gypsy girl before she succumbs to having her throat ripped out.

The Monster's demise. His throwing Daniel through a window was a great scene and he and Niemann sinking into the quicksand is effective, though slightly silly as Niemann says "Quicksand!" about 10 times. Keeping with the pace of the movie, the final credits pop up immediately after Karloff's head sinks under the surface.

House Of Frankenstein trailer

New York Times review 12/16/1944

According to Wikipedia, an early draft of the story was to include the Mummy, the Ape-Woman, the Mad Ghoul(a movie which I'd like to watch soon) and possibly the Invisible Man. While I would've loved this, I feel that Siodmak had a tough time logically putting the three monster's together, so I can image how difficult this would've been.

Glenn Strange makes his first appearance as the Monster, at times looking like a revived corpse and at others looking like Herman Munster. Apparently, Karloff coached him on how to play the monster. According to IMDb trivia, Strange was paid $500 for the role.

The continuity of the movie is pretty good as Lampini claims to have taken Dracula's body from his castle in the Carpathian Mountains and mention is made of the dam being destroyed and Castle Frankenstein being flooded in Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man. Both monsters are then shown frozen in the water under the castle. However, the castle, which was leveled in the previous movie, is in pretty good shape in this one.

You can watch House Of Frankenstein here:

House Of Frankenstein

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