House of Frankenstein
Director: Erle C. Kenton
Written by: Edward T. Lowe
Threat: Mad Scientist
Weapon of Choice: Quicksand
Based upon: short story - "The Devil's Blood" - Curt Siodmak
Other movies in this series:
The Bride of Frankenstein
Son of Frankenstein
The Ghost of Frankenstein
The Wolf Man
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
House of Dracula
Rish Outfield's Reviews
I said recently, after seeing Son of Frankenstein, that I didn't like how Universal pumped out sequels to its horror films, and that I wished they'd quit with Bride of Frankenstein. If that had happened, though, we would have missed out on House of Frankenstein, another great installment in the series, which I think rivals the first in quality (but doesn't quite reach the heights Bride of Frankenstein reached).
A sequel to Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, this is the sixth entry in the "Frankenstein" series, the fourth in the "Dracula" series (fifth if you count the Spanish version), and the third in the "Wolf Man" series. Yep. Only Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein had more monsters.
In this film, a mad scientist and his hunchback assistant escape from captivity and run into Count Dracula, the Wolf Man, and the Frankenstein monster in their quest to gain vengeance on those who imprisoned them.
Karloff again got top billing, and totally deserved it. He as very likeable, not as Frankenstein's Monster, but as the villainous Doctor Niemann, a follower of Doctor Frankenstein's work who makes an unholy alliance with the re-alive Count Dracula . . . in the name of REVENGE!! Old Man Carradine played Dracula (with a moustache, no less–which is interesting, since the Count was described as having one in Bram Stoker's novel) who is both younger and Americaner than we have seen him before. My childhood hero, Lon Chaney Jr. again appears as the haunted and earnest Larry Talbot--truly one of the most tragic recurring characters in the movies. Also returning was the obligatory angry mob with torches. The only sad absence was Dwight Frye, who passed away before filming began.
This was Glenn Strange's first appearance as the Monster, but he would play it from this point on. J. Carol Nash stole the show as Daniel, the sad and sympathetic hunchback. Daniel falls for a hot gypsy chick, and he too is a lonesome, tragic figure. There was, of course, the token American girl--the love object between both Daniel and Larry.
The opening titles were letterboxed, leading me to wonder. This had a much higher budget than most. There was a cool prison set and an even cooler ice cavern set that was so extensive, I thought it had to be for some other movie. There were primitive, but effective vampire/bat transformation scenes. There was a cool stunt and it featured a nice matte painting--both were wholly believable.
This is a fine film, with a nice, complicated plot. The hypnotizing affect of the vampire's gaze worked on both women and men alike. The Dracula subplot was abandoned after twenty-five minutes (which really should have caused disgust, since it was so obviously disconnected from the rest of the film, but actually worked for this fan). Dracula is foiled by sunlight, and the story moves on. The Wolf Man and Creature are found frozen in ice, which could have worked from how the the last film ended.
There's a great "you stupid bitch, you deserve to die" moment when the gypsy girl calls poor Daniel "mean and ugly." You'd think we learned nothing in all these years. They refer to the Frankenstein creation as the Monster. From now on, so will I. Larry Talbot rocks. His best line in this one is "Only death can bring us peace of mind." I wonder if anyone has that on their tombstone. I wonder what's on Lon Chaney's.
And speaking of memorable dialogue, the girl who would be Dracula's prey had this to say: "It's a wonderful night. The darkness beckons to me. Another world. The world I see is far away, yet very near. A strange and beautiful world in which one may be dead, and yet alive." Dude, I want that on MY tombstone.
The title really made no sense, because there is no house nor a descendant of Frankenstein in the picture, but like I said, it was a darn fine film. An unfortunate victim of the Hayes Code, the violence always occurred offscreen. It got distracting the way they kept doing that. Even so, in the end, EVERYBODY DIES. That's a nice touch, and probably unusual at this early date.
I'd Recommend It To: Classic Horror fans. It's not really necessary to have seen the previous entries to appreciate this one.
Note: As I've said in all my "Frankenstein" reviews, I feel funny giving this our slasher Skulls, since they refer to cliches that either weren't invented yet or permitted when this was released. But ah well.
Posted: May 30th, 2001
The tyranist's thoughts
I used to think that the cross-over entries in the Universal Classic films were really just about money-grubbing. Of course, I'd never actually seen one, but that has never stopped me from having an opinion before.
So this one features Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Wolf Man, a hunchback, and a mad scientist. It doesn't take so much to get me to watch a movie, and usually I think of it as overkill. What was really nice here, though, and what I thought was the story they should have been telling, was the romance between Daniel (the hunchback), Ilonka (the gypsy), and Larry Talbot. It had a poignancy that transcended the silly monster/revenge story that was going on. In fact, if it weren't for that subplot, I probably would have just thrown this on the heap of bad sequels.
Carrol Nash's performance as the hunchback is truly wonderful. He is as subtle and rightfully underplayed as Boris Karloff's mad scientist, Dr. Niemann, is overplayed. And while I found Elena Verdugo's performance as Ilonka flighty and a little too free-spirited, she is contrasted very well, by Lon Chaney Jr.'s Larry Talbot. If you can't tell, I've become quite attached to this little plot. I only wish it had been the story and not the silly revenge stuff. Alas.
Check this one out if you get a chance. It's well worth the time spent watching it. Don't be disappointed though if you find yourself tiring of the first twenty minutes or so, it will get better.
Total Skulls: 7
|Rips off earlier film|
|Horror film showing on TV/in theater in movie|
|Future celebrity appears|
|Former celebrity appears|
|Girl unnecessarily gets naked|
|Death associated with sex|
|Unfulfilled promise of nudity|
|Characters forget about threat|
|Power is cut|
|Phone lines are cut|
|Someone investigates a strange noise|
|Someone runs up stairs instead of going out front door|
|Camera is the killer|
|Victims cower in front of a window/door|
|Victim locks self in with killer|
|Victim running from killer inexplicably falls|
|Toilet stall scene|
|Car stalls or won't start|
|Cat jumps out|
|Stupid discovery of corpse|
|No one believes only witness|
|Crazy, drunk, old man knows the truth|
|Warning goes unheeded|
|Music detracts from scene|
|Death in first five minutes|
|x years before/later|
|Dark and stormy night|
|Killer doesn't stay dead|
|Killer wears a mask|
|Killer is in closet|
|Killer is in car with victim|
|Villain is more sympathetic than heroes|
|Blood hits camera|
|Poor death effect|
|No one dies at all|
|Little kid lamely survives|
|Dog/Pet miraculously survives|
|"It was all a dream" ending|
|Unbelievably happy ending|
|Unbelievably crappy ending|
|What the hell?|