Review House of Frankenstein (1944)

Discussion in 'Universal Monsters' started by Doctor Omega, Apr 13, 2017.

  1. Doctor Omega

    Doctor Omega Contributor

    Feb 5, 2017
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    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), 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.

    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 Glenn Strange's debut as the monster.

    Strange, a former cowboy, had been a minor supporting player in dozens of low-budget Westerns over the preceding 15 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's fall from the roof is actually the voice of 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.

    Strange did his own stunt work on the film, notably in the climax where he flees across a field of burning grass and sinks into a pool of quicksand.

    The grass was actually tumbleweeds, which nearly scorched him when they burned more quickly than expected.

    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.

    Also, 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.

    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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  2. chainsaw_metal1

    chainsaw_metal1 Member: Rank 6

    Feb 5, 2017
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    This is one of those films that is remembered more highly than it probably should be. It's not terrible in any way, but it's not a good movie. The promise of a multi-monster story is grossly exaggerated. We get acting legend John Carradine taking over as Dracula, giving us a completely different take on the character, but heinously underused, and effectively participating in a separate storyline, until his untimely demise. Karloff is wonderful as always, this time playing the mad scientist who escapes from prison to continue the work of Dr. Frankenstein, with his hunchbacked assistant, the closest we get to the legendary Hunchback. Lon Chaney, Jr. is back as Lyle Talbot, the Wolf Man, who wants Karloff's doctor (and saying that, how great would it have been to have seen Karloff as The Doctor, flying the TARDIS) to cure his lycanthropy. And Strange does a good job as the Creature, if he is merely shambling around and breaking things.

    This movie is still one I love to watch, and enjoy thoroughly. But it's more ambitious than executed. It would have been so great to see all of the great Universal monsters in one film and have it a coherent story with everyone getting a decent story. Alas, it just ended up being a fun film with little substance.
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