|House of Frankenstein|
House of Frankenstein original film poster
|Directed by||Erle C. Kenton|
|Produced by||Paul Malvern|
|Screenplay by||Edward T. Lowe Jr|
|Story by||Curt Siodmak|
|Distributed by||Universal Studios|
|Release date(s)||December 1, 1944|
|Running time||71 minutes|
House of Frankenstein is an American monster horror film starring Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr., directed by Erle C. Kenton, written by Curt Siodmak, and produced in 1944 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, Jr.), 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.
The film focuses on the exploits of the vengeful Dr. Gustav Niemann (Boris Karloff), who escapes from prison. He is helped by the hunchback Daniel (J. Carrol Naish), for whom he promises to create a new, beautiful body. The two murder Professor Lampini (George Zucco), a traveling showman, and take over his horror exhibit. To exact revenge on Bürgermeister Hussman (Sig Ruman), who had once caused his imprisonment, Niemann revives Count Dracula (John Carradine). Dracula seduces Hussmann's Granddaughter-in-law Rita (Anne Gwynne) and kills Hussmann himself, but in a subsequent chase, Niemann disposes of Dracula's coffin, causing the vampire to perish in sunlight.
Niemann and Daniel move on to the flooded ruins of Castle Frankenstein, where they find the bodies of the Frankenstein Creature (Glenn Strange) and Lawrence Talbot the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.) preserved in the frozen waters. Nieman thaws out the two and promises Talbot to find a cure from the curse. However, in fact he is more interested in reviving the Creature and exacting revenge on two former associates than in his promises to Daniel or Talbot. Talbot transforms into a werewolf and kills a man, arousing the villagers.
Talbot is also envied by the hunchback Daniel as both love Ilonka (Elena Verdugo), a gypsy girl. She has fallen in love with Talbot but is the object of Daniel's affection. Daniel reveals Talbot's curse to Ilonka but she is not deterred and promises to help him in fighting the curse.
Things enter a critical stage at night, as Niemann revives the Frankenstein monster and Talbot again turns into a werewolf. Talbot is shot by Ilonka with a silver bullet, thereby releasing him, but Ilonka is killed in the process. Daniel blames her death on Niemann and begins to choke him. The Creature intervenes, throws Daniel out of the window, and carries the half-conscious Niemann outside, where the villagers begin to chase them and drive them into the marshes. There, both the Creature and Niemann drown in quicksand.
- Boris Karloff as Dr. Gustav Niemann
- J. Carrol Naish as Daniel
- Lon Chaney, Jr. as Lawrence Talbot / The Wolfman
- Elena Verdugo as Ilonka
- John Carradine as Count Dracula a. k. a. Baron Latos
- Anne Gwynne as Rita Hussman
- Peter Coe as Karl Hussman
- Lionel Atwill as Inspector Arnz
- George Zucco as Bruno Lampini
- Sig Ruman as Bürgermeister Hussman
- William Edmunds as Fejos
- Charles F. Miller as Tobermann
- Philip Van Zandt as Müller
- Julius Tannen as Hertz
- Hans Herbert as Meier
- Dick Dickinson as Born
- Glenn Strange as Frankenstein's monster
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man had been the first on-screen pairing of two Universal Studios monsters, but House of Frankenstein was the first multi-monster (often called "monster rally") 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 "monster rally" 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 the debut, as the monster, of Glenn Strange, a former cowboy who had been a minor supporting player in dozens of low-budget Westerns over the preceding fifteen 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.
Made near the end of Universal's monster-movie cycle, House of Frankenstein showed evidence of the studio's declining interest in the franchise. The "monster rally" concept sacrificed internal story continuity for audience appeal, and the sets and special effects are noticeably less elaborate than in earlier films in the cycle. The scream that accompanies Daniel the hunchback's fall from the roof is actually the voice of Boris 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, who had played the Monster himself in The Ghost of Frankenstein.
Glenn Strange, presumably because of his physical skills, did his own stunt work on the film, notably in the climax where he flees across a field of burning grass (actually tumbleweeds, which nearly scorched him when they burned more quickly than expected) and sinks into a pool of quicksand. Stuntman Cary Loftin doubled for Boris Karloff in the fire scenes, but Karloff returned for the final scene in the quicksand.
Here are a couple of "goofs" that made into the finished product.
After Dracula is thrown from the carriage, he looks over to where his coffin has landed. Look closely at his face, and you can see that part of his mustache is gone.
After Larry Talbot has transformed into the Wolf Man for the final time, we can see that his hands weren't made up.
- ↑ Michael Brunas, John Brunas & Tom Weaver, Universal Horrors: The Studios Classic Films, 1931-46, McFarland, 1990 p468