on 30 July 2014
House of Frankenstein which would be the last official Universal film to bear the Frankenstein title if you don't count the Abbot and Costello movie is a great film, worthy of ending the series.
We get 3 monsters and two historic characters. Frankenstein monster, Dracula, The Wolfman, The Mad Scientist and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Boris Karloff returns though not as the monster but as the mad scientist. He may be going through the motions, but he was such a terrific actor and it shows here. In every scene he commands our attention and does not smile once.
The film is odd in the fact that for half of the movie we deal with the character of Dracula, then a quarter of an hour is taken up by The Wolfman and only in the final ten minutes do we get to see the Frankenstein monster! The monster is played by Gregg Strange, and he does a decent job, I would imagine that Karloff would have given him some pointers. Lon Chaney Jr is here once again as The Wolfman, and Dracula is played very cagely by John Carradine.
The weakest aspect of the movie is the script- which isn't too strong. But the film rolls along nicely and is fast paced. It squeezes so much into its 70 minutes, that it is hard to be disappointed by the sheer enthusiasm of the movie.
This review does contain a spoiler, which I don't usually do, but felt apt to do for this such film. The climax of the movie. I thought this was a master stroke. Having the mad scientist (Karloff) sinking into the muddy quicksand hand in hand with the monster, was quite superb. Especially given that Karloff played the monster in the franchise's most famous and greatest of Frankenstein films the original 1931 classic. It just seemed the right way to end the film. And was a fresh change to the usual, burning everything in site down ending. Though this does threaten to happen.
So, House of Frankenstein may not be the best of the 6 part franchise, but it is a very good film.
on 16 January 2013
This film was first released in 1944 and was the second of the Universal "monster mash-ups". It is notable for returning Boris Karloff to a starring role in a Universal horror film and he is one of the true stars of this film. It features Dracula, the Wolfman and the Frankenstein monster in various stages of the film and Karloff plays a mad scientist-type character. He even has a hunchbacked assistant, which completes the monster line-up! Karloff was obviously too old to play the Frankenstein monster by now, so that part went to Glenn Strange. I found this film to be enjoyable and quite entertaining, but not nearly as memorable as the studio's earlier releases. I still prefer Carradine's Dracula to the one played by Lon Chaney Jr. in the earlier Son Of Dracula. Overall, this is good, but it was the start of Universal's decline and a sign of the terrible films to come from them in this era. I give this film three stars, because it is enjoyable but flawed.
When I was at school, Friday late night classic horror movies on the TV were compulsory viewing for me and my friends.
Some of them were obviously classics, with strikingly expressionistic visuals, but the main appeal then (and, indeed, now) was the camp tackiness of most of them; the ham acting, the cardboard sets and the stagy dialogue; in particular, I loved the fact that the same actors would appear in the films...the council members and medical rivals of the mad scientists who had been disposed of in earlier films would reappear to be bumped off a second (or third) time!
This film represents both the best and worst of the genre. Cobbling together the plot must have taken all of five minutes, with a further five to write the script. All your favourites are here (Frankenstein's Monster, Dracula, the Wolfman, the mad scientist, the hunchback, the police-chief) and when you watch the film, it seems as seems as if it has been put together from two separate short films, with Boris Karloff's deranged Dr. Niemann the only link between the two.
The dialogue is clunky, the performances hammy and the sets are comically unconvincing. But did I enjoy it? Of course I did! The film's not to be taken seriously, of course, and if you approach it in the right way, it's a hoot from beginning to end. (It runs for little more than an hour, incidentally)
My main pleasure came from the cast, charismatic and idiosyncratic performers all. Karloff is in his element as the demented scientist and while Glenn Strange offers a mere pale imitation of Karloff's portrayal of the Monster, J. Carrol Naish makes something genuinely touching of the hunch-backed assistant, even if the character is not as well-developed as Bela Lugosi's Ygor in the earlier films. The great John Carradine makes an urbane Dracula and it is a shame that he disappears from the film so early in the action. The same is true of Lionel Atwill's police chief (here reprising his role from "Son of Frankenstein") and George Zucco's director of the travelling circus of horrors; these two sepulchrally-voiced British thespians certainly knew how to play "straight" and "over the top" at the same time! Lon Chaney Jr. must be one of the least attractive leading men ever, but he too makes his mark in his familiar role as the Wolfman. The young "romantic leads" are uniformly dreadful, but don't let that put you off; sit back and enjoy!
on 5 July 2015
Boris Karloff the ideal Frankenstein Monster not played by him in this film, but by Glenn Strange. Instead he is the Doctor scientist of evil. Wanting to bring back the Wolf Man, Lon Chaney back to life, John Carradine Count Dracula too to create havoc and suffering to the village and it's residents. Suspense, action and overall thriller to watch.
Let the Universal Monster tag team continue unabated! In truth there's not really a whole movie here, it's more a skew-whiff anthology involving Dracula (John Carradine), the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr) and Frankenstein's Monster (Glenn Strange), with Boris Karloff's mad scientist and J. Carrol Naish's hunchback serving as the linking meat in the monster sandwich.
Plot is for the genre at the time the standard Universal fodder, mad scientist and hunchback manage - by an act of god - to escape from prison. Scientist is after revenge, hunchback wants a new body. After a short encounter with Dracula via a travelling chamber of horrors side-show, the pair head off to the Frankenstein castle - with pretty gypsy girl and Larry Talbot/Wolf Man in tow - where hopes and dreams involve a lot of brain swapping.
What transpires is a bit of violent jealousy and disappointments, building up to the monster smack down finale just as the villagers once again take unkindly to the presence of monsters in their midst. It's all good fun, the clichés of the franchise crammed into the hour and ten minute run time ensuring it's never boring. But really the Dracula section will leave you wanting more, while Frankenstein's monster - in the film bearing his name - just lounges around for a bit and then it's pretty much the end!
Enjoyable if disposable 6/10
I love the effects that make this period a golden era for this genre. Sufficiently creepy characters all well-acted. I prefer it to the gorefests of modern efforts.
Get it for the Halloween evening in.
on 15 July 2008
In what I think is the first of the Universal multi-monster format, Boris Karloff gives a compelling performance as mad scientist, Dr Niemann, ably abetted by J Carrol Naish who perhaps became stereo-typed as the hunchback assistant, but who gives a bang-on interpretation of the role and who is the focus of audience sympathy here. The film has the usual Universal hallmarks, including a brilliant sense of atmosphere, so often missing from today's gore-fest horrors. all the principals give solid performances, although I would have liked to seen more Lionel Atwill who was so good in 'Son of'.Glenn Strange has none of the presence of Karloff in the role of the monster as the storyline concentrates on a cure for Larry Talbot's lycanthropy and the scientist's quest to implant brains in the heads of his enemies! The ending seems a little hurried and the scenes of the torch-bearing villagers setting-to cannot be viewed without a smile and visions of Mel Brooks' spoof!
on 20 June 2014
I hadn't seen this since I was 17 (back in 1977). I was a young soldier at Catterick, baby-sitting for an NCO, and grabbed at the chance to watch it in comfort and with the assistance of tins of Skol, JPS etc.
Couldn't remember a damn thing about it, except the end, with Karloff and Glenn Strange sinking into the quicksand.
Superb quality DVD, but oh, how far Universal had fallen from their glory days! Lon Chaney Jr. was always hopeless; propped up in the original 'Wolfman' by superb character actors like Claude Rains. The film wastes John Carradine and George Zucco (the latter shamefully). And Lionel Atwill, so wonderful in 'Mystery Of The Wax Museum', also has his talents frittered away. Not a trace here of the love Universal put into its earlier horrors, including 'Phantom Of The Opera', Karloff's 'Mummy' etc. A shameless ghoul-fest that makes little or no sense - but, after all, the producers of Hammer and the Bond movies never stopped to worry about that, did they?
On the plus side, it has a veneer of charm that is utterly lacking in most modern horrors (in fact, virtually anything after the mid-60s - yes, Hammer, I'm talking about you), and most anything with Karloff is worth a glance. Did J.Carrol Naish come from the American theatre, like Dwight Frye? Now he could act, unlike Chaney Jnr. Anne Gwynne is decorative, but seen to better effect in 'Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe'. You can imagine half the American navy drooling over her.
on 20 December 2013
Ok so this is one of those films that I like many others was introduced to when BBC ran those wonderful summer double bills of horror movies. I've started re-visiting the Universal horror films and this one stands the test of time and cynicism of age and more contemporary horror. I like this one - dripping in spooky hokum and atmosphere. The Dracula piece is done and dusted in the first half (the chase is almost like a western) and I still love the re-usable stake (!). I'm not going to make any pretentious comments about the plot or why Universal decided to drop all 3 of its wonderful monsters into the one film because this is a fantasy horror movie and its great to have all 3 of the creatures running amok. Nice clear picture on the dvd, the actors Boris Karloff, John Carradine and Lon Chaney jnr are on good form and the classic elements are all in place - gloomy sets, thunder and lightning, hunchback and operating tables. Bliss.
on 23 October 2008
I first saw this film when I was 17 and loved it.
But having just purchased it on DVD,and revisited it after 23 years, I'm forced to revise my original opinion. Karloff's performance is only slightly menacing .J Carroll Naish, Lionel Atwill, and (to a lesser extent) Lon Chaney Jnr perform more effectively.
The plot is ridiculous and doesn't bear close scrutiny- for example, the notion that Niemann could seriously consider transplanting a man's brain into a dog's body.The biggest joke, of course, is the notion of housing the three arch ghouls of 40's cinema, Frankenstein's monster, the Wolfman, and Dracula in one film.
The film is atmospheric in places and the scene where Karloff (as Dr Niemann) hijacks and kills Professor Lampini played by George Zucco, is quite memorable, in my opinion; and the dream sequence, when Dracula bewitches Elena Verdugo with his magic ring,is well executed- but HOF is unworthy to stand alongside Son of Frankenstein, let alone the first two Universal Frankenstein's. J Carroll Naish lends pathos to the proceedings as the lovelorn Daniel and endows the film with its only moments of dramatic depth. Though vaguely fun (I confess I fell asleep watching the DVD after a 12 hour shift) this is ultimately nothing more than a mildly entertaining moneyspinner, dutifully spinning out the increasingly threadbare creative yarn of the Frankenstein franchise. But this DVD is a must for Karloff fans and Frankenstein completists.