House of Frankenstein (1944)

“If I had Frankenstein’s records to guide me, I could give you a perfect body!”

Synopsis:
A mad scientist (Boris Karloff) and his hunchbacked cellmate (J. Carrol Naish) break free from jail and take over the traveling sideshow run by Professor Lampini (Bruno Zucco), who they promptly murder. After reviving the skeleton of Dracula (John Carradine), Karloff and Naish dig up the bodies of Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange) and werewolf Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney), hoping they will know the whereabouts of Dr. Frankenstein’s records. Meanwhile, Naish falls in love with a local gypsy girl (Elena Verdugo), who in turn is smitten with the doomed Chaney.

Genres:

Review:
Peary is nothing if not complete in his coverage of Universal’s Frankenstein pictures, including all eight entries in his GFTFF. This final “legitimate” film in the series (before things went completely humorous by introducing Abbott and Costello into the mix) is — like its immediate predecessor, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) — primarily designed to capitalize on the success of more than just one of the studio’s infamous monsters. Here, no less than three (Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, and the Werewolf) are introduced in the space of just 71 minutes (and apparently scenes with the Mummy were planned but cut due to budget limitations): Dracula (now played by John Carradine, wearing a gentlemanly top hat) comes and goes within the first half hour, after which point Chaney’s Werewolf dominates proceedings, with the Monster (played by Glenn Strange) only given a few minutes of semi-meaningful screentime towards the end. The result is rather schizophrenic, with the film feeling more like a series of short television episodes than a cohesive narrative. With that said, it all moves quickly and is certainly watchable: Karloff gives a fine (if too limited) performance in a radically different Frankenstein-ian role, Naish is appropriately demented as his sidekick, and the love triangle between Chaney, Verdugo, and Naish generates a bit of pathos. The cinematography is (once again) appropriately atmospheric, and there are a few impressive sets. Fans of the genre likely won’t be disappointed.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Atmospheric cinematography
  • Effective sets

Must See?
No; this one is only must-see for fans of the series.

Links:

One Response to “House of Frankenstein (1944)”

  1. First viewing. In agreement, not a must.

    A schizophrenic film indeed. And an unnecessary one. Tho fans of sequels tend to not be concerned whether films such as this are necessary or not – they just want that same kind of thrill again, as a rule. Whether or not they find such thrill here is up to them. Personally, I see this as a mish-mosh re-hash. (And the Dracula angle, in partic, is as brief as it is pointless.)

    The selling point here is Karloff in a radically different connection to his landmark performance in ‘Frankenstein’. That said…tho he does an ok job, he’s still basically picking up a paycheck.

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