The Chaney Blogathon: HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN – The Dungeon Review!
Erle C. Kenton directed one of my all time favourite horror films; Island of Lost Souls (1932). Island of Lost Souls is not the only horror gem Mr. Kenton directed that is near to my heart. Kenton directed three films in the Universal monster franchise; Ghost of Frankenstein, House of Dracula and today’s subject review House of Frankenstein. Clearly Universal studios was milking the commercial and critical success of Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931) and The Wolf Man (1941) with multiple entries featuring the three aforementioned monsters. It was overkill, but that is no reason to write the series off. You would be missing out on plenty of goodness. Some very talented directors and actors were involved in the making of these films. Actors such as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and of course Lon Chaney Jr. who is the reason I am doing this review. Chaney played Larry Talbot aka the Wolf Man four times. The follow-up to 1941’s The Wolf Man was Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) which I thoroughly enjoyed and reviewed for a werewolf feature I did a while back. House of Frankenstein I suppose could be the sequel to Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man as we do meet Frankenstein and the Wolf Man where we left them; in the ruins of Castle Frankenstein. Dracula makes an appearance in this one and there is a random mad scientist with a hunchback assistant. Continuity is not really a huge concern in these later monster films.
No matter though, the more monsters the merrier if you ask me! House of Frankenstein is action packed! Erle C. Kenton wastes no time at all getting into the action. We get a prison escape, a kill, and Dracula in the first 15 minutes. The film’s runtime is only seventy minutes and it just flies by. In seventy minutes our mad scientist and his hunchback assistant meet Dracula, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein and in classic movie fashion ends with a lynch mob. The sets and set pieces are decent enough although there isn’t much that particularly stands out. The cave-like ruins of the Frankenstein place was pretty neat though. The effects are admirable; Dracula’s silhouette on the wall that becomes a bat was well done. Chaney’s Wolf Man makeup looked great and the transformation is well done. Well done except they forgot to put fur on Chaney’s hands! Normally I am not one to notice things like that, but he is looking in the mirror during the transformation and you can really clearly see his hands in a prolonged shot. There was no getting around that oops. House of Frankenstein’s best asset is definitely its performers who are all just perfect. Boris Karloff has long been one of my favourite actors and especially when he is playing the villain. Karloff wears these roles like a finely tailored jacket and they fit him to a tee. John Carradine plays the suave variety of vampire but he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. I enjoyed Carradine as Dracula although his character doesn’t linger long. J. Carrol Naish who plays Daniel, Dr. Niemann’s hunchback assistant is promised a solution to his ailment in exchange for services. Daniel is not a particularly likable character but I nonetheless found him an empathetic one. Glenn Strange who plays Frankenstein’s monster was apparently coached by Karloff who played the monster in the original 1931 version as well as The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Strange plays the large lumbering creature convincingly well and I think he looked superb in the makeup. Strange apparently also did all his own stunts! Last but certainly not least is Mr. Lon Chaney Jr. who plays Lawrence Talbot also known as the Wolf Man. Lawrence Talbot is a tortured character. Talbot is well aware of his crimes and is unable to control his transformations. He knows he should not exist but like all living things he has an instinct for survival. Werewolves represent men’s inner struggle and Chaney’s performance captures this so beautifully. Lon Chaney Jr. is the most sympathetic monster of all time in my opinion. I highly recommend checking out House of Frankenstein; a non-stop, fast-paced multi-monster thrill ride loaded with top-notch performances that looks a little something like this….
A Vehicle in a travelling show called Professor Lampini’s Chamber of Horrors runs into some trouble outside of Neustadt Prison.
A natural disaster creates the perfect escape route for Dr. Gustav Niemann (Boris Karloff) and fellow convict Daniel (J. Carrol Naish).
The unfortunate and unlucky Professor Lampini (George Zucco), gets “a hand” with his stranded vehicle from the conniving doctor and his sidekick. Lampini invites them in to his trailer and boasts about his main exhibit “The Actual Skeleton of Count Dracula the Vampire”. They kill Lampini and take over his show.
Step right up and see the skeletal remains of Count Dracula the Vampire!
Dracula (John Carradine) has been resurrected!
Dracula mesmerizes Rita (Anne Gwynne) who just so happens to be an in-law of Dr. Niemann’s sworn enemy Carl Hussmann.
Dracula transforms into a bat.
Daniel meets a pretty Gypsy Lady named Ilonka (Elena Verdugo) whom he falls in love with.
Dr. Niemann and Daniel explore the ruins of Castle Frankenstein and find the frozen bodies of the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s creature.
Dr. Niemann thaws the two creatures out and we meet Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr) in his non-Wolf Man form.
Ilonka, Daniel’s gypsy lady takes an instant liking to the handsome Lawrence.
Dr. Niemann makes the promise of a cure for Talbot’s wolfism.
Daniel divulges Lawrence’s secret to Ilonka.
Frankenstein (Glenn Strange) is ready to wake from his long slumber.
Dr. Niemann’s promise is shallow and he has no intention or desire to help Lawrence. Lawrence transforms into a werewolf and kills a local man.
The death of a local man brings unwanted attention from the local police.
Ilonka and Lawrence share a tender moment.
Lawrence gives Dr. Niemann a piece of his mind.
Dr. Niemann is far more interested in his current project; the re-awakening of Frankenstein’s creation!
Lawrence Talbot’s transformation into the Wolf Man.
What is a monster movie without a lynch mob equipped with torches?
Dungeon Rating: 4/5
Directed By: Erle C. Kenton
Starring: Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Anne Gwynne, Peter Coe, Lionel Atwill, George Zucco, Elena Verdugo, Sig Ruman, William Edmunds, Charles Miller, Philip Van Zandt, Julius Tannen, Hans Herbert, Dick Dickinson, Glenn Strange