House of Frankenstein

House of Frankenstein (1944) movie poster

(1944)  Erle C. Kenton
viewed: 11/15/06

The last of the Frankenstein movies from Universal, a cycle that I’ve been running through since prior to Halloween.  Actually,  according to my readings House of Dracula (1945) is a sequel to this, so I guess I need to queue that up to have completed the circuit.

Since this film picks up where Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) left off, the story has gotten more and more absurd and convoluted.   This time, we’ve not only got the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s monster, but we’ve even got John Carradine playing Dracula breifly.

The story picks up with Boris Karloff imprisoned with a hunchback in a gothic jail.  He’s in there for trying to put a human brain into a dog.  Lightning strikes the prison, which is a huge stone edifice, and the whole thing breaks apart and Karloff and the hunchback escape.  They take over a travelling sideshow that has dracula’s bones in a coffin.  They unleash Dracula to seek revenge but then leave him to die again when they have to escape.  They find the frozen monsters in the bottom of the wreckage of Frankenstein lab and it’s explained that the cold underneath the castle is because it was situated on top of an underground glacier.

Anyways, the hunchback falls for a gypsy girl, the Wolf Man wants to die, the monster doesn’t get to do much.  And actually, none of the monsters seem to share any screen time.  It’s funny, but as a kid, I think I ate up the concept of having all the monsters in a single film, sort of the belated target audience for this concept.

It’s probably kind of interesting to look at these films in regards to the WWII period in which they are produced.  The era of “Universal Horror” was a ripe one, offering up many iconic images of Hollywood monsters.  All the monsters are kind of good guys (except perhaps for Dracula), and the real villain is the mad scientist played by Karloff.

It’s a funny thing, the way these movies evolved, what with these bizarre scenarios to bring all the characters together, really with only the point bring simply bringing them all together.  Even though it’s kind of an odd and convoluted scenario, it’s an uptick in quality from Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, though a far cry from the originals of Frankenstein (1931) or Dracula (1931) from being a real film of potential artistic merit.  I don’t mean that to be snobby, just trying to make that point.  It’s really a trope of Hollywood that carries through in Freddy vs. Jason (2003) and AVPR: Aliens vs Predator – Requiem (2007).  I guess, when you’re out of ideas, start putting more characters together.  And Hollywood, as bankrupt of originality as they are, will go there again and again, no doubt.

Heck, now that I think of it, Van Helsing (2004) was pretty much the same thing.  “This one’s got everybody in it!”

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