As someone who spent Christmas day last year watching his way through Universal Monster’s: The Essential Collection that he’d got as a gift from a special someone the chance to write about these fascinating if flawed movies I couldn’t pass reviewing.
This two movie Blu-Ray contains 1944’s House of Frankenstein, directed by Erle C. Kenton, opens with Boris Karloff’s Dr. Gustav Niemann and his hunchbacked assistant Daniel escaping from prison. They come across a travelling horror show that contains the skeleton of John Carradine’s Count Dracula with a stake through its heart which the doctor removes only for bloodsucker to awaken and go on a seduce/kill-spree which ends with a thrilling horse carriage chase.
The second half sees the hunchback and the Dr travel to Castle Frankenstein they come across Glenn Stranges Frankenstein’s monster alongside the excellent Lon Chaney Jr’s Lawrence Talbot aka the Wolf Man as a tortured soul wanting to die. It’s agreed by Dr Niemann he’ll cure Lawrence’s affliction sadly the mad scientist is far more focused in reviving the monster and exacting revenge on two traitorous former associates with torch carrying villagers fastly approaching the castle.
House of Frankenstein mostly studio/backlot shot film at 71 minutes is a brisk fun viewing experience. This monster mash up of Frankenstein’s creature with Count Dracula and the Wolf Man with a co-starring role for screen great Boris Karloff is must see for fans of this period in horror cinema was a success with audiences so a follow-up was made the next year.
House of Dracula is the second movie in this double feature set again directed by Erle C. Kenton is ultimately a film about curing illnesses John Carradine’s dinner suit wearing Count Dracula seeks help for his vampirism by blood transfusion with help from his hunchback nurse and once again Lon Chaney Jr’s tortured Lawrence Talbot is seeking a cure for his lycanthropy before the moon rises after having himself incarcerated by the police & jumping into the ocean fails to work.
In what only can be described as extremely convenient Glenn Stranges Frankenstein monster is found near in caves where Talbot washed up under the Dr’s castle. When Dracula reverses the flow of the transfusion, sending his own blood into Doctor Edelmann this changes him into becoming evil in an extremely trippy dream sequence with the film ending with revenge driven villagers storming the castle once again.
There’s fun to be had from watching House of Dracula coming from the atmospheric black & white photography by George Robinson his mix of Dutch angles with moody light offer audiences a way into this dreamy night time world. The transfer of both films look great, sadly with this HD upgrade you can now see the strings on Dracula’s bat form and the less than successful make ups of Halloween staple Frankenstein by Jack Pierce.
The only supplemental material are trailers for both movies and serve as an interesting experience before the studios upcoming reboot of The Mummy starring Tom Cruise. In this MCU approach to Hollywood film production Universal Studios are praying for it to be successful in order to create a successful franchise using these monsters which helped shape the company into the powerful film company it is now in the first half of the 20th century.
But the previous unsuccessful experiments in this universe with Van Helsing, The Wolf Man starring Benico Del Toro and Dracula Untold the studios plan may go wrong but I’ll keep an open mind.
Dir: Erle C. Kenton
Scr: Edward T. Lowe Jr.
Pro: Paul Malvern
Cast: Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr, John Carradine, J. Carrol Naish, Martha O’Driscoll
D.O.P: George Robinson
Music: Hans J. Salter, Paul Dessau, William Lava
Run time: 71/67 minutes
House of Frankenstein/House of Dracula available on Blu Ray Now