Review of “House of Frankenstein” (1944)

From YouTube

This is this week’s Saturday pizza and bad movie offering. We watched it with Svengoolie and just about every frigging Universal monster.

Plot:

From the slot in his jail cell in Neustadt Prison, Doctor Gustav Niemann (Boris Karloff) grabs the throat of a jailer (an uncredited Charles Wagenheim) and demands chalk. From inside, the viewer understands why he’s run out. The walls of his cell are filled with (*cough*) scientific diagrams and formulae. He describes to his hunchback assistant, Daniel (J. Carrol Naish), how he placed a human brain into the body of a dog, an act that landed him in jail.

Imagine that.

Daniel asks if this is how he could get a new body, a normal body. Dr. Niemann assures him he could give Daniel a perfect body if he had Frankenstein’s records.

While they’re talking, lightning strikes the castle in which they’re imprisoned, bringing down the walls of their cell. They are free.

Imagine that.

Along the way, they meet up with a traveling horrors roadshow run by Professor Bruno Lampini (George Zucco). One of Lampini’s exhibits is the bones of Dracula, complete with the wooden stake through the spot where the heart once was. If someone were to remove that stake…

When poor Lampini refuses to take Dr. Niemann to Reigelberg, the first step toward those for whom Niemann has “unloving memories,” Daniel dispatches Lampini and his driver. Niemann assumes Lampini’s identity. Wouldn’t a revived Dracula (John Carradine) be just the thing to help one get vengeance on the respectable citizens for being pitched in jail? Especially since the vampire knows you could un-revive him at any time? Yeah, it could work.

But nothing lasts forever. So on to Visaria to hunt for Dr. Frankenstein’s records. Before long (I so wanted to see the title How I Did It by V. Frankenstein). Daniel again asks for a new body. Niemann says if they find Frankenstein records, “I’ll make you an Adonis.” Daniel is sweet on Ilonka (Elena Verdugo), a gypsy girl he rescued.

Daniel falls through a floor, and they find an ice cave. Frozen in the cave are the Frankenstein monster (Glenn Strange) and the wolfman, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.). What are the chances?



Thoughts:

This bizarre flick tries to shoehorn in as many of the classic monsters as possible, using the mad scientist Dr. Niemann as a framework. In seeking his revenge, he briefly controls Dracula (John Carradine), who goes by the name Baron Latos (a bump in rank!  Social climber!) and sends him on out to assassinate those he holds responsible for his imprisonment.

On to find Dr. Frankenstein’s papers to help Niemann with his projects—er, Daniel’s surgery, right? To be honest, he has a full slate. There are still two solid citizens he wants to work his vengeance on. He has to revive the monster and solve the werewolf problem. All this involves a series of brain transplants. Even with the lab equipment back home in Visaria working, taking care of all that is a mighty tall order.

In the meantime, the viewer gets treated to Lon Chaney getting hairy, John Carradine becoming a bat, and a bat becoming John Carradine, townsfolk with torches running through the woods, a lab full of electrical doohickeys going buzzzzz vooop-vooop, a stumbling monster with a vacant look on his face wreaking havoc, and a proper castle burning.

Is this meant to be taken seriously? Or is this just a good romp? Does it matter? It’s fun, silly, and a bit much to swallow.

This can be watched for free here. (Thanks for the heads up, Tommi!)



Title: House of Frankenstein (1944)

Director
Erle C. Kenton

Writers
Edward T. Lowe Jr. (screenplay)
Curt Siodmak(story)

Cast:
Boris Karloff…Doctor Gustav Niemann
Lon Chaney Jr…Larry Talbot (as Lon Chaney)
J. Carrol Naish…Daniel
John Carradine…Dracula aka Baron Latos
Anne Gwynne…Rita Hussman

Released: 1944
Length: 1 hour, 11 minutes
Viewed: October 24, 2021

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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