Svengoolie presents … House of Frankenstein (1944)
This week on the Svengoolie TV show: the B-movie monster mash! Yes, all the Universal monsters come together for this one. Seeing the success of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf-Man, Universal gives Dracula, the Wolf-Man, AND Frankenstein this time. Each of the monsters are disposed of in turn and apparently die rather easily. That is the real shame of this movie, but there actually are some good things, like the stunts. Yes, the stunts. You read that right. When Frankenstein throws a man out a window, the victim tumbles down the roof and to the ground below. It doesnt really even look like a dummy. I think it was a real person. I could be wrong. But that’s about all the highlights there are. Everything else is b-movie fodder and pretty bad. When the best thing I liked was a guy getting thrown out a window, you know it’s bad.
The majority of the plot follows Doctor Gustav, played by Boris Karlov, and Talbot the Wolf-Man, played by Lon Chaney Jr. The movie is somewhat straightforward, as the doctor wants to revive the Universal monsters to get back at his enemies. I said straightforward, not original, but all the characters seem out to get each other. None of them get anywhere though, even with their best, deceitful intentions. Dracula dies early on in the film and is played terribly, by a guy not even worth mentioning.
As you might expect, the villagers revolt at the end of the movie upon hearing that the Frankenstein monster was revived. They chase the Monster, and the Doctor who revived him, into a marsh. Frankenstein’s Monster and the Doctor stumble around for a while, then drown in quicksand after a few moments of struggle. The end. Roll credits. What? That was the most abrupt end to a movie ever. Look out, quicksand! Gurgle gurgle! End! CREDITS.
Instead of committing to the Doctor’s plan to get back at his associates, The Monster seems less controllable than ever in this movie. Also, he is just about as badly played as I’ve ever seen. At least Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) from last week’s show had a good scene or two.
This movie has very little drama and revives, then kills the monsters quickly, but they’ll be revived and killed in future movies. Rinse, repeat. I’m sure my summary of this movie made no sense whatsoever, but I’m sort of disappointed in the quality in this film. The make-up is terrible, especially that used on Frankenstein’s Monster. The mask that he wears was supposed to look like Karloff, though I don’t really see it. Even Doctor Niemann looks bad with his fake beard. The Wolf-Man transformation is about as good an effect as they can pull off and is passable. I guess.
The monsters also never share any screen time. What a shame! Frankenstein’s Monster is barely awake for any of the film, except during the last two minutes where he runs around like an idiot, then drowns in 20 seconds. Doctor Niemann, played by Boris Karloff, is a decent enough character though, but they lose out on his interpretation of The Monster by having him play this silly character instead. As a side note, the interpretation of a clumsy Frankenstein’s Monster is still with us today, stumbling around with its hands extended. That comes from this movie. Pretty funny.
On rottentomatoes.com, House of Frankenstein has 60 percent tomato rating versus the 80 percent tomato rating for Ghost of Frankenstein. 4 out of 6 critics thought this movie was passable and somewhat fun, though I don’t see how. It is rushed and incomprehensible.