Watching the Universal monsters! The ones on the Blu-ray box, at least. The series goes all Avengers with a bunch of monsters in one movie in House of Frankenstein.
Here’s what happens: Mad scientist and Frankenstein fanboy Dr. Neimann escapes from the asylum with his hunchbacked henchman Daniel. Neimann seeks revenge on those who wronged him, with Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Frankenstein’s monster all being tools for said revenge.
Monster!: Boris Karloff plays Dr. Niemann, and he gives 100 percent, delivering every line with devilish intent. In addition to revenge, Niemann’s whole deal is putting one person’s brain in another’s body, and the brain-switching plot gets more and more complicated as the movie goes on.
Also a monster!: Dracula, now played by John Carradine, appears only in the first 30 minutes of the movie. He has his own side-story where Neimann sends the vampire after one of his targets. It’s interesting to have a little movie-within-the-movie, but it’s too bad Drac never shares the screen with the Wolf Man or Frankenstein’s monster.
Also a monster!: The hunchback Daniel is what most people think of when they imagine Dr. Frankenstein’s helper Igor. He spends most of the movie lovesick for gypsy dancing girl Ilonka (hunchbacks and gypsy dancing girls, am I right?) before unleashing his rage upon being rejected by her.
Also a monster!: Lon Cheney Jr. is back to being emotionally tortured by his werewolfism, and Cheney again is at his best doing the sad-sack guy-next-door act. After he transforms, he gets a run through the foggy woods, and his final scene is a good one.
Also a monster!: Knowing that Frankenstein’s monster is the big name, the movie makes the audience wait until the end before the monster wakes. I like Glenn Strange as the monster, but, sadly, he hardly does anything before the movie abruptly ends.
Our hero: The Dracula storyline is led by Carl, who rescues his wife Rita from being mesmerized by Dracula. Once that’s done with, it’s tough to sort just who the protagonist is with so many characters and subplots. The emotional core of the movie is the love triangle among Daniel, Ilonka, and the Wolf Man.
Hapless humans: Ilonka gets to show some feistiness as romantic lead for two monsters. Niemann’s victims don’t get to do much except act pompous before Niemann comes after them.
Thrills: Although the movie zips along at a quick pace, there isn’t that much monster action. Each monster gets his own scenes, rarely interacting with the others. The monsters strangle their occasional victims and Dracula gets a vampire bat bite in. The biggest thrill is an Indiana Jones-style horse carriage chase in which Niemann and Daniel get the better of Dracula.
Laughs: No comic relief in this one, although Ilonka gets a musical number where she shows off her dance moves.
Thoughts upon this viewing: House of Frankenstein is all over the place, story-wise, but it nonetheless is great entertainment. I think this is because of the actors all making the most of what they’re given. A fun ride from beginning to end.
Next: Curses, foiled again!
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