Franchises: Universal's Frankenstein Series. House of Frankenstein (1944) (2024)

Franchises: Universal's Frankenstein Series. House of Frankenstein (1944) (1)

Anybody remember the NBC mini-series, House of Frankenstein 1997? I can remember that being, or, at least, seeming like, a big deal at the time it premiered when I was ten, but nowadays, you rarely hear anyone talk about it. I can't say anything about it, either, because, to this day, I've never seen it. But I bring it up because it was the first time I consciously learned of the title, House of Frankenstein. For whatever reason, even though I'd read the Crestwood House books on both the Wolf Man and Frankenstein, which did mention both this and its immediate follow-up, the title of House of Dracula stuck in my mind but House of Frankenstein didn't. I can remember seeing a little behind-the-scenes thing on the mini-series that briefly touched on the original movie from the 40's, which was when I first grasped that there was an older movie with this title. As I got older and read up on both of it and House of Dracula, I learned that they were immediate sequels to Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, with Universal upping the ante in terms of monsters. Here, not only do you have Frankenstein's monster and the Wolf Man once again, but Dracula is now along for the ride, as are a new mad scientist and his hunchback assistant. Sounds like a classic monster fan's dream, right? That's certainly what I thought. But, when I first saw it in my early teens, after getting it on video for Christmas, I was rather disappointed, mostly because this time, there's no fighting between any of the monsters! In fact, none of them ever interact with each other, as the focus is mostly on the mad scientist character, Dr. Niemann, and his assistant, Daniel. I especially didn't care for how Dracula is introduced and destroyed before the main plot even gets started, and how the Frankenstein monster is comatose for much of the movie, only to be revived and have nothing to do but lurch around before the very abrupt ending (little did I know that House of Dracula is even worse in that respect, but that's for tomorrow). Now, having long gotten over that initial disappointment, I will admit that the film does have its fair share of good points, mainly in Boris Karloff's performance as Dr. Niemann and J. Carrol Naish as Daniel, as well as higher than usual production values, good special effects, and a fair amount of original music. But it's still painfully clear that the second wave of Universal Horror was running out of steam by this point.

Dr. Gustav Niemann, a scientist who was imprisoned for conducting experiments similar to those of Dr. Frankenstein, escapes, along with his hunchbacked assistant, Daniel, when, during a bad storm, lightning strikes the Neustadt prison, causing a collapse of the floor that leads outside. They come upon Prof. Lampini, a traveling showman with a chamber of horrors exhibit, which includes the skeleton of Count Dracula. After killing Lampini and his driver, Niemann and Daniel begin traveling the countryside, using the show as cover, so Niemann can get revenge on those who imprisoned him. They first stop in the village of Reigelberg, where Niemann resurrects Count Dracula and uses him to kill Hussmann, the Burgomaster. However, Dracula is destroyed by the rising sun when Niemann betrays him during a chase leading out of town. They move on to the village of Frankenstein, as Niemann intends to search the ruins of Castle Frankenstein for the doctor's records. At the same time, Daniel falls for and rescues Ilonka, a lovely gypsy girl, from her abusive master. That night, while searching the ruins, he and Niemann find both Frankenstein's monster and the Wolf Man frozen in ice in a cavern beneath the ruins. Thinking they may know where Dr. Frankenstein's records are, they thaw both of them out. Once he regains consciousness, Larry Talbot is none too thrilled about now having to endure his werewolf curse once more. Niemann, however, promises to rid him of his curse in exchange for getting him the records. Afterward, the group heads on to Visaria and to Niemann's old laboratory, which they get back in working order. But, despite his promises to Larry and Daniel, to whom he's promised a new body, Niemann really intends to resurrect the Monster and continue his own experiments, as well as exact revenge on the two others who helped imprison him. And in the meantime, Ilonka has fallen for Larry, even when she learns he's a werewolf, much to Daniel's chagrin.

Franchises: Universal's Frankenstein Series. House of Frankenstein (1944) (2)
Edward T. Lowe

Even before Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man was released, Universal was already planning a follow-up: The Wolf Man vs. Dracula, with Bela Lugosi playing Count Dracula while Lon Chaney Jr. once again played the Wolf Man. But then, Boris Karloff returned to the studio with a two-picture deal, the first of which was The Climax, a big budget, Technicolor film originally meant as a sequel to 1943's Phantom of the Opera. The studio then decided to build the next Frankenstein film around him, initially coming up with an idea called The Chamber of Horrors, which was truly meant to be a monster rally, bringing in not just Dracula but also Kharis the Mummy and the Invisible Man, and was also set to feature Claude Rains and Peter Lorre in the cast. But, naturally, budget concerns wouldn't allow for so many monsters (although, this did have a larger budget than the previous couple of Frankenstein movies), so it was paired down to just bringing in Dracula and was re-titled The Devil's Brood. Though he came up with the initial story, Curt Siodmak claimed little involvement with the finished film, saying, "I didn't write the script. I never saw the picture." Edward T. Lowe, whose affiliation with Universal stretched as far back as The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Lon Chaney, wrote the final screenplay, as he would also do for House of Dracula. Speaking of which, it was after filming was completed that The Devil's Brood became House of Frankenstein.

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After being passed over for Roy William Neill on Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, The Ghost of Frankenstein-director Erle C. Kenton was brought back into the series. In the year or so since Ghost, Kenton had done some films with Abbott and Costello: Pardon My Sarong, Who Done It?, and It Ain't Hay, but he was replaced with Charles Lamont during the making of the team's next film, Hit the Ice, as he couldn't get along with Lou Costello. Paul Malvern, a frequent producer and friend of Kenton, who worked on this film with him, said the director didn't particularly enjoy working with Abbott and Costello, but he did enjoy making horror films. Kenton himself said as much when he was interviewed in 1944, possibly in promotion for House of Frankenstein: "They give us a chance to let our imagination run wild. The art department can go to town on creep sets. Prop men have fun with cobwebs. The cameraman has fun with trick lighting and shadows. The director has fun. We have more fun making a horror picture than a comedy." And Kenton would have a couple of more forays into Universal Horror before the second wave came to an end.

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There's much evidence that, by this point in his career, Boris Karloff was really disillusioned with his continued association with the horror genre. Not only did one of his costars here, Anne Gwynne, later say she felt he wasn't happy with the movie or his role, but Karloff himself would call House of Frankenstein a "monster clambake" and, before its release, as well as possibly before shooting began, he would say in an interview, "I am through with it.... I made these horror films. They were of little importance in anybody's scheme of things, including my own, and though I did make a disgraceful amount of money, I was getting nowhere." Ironically, this was one of the first movies of his that I saw where he's not playing an actual monster, leading me to begin to realize there was much more to him than just Frankenstein's monster. It doesn't hurt that, in my opinion, his portrayal of the evil Dr. Niemann is one of the movie's strong points. Niemann is a would-be Dr. Frankenstein who considered the man a genius and intends to follow in his footsteps, despite being sentenced to prison for his own experiments. He's also a heartless and manipulative bastard, making promises to others in exchange for their help them but, in reality, he only cares about what they can do for him, despite how loyal they may be. Case in point, he promises to give his hunchbacked assistant, Daniel, a new body, even mentioning his infatuation with Ilonka and saying, "I'll make you an Adonis," but later turns on him. When Daniel asks for Larry Talbot's body, Niemann sneers, "You think I'd wreck the work of a lifetime because you're in love with a, a Gypsy girl?" Similarly, at the beginning, when he and Daniel come upon Prof. Lampini and, after helping him and his driver get their carriage out of some thick mud, are given shelter in return, Niemann has Daniel murder them both in order to use the traveling show as cover. He even goes as far as to betray not one but two of the monsters. He promises to help Dracula in exchange for killing Hussman but has his coffin dumped during a carriage chase, leaving the Count to die by the rising sun. He also promises to help Larry overcome his werewolfism but, once he gives him Frankenstein's records, he becomes more interested in reviving the Monster, leaving Larry to suffer from his curse once more.

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Niemann is also very vengeful, seeking out those who sent him to prison during his journey to Visaria. First, he has Dracula kill Hussman, the Burgomaster of Reigelberg, then abducts his former associates, Strauss and Ullman, in Visaria. While Hussman's death was relatively quick and painless, Niemann intends to involve the other two in his experiments. As he tells Ullman, "Kill my trusted old assistant? Why, no. I'm going to repay you for betraying me. I'm going to give that brain of yours a new home: in the skull of the

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Frankenstein monster." Then, he turns to Strauss and tells him, "I'm going to give you the brain of the Wolf Man, so that all your waking hours will be spent in untold agony awaiting the full moon, which will change you into a werewolf." Karloff is so deliciously evil during that scene. And yet, even though he's playing someone who is so despicable, he, in my opinion, has some way of keeping you from completely hating him. A reason for that is just how charming Niemann is when he isn't being completely evil, something Karloff excelled at in

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general. When he's posing as Lampini and is showing off the skeleton of Count Dracula, he really gets into it, proclaiming, "This way, ladies and gentlemen! Step this way to gaze upon an exhibit absolutely unparalleled in the realms of showmanship. No doubt there are some among you who will doubt the truth of what I'm about to say, or doubt the reality of what you're about to see. But, believe me, my friends, this is no fake." Revealing Dracula's skeleton in his coffin, with a

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stake in his rib-cage, Niemann goes on, "Before your very eyes is all that remains of a vampire, one of the world's undead! Dare I but remove this stake from where his heart once beat, and he would rise from the grave within which he lies, and turn into a bat! A vampire bat! He would feed hideously upon the living whose veins pulsate with warm and vibrant blood. Ladies and gentlemen, the actual skeleton of Count Dracula, the vampire!" He seems particularly irked when Hussman, of all people,

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dismisses it as rubbish. Later, when he first meets Larry Talbot who, as usual, talks about wanting to die, Niemann comes off as so genuinely sympathetic, telling him, "You don't have to die, my boy, you're wrong. I can help you... I, too, am a doctor, a scientist like Frankenstein," that you're almost inclined to believe him. But then, his becoming interested in the Monster and dismissal of Larry's torture over the coming full moon reveals it was just more manipulation.

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Interestingly, in addition to knowing about Frankenstein's experiments (according to Niemann, his brother worked for the good doctor), Niemann not only knows the legend of Count Dracula but that the Wolf Man is actually Larry Talbot. He's even aware of some of the events of the previous movie, specifically that Dr. Mannering tracked Larry down, suggesting he's interested in all things macabre and strange. The big difference between him and any of the previous Frankensteins is that his experiments are totally bonkers, involving a

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bunch of random brain-swapping. The experiment that got him imprisoned involved him trying to put a man's brain into a dog's head, something he's trying to refine in his cell when we first meet him! And when he acquires Frankenstein's records, he returns to his old laboratory in Visaria, and works to revive the Frankenstein monster, intending to basically play musical chairs with everyone's brains. He plans on putting the Monster's brain into Larry's body, Ullman's into the Monster's body, and

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Larry's into Strauss, intending for him to suffer from werewolfism like Larry, even though that should actually just result in Larry suffering in a different body (not to mention that it suggests the curse is contained within the brain). I have a feeling that even Dr. Pretorius would find his aims baffling. But it doesn't matter in the end, as Niemann's constant betrayals eventually catch up with him. After the Wolf Man kills Ilonka, Daniel tries to kill Niemann out of revenge, only for the revived Monster to kill Daniel. The Monster then drags Niemann out of the castle to escape a torch-wielding mob, only to stumble into a bog, where they both sink to their doom in quicksand.

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Unlike Lon Chaney Jr. and Glenn Strange, Boris Karloff no longer had to worry about being covered in Jack Pierce's uncomfortable monster makeups, but his character of Dr. Niemann still goes through a noted change following the opening. Having been in prison for fifteen years, Niemann has a scraggly beard and wild, unkempt hair, as well as raggedy clothes, when we first meet him and Daniel in their cells. But, after he kills Prof. Lampini and begins posing as him, he cleans up nicely, sporting a thin, elegant mustache (similar

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to the one he'd worn in The Climax) and proper haircut, as well as dressing up for the part. Daniel goes through a similar change, starting out with a scraggly beard and a mop of crazed hair, but then coming out clean-shaven and his hair much more presentable, while wearing the circus-like uniform of Lampini's driver.

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Though he kills more people than any of the actual monsters, Daniel (J. Carrol Naish), Niemann's hunchback assistant, is possibly the most sympathetic character in the film, even more so than Larry Talbot. He obeys Niemann implicitly, to the point of killing for him, all because his master has promised to build him a new, perfect body. There's a hint that, while he never hesitates to do so, he doesn't really like killing people; when Niemann refuses to give him Larry's body, Daniel pleadingly, and possibly even regretfully, exclaims, "I've killed four men for you!" It gives you the impression that Daniel isn't really a bad person but got mixed up with the worst type of man imaginable. Exactly how they met is never made clear, as Daniel didn't seem to be working with Niemann before he was sent to prison, suggesting they met in prison. That then raises the question of why Daniel was in prison to begin with, something the film is, obviously, not at all concerned with. Regardless, you grow to empathize with Daniel when he falls for the lovely Ilonka, saving her when her cruel master whips her, only for her to later be disgusted when she sees that he's a hunchback. And although this doesn't initially dissuade her from being his friend, when Larry joins their party, she begins spending all her time with him, much to Daniel's chagrin. But Daniel's biggest heartbreak comes after they reach Visaria. After Niemann rebuffs him, he tries to turn his beloved Ilonka away from Larry by warning her that he's a werewolf. While he does it mostly out of jealousy, Ilonka's reaction, where she screams that she hates him, and that he's mean and ugly, is just awful. She runs out of the lab and Daniel, overcome with grief, whips the comatose Frankenstein monster, yelling, "If it wasn't for you, I'd have Talbot's body." Again, his desire for Larry's body hardly makes him noble, but he's no less sympathetic in his grief. And as if that weren't bad enough, Ilonka is killed by the Wolf Man and Daniel finds the two of them dead together. That proves to be the last straw and he finally turns on Niemann, telling him, "You remember Lampini? Strauss? Ullman? Now, you're going to join them." He then tries to kill him but the now revived Monster throws him out the window to his death.

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Daniel's character is an obvious callback to Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as is how surprisingly physical his movements are and how strong he is, not to mention his infatuation with a gypsy girl. However, I doubt the costume that J. Carrol Naish wore was anywhere near as excruciating as what Lon Chaney put himself through twenty years earlier. In fact, the costume's padding saved him from serious injury when the stunt where the Frankenstein monster throws him out the window went awry and he missed the mat he was supposed to land on. (When Daniel screams as he falls, the sound is taken from Son of Frankenstein, when the Monster screams upon finding Ygor dead.)

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Because of the movie's episodic structure, the section with Dracula in the first act feels like a separate movie all its own, with its own cast of characters. As for Dracula himself, while the studio had planned on using Bela Lugosi during the initial plan for The Wolf Man vs. Dracula, John Carradine, of course, was ultimately cast in his place, the first of a handful times he would play the part (although this and House of Dracula are the only really good ones). Though some sources say it was simply because Lugosi was tied up with other work, others suggest that his lackluster performance as the Monster in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man put Universal off using him again. Film historian Arthur Lennig, author of The Immortal Count: The Life and Films of Bela Lugosi, has even suggested that Lugosi's performance as the Dracula expy Armand Tesla in Columbia's The Return of the Vampire may have angered Universal and thus, replacing him with Carradine was meant as a punishment. In any case, while he would have more to do in House of Dracula the following year, Carradine, despite being in this one small section, is actually quite good as Dracula. Upon being resurrected by Niemann and asked to kill Hussman, Dracula, using the alias of Baron Latos, meets up with Hussman and his grandson and granddaughter-in-law as they're on their way back from Lampini's Chamber of Horrors. He offers them a ride in his coach and, being very charming, offers to let them join him in some wine. They do so at Hussman's home, where Dracula seduces Rita, although it's initially unintentional on his part. When they're alone, he notices Rita staring at the ring on his finger and she quickly falls under his spell, especially when he has her wear it. He then decides to abduct her, as well as kill Hussman.

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Carradine manages to be effectively seductive and romantic in that scene, but he also proves he could be intimidating when needed. In the scene where Dracula walks in on Hussman and uses his powers on him, the hypnotic stare he gives is quite terrifying (when he tried to do that in other movies, he only managed to look like he was constipated). After subduing Hussman, Dracula becomes a bat and bites the Burgomaster on the neck, killing him. He then returns outside and uses his influence over Rita to bring her to him. He makes off with her in

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his coach, attempting to rejoin Niemann and Daniel. By this point, the police are chasing them on horseback and, in order to keep themselves from being arrested, Niemann has Daniel dump Dracula's coffin. In the midst of the chase, Dracula's carriage crashes and he tries to get back into his coffin, as the sun begins to rise. Already weakened by it, he's unable to pry open his coffin and is reduced back to a skeleton.

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It's often been noted that Carradine fit Bram Stoker's original description of Dracula better than any actor who'd played him up to this point, albeit while still being fairly attractive. While he may not have been as physically imposing as Lon Chaney Jr. was in Son of Dracula, and didn't have Bela Lugosi's exotic charm, he not only plays the part quite well but looks good in the tux and cape, with the added top-hat working well for him. Also like in Son, you see Dracula become a bat onscreen, and vice versa. The most striking example is when,

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after hypnotizing Hussman, he spreads his cape and you see his shadow become a bat. All the other visual effects were, as per usual, the work of John P. Fulton, but this specific moment was supervised by famed animator and Woody Woodpecker's creator, Walter Lantz. Speaking of Fulton, he gets to repeat the bat-into-Dracula effect he first did in Son, and it comes off as a tad more finessed this time. However, his most spectacular special effect involving the Count is when he's first resurrected.

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After Niemann removes the stake from the skeleton, we see an overlay of veins and muscles slowly appearing over them, under which you can see the figure of Carradine in his tuxedo, which slowly comes into focus as the overlay dissolves. Even today, it's still an impressive effect, and it wouldn't be Fulton's last amazing visual in the film. A little bit of animation appears to be utilized when, after it's placed on Rita's finger, it glows and

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supposedly shrinks to fit better, and when Dracula is destroyed, you get the same simple but effective dissolve effect seen previously. And unlike most Dracula movies, the ubiquitous fake bat is used very briefly, only actually appearing onscreen in one shot.

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In this section of the film, you have the characters of Rita (Anne Gwynne) and Carl Hussman (Peter Coe), the latter the grandson of Hussman the Burgomaster (Sig Ruman), visiting his grandfather while on his honeymoon with his American wife. The two of them have a nicely playful relationship, as Rita is portrayed as a lovable but rather pushy woman, one who decides to drag Carl, Hussman, and even Inspector Arnz to the Chamber of Horrors, despite their protests. Hussman, who's not at all in the mood for this, especially grumbles but

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Rita will have none of it, giving him his hat and coat, regardless. Carl tells him, "You better give in, Grandad. These American girls can talk you into anything. That's all they do: talk!" Hearing this, Rita lunges at Carl, who takes cover and, with a big smile on his face, says, "Now, now, darling! Remember your blood pressure!" Rita then turns to Hussman and comments, "That's the man I married. Talk, talk, talk, talk! I can never get a word in edgewise." At the horror exhibit, Rita finds

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everything creepy but fascinating, while Hussman writes it all off as rubbish, including "Lampini's" claim that the skeleton is that of Count Dracula. However, he does find his face familiar and, throughout the night, puzzles over it. On the way home, they're met by "Baron Latos" and invite him to have some wine at their home. While Rita's interest in the macabre leads to her falling under Dracula's spell when she looks at his ring, saying it gives her visions of the world of the dead, Hussman falls into a drunken sleep. He awakens, completely oblivious to Dracula's seduction of Rita, and goes, "Now, as I was saying... I haven't the remotest idea what I was saying." Afterward, when Dracula departs, Hussman continues trying to place Lampini's face. He does eventually realize it's Dr. Niemann, but before he can call the police, Dracula enters his study, subdues him with his hypnosis, and kills him by biting his neck.

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The ever reliable Lionel Atwill has a small role in this section as Inspector Arnz, a friend and frequent chess partner of Hussman's. However, Arnz can never beat Hussman at the game, and when he loses yet again in his and Hussman's introductory scene, he says, "As a man, I admire you. As Burgomaster, I respect you. But as a chess-player, Herr Hussman, I hate you." Along with Hussman and Carl, he gets dragged along to the horror exhibit but heads for home before they run into Dracula. Later, Carl discovers his grandfather dead and calls Arnz, who heads to the house on horseback with his men. By the time they get there, Dracula has already abducted Rita and is trying to escape with her in his carriage. Carl joins them in the chase but, in the end, Niemann and Daniel are the ones who stop Dracula when they dump his coffin. At the end of the chase, Carl manages to pull Rita out of Dracula's overturned carriage, while Arnz and another man arrive in time to see the Count disintegrate back into a skeleton.

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Lon Chaney Jr., of course, reprises his signature role of Larry Talbot but, by this point, there's little new that Chaney can do with the character. Like when he was resurrected by the grave-robbers in the previous film, he's not at all happy when Niemann and Daniel thaw him out of the ice, telling the former that he's, "Brought me back to a life of misery." Like before, he expresses his desire to find release in death, when Niemann offers to lift the werewolf curse from him in exchange for Dr. Frankenstein's records. Throughout the journey to Visaria, Larry, as per usual, has little to do except mope around and act sorrowful, despite Ilonka's newfound interest in him. And when they arrive at Niemann's laboratory and get it back in working order, Larry finds that, like Dr. Mannering before, Niemann is more interested in reviving Frankenstein's monster than helping him. He also dismisses Larry's concern about the full moon rising that night, and he can do nothing but wait around hopelessly until he becomes the Wolf Man. After he does and kills a villager, he learns that Ilonka now knows of his predicament. Despite her urging him to ask Niemann for help, as he explains that Niemann keeps putting him off, and her promising not to let him kill again, Larry tells Ilonka that only death can bring them both peace. As Niemann and Daniel continue working on the Monster, Larry confronts the doctor, telling him, "Last night, I suffered the tortures of the damned! I killed a man! Tonight, the moon will be full again. Now you stop whatever you're doing and operate on me, or I swear I'll...!" He grabs Niemann by the neck of his surgeon's smock and shoves him against the Monster's slab in a threatening manner, only for Niemann to ask, "You'd destroy your only hope of release?" With that, Larry lets him go and walks out of the lab in defeat. That night, just before Niemann is ready for him, he becomes the Wolf Man again, but Ilonka shoots him with a silver bullet, ending his suffering, for now.

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The Wolf Man himself is truly wasted here, with his shortest amount of screentime ever. Larry only changes twice and you only get to see him for maybe less than two minutes altogether (although, there may have been a good reason, as I'll get into shortly). Furthermore, he doesn't get to howl or even snarl, and Ilonka shoots him with the silver bullet immediately after the second transformation (said transformation is one of the film's effects highlights). However, I will say that the first transformation is a well done exercise in less is more. Feeling the change coming, Larry walks out into the woods and the camera follows his footprints in the dirt, which gradually morph into wolf footprints and then, we see him in full blown werewolf form as he stalks away into the night, the music adding greatly to the impact. And when Larry talks about it with Ilonka the next day, what he says is chilling: "I wanted to kill. And I knew that I wanted to." Before, he couldn't remember what he did as a werewolf but now, he seems to, suggesting that the curse is exerting more dominance over him and blending into his actual personality as the years go on.

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By this point, Jack Pierce had pretty much perfected the Wolf Man makeup and didn't change it much from the previous movie, although he did make use of some more detailed pieces for his nose, cheeks, and brow. While it's a great makeup as always, I still prefer the way it looked in the original Wolf Man. And while I think the first one in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is more effectively creepy, the one onscreen transformation you get here (barring a shot of his bare feet turning back after he dies), as Larry looks at himself in the

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mirror, is one of the best executed. It happens within just a few seconds, and the fact that it's done in so much detail and yet, Lon Chaney Jr. wasn't sitting or laying down, shows how bold they'd gotten with these scenes by this point. However, when the fully transformed Wolf Man turns away from the mirror, if you look at his hands, you'll notice that they're not made up, as they are when you see them in close-up after Ilonka shoots him. This could likely be the result of a shortage of yak hair, caused by the ongoing war, and Pierce had to be conservative in his use of it, which could also explain why the Wolf Man isn't onscreen that much, both here and in the next film.

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Ilonka (Elena Verdugo), the gypsy girl who Daniel saves from her abusive master, is a fairly controversial figure among fans, especially in how she treats Daniel. However, I don't think she's that horrible of a person. When we first meet her, she's being forced by said master, Fejos, to dance for money, and while she does seem to enjoy it, what she doesn't like is when he tries to make her give him all of the money she earned, despite their half-and-half arrangement. She threatens to out him as a thief who's been stealing from the nearby village, and smacks him when he grabs her arm. In a rage, Fejos throws her to the ground and begins whipping her, but Daniel comes to the rescue, whipping Fejos himself in kind. After talking him down, Dr. Niemann reluctantly allows Daniel to bring Ilonka with them. That night, after the gypsies have left, Daniel looks after Ilonka and she's clearly grateful for his help. She even kind of flirts with him, but when she sees that he's a hunchback, she makes a disgusted face. However, it could also be seen as one of pity, as she promises to talk with him while he drives the carriage and be his friend. She seems to mean it, too, because when she meets Larry, she tickles the back of his legs as he's driving, thinking it's Daniel. But when she does meet Larry formally, she becomes smitten with him and basically ignores Daniel. She wonders why Larry is so sullen and miserable-looking, asking him to tell her what's wrong so she can help him. However, he simply tells her that no one can help him, and it's not until Daniel tells her that she learns the truth. All he has to do is show her a pentagram as, being a gypsy, she knows it's the sign of the werewolf. The two of them even recite the old poem, although it's been tweaked yet again, this time to, "May become a werewolf," than just a "wolf."

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Ilonka initially refuses to believe Daniel, thinking it's a lie he's told out of jealousy, but learns it's true when she talks with Larry about it. (Her never apologizing to Daniel for the awful things she said to him really turns people against Ilonka, as they accuse her of just preferring Larry because he's more handsome and not deformed like Daniel. Personally, while I do admit that is a part of it, I still think it's more nuanced than that, that she unintentionally ignored Daniel because she was so caught up with Larry, who she was able to spend

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more time with.) She promises to try to help him in any way she can, even promising to keep him from killing again, despite knowing that he could kill her as well. With no other recourse, she takes matters into her own hands and makes a silver bullet. That night, when the full moon rises, she stands outside Larry's window and, watching him as he waits to transform, tries to shoot him but can't bring herself to do it. Larry becomes the Wolf Man, bursts

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outside, and Ilonka follows him, only to be attacked. She manages to shoot him but is mortally wounded and, in her dying moments, crawls over to die beside him. While it is effectively poignant, it would've helped if their relationship had been developed a lot more.

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Since Boris Karloff had long since sworn off the role, it had already been proven too difficult for Lon Chaney Jr. to play more than one monster at a time, and Bela Lugosi, for various reasons, was out of the question, the studio had to find a third Frankenstein monster in as many films. Ultimately, it went to Glenn Strange, a stuntman and bit player who appeared mostly in westerns. But despite being the actor who looked the best in the makeup since Karloff, and also supposedly being coached on set by the man himself, Strange really got the short end of the stick, as this is when Karloff's fear of the Monster becoming a prop really comes to pass. They do try to give him something of a character by hearkening back to Lugosi's deleted performance in the previous film, as Larry comments, "He wanted life and strength. I wanted only death. Yet, here we are," but it amounts to nothing. After he's thawed out of the ice, the Monster remains comatose until the very end of the movie, as Dr. Niemann and Daniel work to restore him to life. Once he is resurrected, he immediately breaks himself loose of his restraints and kills Daniel, both to save Niemann and to get back at him for whipping him earlier. The villagers then storm the lab and confront the Monster, whom they drive back with torches. Carrying Niemann, he's chased out of the building and into the marsh. Niemann tries to warn him about the quicksand but the Monster stumbles into it and the both of them sink to the bottom. Besides his short screentime, Karloff's coaching apparently didn't matter, as Strange's stiff, robotic movements and outstretched arms come off more like Chaney and Lugosi's performances in the previous films, and he would repeat them in his two following appearances as the Monster. As for vocalizations, he does little more than let out a generic growl a few times.

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Despite his lackluster performance, I do think Strange looks really good in the makeup and, visually, is the best successor to Karloff. His rather gaunt physique and craggy face, which had a lot of skin folds and wrinkles, works better with the makeup than Chaney and Lugosi's fuller features, although the details are more akin to their specific makeups: the top of the head is flatter, he has a higher forehead, and, like Lugosi, he was given a dot on his cheek. Like Karloff's makeup back in Bride of Frankenstein, Strange obviously has a large number of clamps in his scalp, and the eyelids give the same sort of half-awake feel that Chaney had. And the costume is the same as always and Strange fills it out well.

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George Zucco, best known for appearing in several of the Kharis Mummy films, appears briefly at the beginning as Prof. Lampini, the showman whom Niemann and Daniel murder. Though he's onscreen for only a few minutes before he's offed, Zucco makes the most of his character, making Lampini come off as a true showman: "It's a doubting world, kind sir, as I, Prof. Bruno Lampini, have reason to know! I have a collection of the world's most astounding horrors. When I exhibit them, what do I get? Doubts, jeers, cries of, 'Fake! Fake!'" As for how he acquired Count Dracula's skeleton, Lampini explains, "I, Lampini, took it... pardon me, borrowed it, from the cellar of Dracula's castle in the Carpathian Mountains. With my own two hands, I spread upon the floor of its coffin a layer of soil takes from its birthplace, so that by proxy, shall we say, the skeleton of his earthbound spirit might lie at peace within his grave." Unaware that he's talking to him, Lampini is aware of Niemann and his experiments, saying it's the reason why he can't put on his show in Visaria. And when he refuses to go to Reigelberg, Niemann has Daniel kill him so they can take control of his show.

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Michael Mark, who was Ludwig in the original Frankenstein and a councilman in both Son and Ghost, is here yet again, this time playing Strauss, one of the men Niemann seeks retribution against, specifically for testifying that he saw Niemann steal a body from its grave. He's the one he plans to give Larry Talbot's brain. Another actor I find somewhat noteworthy is Philip Van Zandt, who appears here in the tiny role of Visaria's Inspector Muller. I mention him only because I recognize him for having appeared in a number of Three

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Stooges shorts (and I was also sad to learn that, when his career started flagging, he committed suicide in 1958, when he was just 53). And it's not often in one of these movies that we get two Burgomasters but that's the case here, as Visaria has Toberman (Charles Miller). He doesn't have much screentime, but he is memorable in that, despite knowing of Frankenstein's monster, he refuses to believe that the recent death in the village was the work of a werewolf. He ridicules the others for believing in the superstition, but he does allow them to search for the werewolf. Later, he comes upon them waiting for the Wolf Man to appear, and when one of them says they're a little early, Toberman remarks, "Oh, so he appears on schedule like a train, is that it?" But, he ends up leading the mob that drives the Monster and Niemann into the marsh at the end.

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Though still produced as a B-movie, House of Frankenstein had a slightly higher budget than some of the past Frankenstein movies, which is clear from the number of visual effects and different settings throughout. As far as the look goes, Erle C. Kenton and cinematographer George Robinson again manage to make it look better than the average B-monster movie of the times. They go back to the Expressionistic style here, doing lots of great work with shadows, with the Dracula section

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having imagery like Dracula's shadow outside the door to Hussman's study, turning into a bat and landing and feeding on Hussman, and Rita, under Dracula's influence, standing at the window in silhouette, before turning around and walking over to a lantern, which partially eliminates her face, all while she talks about her newfound love of the night and how the world of the dead is beckoning to her. Another great moment of shadow-play comes when Daniel turns on Niemann and attacks

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him, their shadows casting across the wall in the background, while Frankenstein's monster gets off the table he's strapped to. And there are plenty of darkly lit scenes during the movie's second half, such as in Lampini's carriage and in Niemann's laboratory and home. Going back to the Dracula section, there are some great, atmospheric shots of Hussman, Carl, Rita, and Inspector Arnz walking back from the horror exhibit in an eerie fog, which Rita describes as, "Like being wrapped in the arms of a gigantic ghost." I've already talked about how

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nicely suggestive Larry's first transformation into the Wolf Man is, and the movie does make use of montage, with my favorite being the implication of Strauss and Ullman's grisly fate. After Niemann tells them what he has in store for them, it immediately cuts to him and Daniel, through a frost-covered window looking into an extremely cold room, as the camera pulls back through the equipment on a table in the lab.

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When the movie opens, we're at the Neustadt prison, as a storm rages outside, with the pouring rain and flashing lightning adding that classic Gothic horror atmosphere. The sets of this place I think were left over from 1939's Tower of London, particularly the interior of the dungeon housing Niemann and Daniel's cells. When the storm ends up damaging their side of the prison to where they're able to escape, they do so through a dark tunnel beneath it, leading out into the storm, where

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they come upon Prof. Lampini and the traveling horror exhibit, which is stuck in some thick mud. After Niemann and Daniel help them, Lampini allows them into his "living wagon," which is a somewhat small but comfortable enough mobile living room, which is where Niemann houses Frankenstein's monster after discovering him. We don't see much of the village of the Reigelberg, save for Hussman's house and a bit of the surrounding countryside during the carriage chase, but when Niemann and Daniel set up at the

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crossroads, we get to see a little bit of the exhibit itself, which is made up of some wax dummies of various macabre characters, including what looks like an ape in one spot. And then, of course, there's the spot behind some curtains where Niemann shows off the skeleton of Dracula in its coffin. As for Hussman's home, it's the kind of upscale house you've likely come to expect, with a sitting room adjoining his study, the door leading to the wine cellar near the sitting room, and stairs leading up to the bedrooms, with the back of one containing a door that leads down into the yard, which is where Rita goes to meet with Dracula.

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Those expected interior forest sets are made use of again, along with some actual location footage, in scenes like the carriage chase at the end of the Dracula section, the small gypsy camp near the village of Frankenstein, where Ilonka is introduced, the little lovely spot where they pitch camp during the journey to Visaria, and when Larry first becomes the Wolf Man and prowls off into the night. When Niemann and Daniel search the ruins of Castle Frankenstein for the records, we get

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production design that hearkens back to Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, especially when they find the ice cavern beneath it. The same goes for the ruins, which we first see when they get into them, and get a better look at them when Niemann and Larry search for the records (as I'll get into presently, the place looks remarkably intact, considering how we saw it get completely destroyed at the end of the last movie). Finally, we get to Niemann's old and laboratory in Visaria.

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Like Ludwig Frankenstein's old home in the previous movie, when they first get there, the lab is rundown and in disrepair, with cobwebs and dust everywhere. And like before, Niemann discovers that the machinery is still usable and they work to get it back in shape as quickly as possible. Once the lab is fixed up, you see enough details to realize it's, yet again, the set seen in previous movies like The Ghost of Frankenstein, with some of the equipment, such as the device they use to feed Strauss and Ullman's brains with plasma,

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looking like they go as far back as Bride. However, there are some new additions, such as a table with a large covering that they use to inundate the Monster's body with steam, and we later see them attempting to revive him with the classic electric equipment (some of which I can tell comes from Man Made Monster), as well as a cold room where they remove Strauss and Ullman's brains, an expansion on such a room that was only hinted at in Ghost. As for the rest of the house, all we see is the interior of Larry's room and the little courtyard where Ilonka learns that he is a werewolf, as well as where the two of them die together.

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The familiar city streets on the Universal backlot are used for the little bit we see of the village of Visaria, specifically when Niemann and Daniel abduct Strauss when he comes out of a tavern. We also see the interior of the tavern itself for the scene where the Burgomaster, Inspector Muller, and the others learn of the discovery of the Wolf Man's latest victim (this is likely the same set for the tavern we saw in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man). We get some more forests built on the

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soundstages for the scene where they find the victim and for later on, when the villagers are staked out, waiting for the Wolf Man to appear. Appropriately, these latter, nighttime scenes have a layer of fog hanging above the ground. And finally, there are the marshes that Frankenstein's monster blunders into as he attempts to escape the mob while carrying Niemann, leading to their meeting their doom in the quicksand.

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In addition to the visual effects of the monster transformations, there are also some well-done matte paintings. Those used to put the village of Frankenstein and the ruins of Castle Frankenstein in the background of the scene at the gypsy camp are nice, but the most beautiful one is used for the wide shot of the ice cavern, with Boris Karloff and J. Carrol Naish on the actual set in the background, while everything else, like the frozen stalactites and stalagmites, the snow, and the frozen stream, is

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a painting. And as you can see, it's absolutely gorgeous. Like in previous films, there are some obvious but well-executed instances of rear-screen projection for the traveling and chase scenes, and some animated instances of lightning and electrical sparking. And in the beginning, when the lightning causes massive damage to the prison, the on-set physical effects of the roof caving in and the wall and floor collapsing are exceptional in how they look.

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For me, personally, House of Frankenstein's biggest failing is its clusterf*ck of a story, and the reason for that is its episodic structure, making it come off like Dr. Niemann's travel log. As I've already described, the section in the first act with Count Dracula feels like its own little movie, as none of the characters introduced there, including Dracula himself, ever return once it's over. Then, Niemann and Daniel move on to the small village of Frankenstein, where they find the frozen bodies

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of the Monster and the Wolf Man in the frozen caves beneath the old estate. They also meet and bring along Ilonka, leading to the love triangle between her, Daniel, and Larry. And once the group has moved on to Visaria and Niemann's old home and laboratory, the film's focus is split between Niemann working to revive the Monster, his exacting revenge on Strauss and Ullman, and Larry facing his inevitable transformations into the Wolf Man and going on a killing spree, while Ilonka has to come to terms with freeing Larry

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from his curse. Then, as if knowing that the film's short running time is drawing to its close, everything is wrapped up hastily: Ilonka shoots the Wolf Man and dies with Larry, Daniel turns on Niemann, only to be killed by the revived Monster, and he and Niemann are chased into the bog by the villagers, with the movie ending abruptly as soon as they're pulled beneath the quicksand.

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The film's structure is doubly disappointing in that it doesn't allow for the all-out monster brawl you'd expect, especially coming off of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. As hyperbolic as the trailers back then often got, this one's trailer, proclaiming, "MONSTER FIGHTING MONSTER!", is a flat-out lie. Not only is Dracula destroyed before the Frankenstein monster and the Wolf Man even come into the film but, because the former is comatose until the very end, he and the Wolf Man never

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interact this time around. It may have been a rehash to have the two of them fight again but, at least, it would've been something. Instead, the only real instance of any monster fighting you get, if you can even call it that, is when the "hunchback" Daniel turns on the "mad doctor" Niemann, as they're advertised in the marketing, and when the Monster throws Daniel out the window to his death.

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As shaky as the continuity between past films in the Frankenstein series has been, especially when the Wolf Man was brought in, this is the movie where they just said screw it altogether. Let's not even try to reconcile how this fits with the past Dracula films, as we established in Son of Dracula that there is no continuity past the first two of those films, with Prof. Lampini's explanation that he found the Count's skeleton at Castle Dracula only compounding it further. At the beginning of the

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movie, Niemann tells Daniel that, while he didn't know Dr. Frankenstein personally, his brother was his assistant and told him the good doctor's secrets before he died. Does that mean that Fritz was Niemann's brother? If so, when did Fritz have time before he was killed by the Monster to travel to Visaria and tell Niemann all about it? Also, while there was a little confusion in the previous film about whether they were talking about Henry or Ludwig Frankenstein, this movie makes it clear

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that they're talking about the former when Niemann and Larry find his records and Henry's name is on it. Though, that only muddies the waters when you remember how Elsa talked about the records as if they belonged to her father rather than her grandfather. And that leads us into some geographical issues. Now, instead of being in Visaria, as it was in the last two movies, the ruins of Ludwig's home are near a village actually called Frankenstein, which was the name of the place where Henry is said to have lived, despite that

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originally being Goldstadt in the first movie. Not to mention that it's somewhat implied that this castle was Henry's home, which is totally wrong, and how, even though we saw that the castle was completely destroyed in the flood, it's now fairly intact. And yet, when the policemen who meet Niemann and Daniel when they first arrive and, later, Larry talk about what happened, they're clearly talking about the ending of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, with Dr. Mannering even

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being mentioned. And though Visaria is still a setting here, they act as though it's now a completely different place, with their own distaste for the macabre being due to Niemann's past experiments rather than the rampages of Frankenstein's monster and the Wolf Man. If you're a real stickler for continuity, as I once was, this crap while drive you absolutely nuts.

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One thing I like about House of Frankenstein is that it wastes no time in getting the story up and going. As soon as the opening credits finish, you see Prof. Lampini's traveling Chamber of Horrors making its way through a stormy night, passing by the Neustadt prison. Dr. Niemann is introduced in a memorable manner as well: a guard walks up to the door to his cell and opens a small window on the top, when Niemann reaches through and grabs him by the neck, growling, "Now will you give me my chalk?!" The guard complies, giving him a chunk

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of it, and when Niemann releases him, he threatens him with solitary confinement if he does so again. Afterward, Daniel is introduced in an adjoining cell to Niemann's, and after they talk about the doctor's need for Dr. Frankenstein's records, a flash of lightning hits the building, causing severe damage to its old-worn structure. A piece of the ceiling collapses in the hallway outside, the wall separating their cells crumbles, and a section of the floor falls in, all as they take cover on their cots. Once it's over, Niemann realizes the hole in the

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floor is a potential way out and he and Daniel climb down into it. They find a tunnel leading outside, into the rainstorm, and quickly come across Prof. Lampini, as he and his driver attempt to remove their wagon from the thick mud it's stuck in. Seeing another opportunity, they approach Lampini, who's trying to push the back carriage loose, and offer their help. Lampini then takes the carriage's right, front wheel and pushes on it, while Niemann and Daniel take the back. Thanks to

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Daniel's strong arms, they manage to free the wagon and Lampini, in turn, offers them the comfort of his "living wagon." Niemann and Daniel gladly take it, the former later telling Lampini that he's a merchant who's been held prisoner by bandits. However, when Lampini refuses to go to Reigelberg, where Hussman is Burgomaster, Niemann tells him, "Then Daniel and I will go alone." He gives Daniel a signal and he menacingly lunges at Lampini, easily strangling him and throwing him to the floor. Niemann then tells Daniel to do the same to the driver.

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After setting up their show in Reigelberg, Niemann, in the guise of Lampini, restores Count Dracula to life and sends him to kill Hussman. Posing as Baron Latos, Dracula meets up with the Hussman family and does as Niemann orders by killing the Burgomaster. At the same, Carl realizes there's something wrong with Rita with how strange she's acting, and when he sees her wearing a ring sporting Dracula's crest. He locks the door leading out the back of their bedroom and heads downstairs to tell his grandfather, only to find him

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dead with the tell-tale bite marks on his neck. Carl calls Inspector Arnz, while Dracula uses his power to open the door to the bedroom from outside. Rita gets up out of the chair and walks outside to join Dracula. Carl comes into the bedroom to find her gone and goes out onto the exterior stairway to see Dracula guide her to his coach. Though he's unable to prevent them from leaving, he chases after them on foot, regardless. Dracula passes by Arnz and his men at the cross-roads and they then meet up with Carl, who tells them what's happened. One of the

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men allows him to take his horse and they chase after Dracula's carriage, as he passes over a small bridge. At their camp, Daniel panics and tells Niemann that the police are after them. Seeing them run across the bridge, they quickly take off in their own wagon, with Dracula following not far behind. When he sees him, it doesn't take long for Niemann that Dracula is the one being chased. Daniel comes up with an idea to stop them and climbs up onto the carriages' roofs and makes his

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way to the back. He swings over to the door leading into the living carriage and pushes out Dracula's coffin. The Count sees this, just as the horses break free from his coach and run off. He's forced to jump when the carriage goes off the road and gets turned over onto its side. Deciding to forget about Rita, he runs for his coffin, which is lying on a small ridge, as Carl and the police arrive. Dracula yells in horror at the sight of the rising sun and, shielding himself with his cape,

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desperately tries to get into the coffin. However, it's obvious he's already too weak to open the lid. While Carl and a policeman remove Rita from the coach, Arnz and another policeman arrive in time to see Dracula collapse behind the coffin, and his outstretched arm across its top disintegrate into a skeleton. Meanwhile, his ring falls off Rita's finger, signifying her release from his influence, and she and Carl embrace, while Niemann and Daniel move on.

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They come to the village of Frankenstein, where Daniel catches sight of Ilonka as she dances for money. When the performance is over, the authorities tell both the gypsies and Niemann and Daniel that they can't stay. But just as everyone prepares to move on, Fejos tries to rob Ilonka of all the money she made from her dance and then whips her when she protests and smacks him in the face. Even when his wife tries to stop him, Fejos doesn't relent, and that's when Daniel comes to the rescue. He grabs Fejos by the throat, pushes him to

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the ground, and begins whipping him himself. Niemann quickly puts a stop to this, as he doesn't want to attract the police's attention, and reluctantly allows Daniel to bring Ilonka with them. That night, after Daniel formally introduces himself to Ilonka, he and Niemann head into the ruins of Castle Frankenstein to search for the records. While looking around the base of the ruins, some of the ground collapses below Daniel, opening up a tunnel leading to an ice cavern. The two of them head into the cavern, where they first come upon

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the Wolf Man's frozen form, and then that of Frankenstein's monster nearby. Niemann decides to thaw the two monsters out, hoping they may know where the records are. They build large bonfires next to both of them and, after a while, the Wolf Man is completely thawed from the ice. He then reverts back to Larry Talbot, and awakens to find Daniel standing nearby. He follows him and promptly meets Niemann, demanding to know why he's freed from the ice to suffer from his

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werewolfism once more. Niemann then offers to lift the curse by building him a "new brain," in exchange for Frankenstein's records. Larry leads him back up into the ruins, to a spot where he uses a crowbar to remove a large block of stone from the wall. Pulling it out and tossing it to the floor, he pulls out a book whose title, once they've cleaned its cover of dust, is revealed to be, Experiments in Life & Death, Henry Frankenstein. With that, they

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all head back to the wagons, Niemann telling Larry to drive and take the road to Visaria. Much to Daniel's dismay, Niemann tells him that Larry is going to drive from now on, as he needs his help in applying hot compresses to the Monster's ice-damaged tissues.

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Along the way, Ilonka meets and becomes infatuated with Larry, much to Daniel's chagrin. They reach Visaria and Niemann's old home and laboratory, which they get back into working shape. But, when the first night of the full moon comes along, Larry finds that Niemann is more focused on reviving the Monster. In the meantime, Niemann and Daniel head into town, where they abduct Strauss. Niemann waits for his old associate when he comes out of a tavern, confronting him on

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the street corner. Horrified when he learns who he is, Strauss tries to run for it down an alleyway, only for Daniel to grab him and carry him into the living carriage, where they already have Ullman tied up and gagged. After telling his former associates what he plans to do with them, Niemann and Daniel remove their brains back at the lab. Then, when Niemann makes it clear to Daniel that he has no intention of putting his brain into Larry's body, Daniel tries to warn Ilonka of Larry's werewolfism

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by drawing a pentagram and reciting the old poem. Of course, Ilonka doesn't believe him, and when she runs out of the lab, yelling that she hates him, he takes out his frustration by smacking the barely conscious Monster with a strap as he lies on a table. Later that night, the full moon rises and, inside his room, Larry realizes what's about to happen. Obviously feeling the familiar sensation, he removes his socks and shoes and leans back in his chair, when the moonlight streams in through the window. Seeing it, he gets up and heads out a

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a pair of French windows and onto the grounds. Seeing the moon, he hopelessly covers his face with his hands and runs off, accepting what's about to happen. We then get the traveling shot of his footprints transitioning from human to animal, ending on a shot of the Wolf Man stalking off into the woods.

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The next day, at a tavern, Burgomaster Toberman learns of the disappearances of not only Strauss and Ullman but also Brown, a storekeeper. At that very moment, a man rushes in and tells Toberman and Inspector Muller that Brown is out in the woods, dead. At the spot, the local doctor confirms that Brown died from a severed jugular, the result of being bitten and torn by powerful teeth. Immediately, one of the villagers deduces it's the work of a werewolf, but Toberman forbids him and

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another man from spreading the rumors, worrying that it would ruin Visaria forever. He does agree to let them hunt down the supposed werewolf. Meanwhile, Ilonka learns from Larry himself that he is a werewolf, and when he insists that nothing but death can release him, she creates a silver bullet and loads it into a gun. Niemann and Daniel begin working to revive the Monster, which Larry momentarily interrupts to threaten Niemann into helping him. However, that goes nowhere, and

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Niemann gets back to work. With darkness falling outside, the posse of torch-wielding villagers have gathered nearby, waiting for the Wolf Man to appear, when two villagers see the flashing lights from within Niemann's home. In the lab, as they bombard the Monster with electricity, Niemann tells Daniel to increase the mega-voltage to 100,000. When he does, the "DANGER" section of the meter begins flashing and Niemann tells Daniel to decrease the voltage in response. When he does, the Monster slowly awakens and they shut off the

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machinery. He recognizes Niemann as the one who's revived him, but he also knows Daniel is the one who whipped him earlier. He tries to get at him, despite his restraints, but Niemann manages to ease him back down. At that moment, Toberman and the others are told of the flashing lights at Niemann's place and they decide to investigate. There, Ilonka, wielding her gun, approaches Larry's room, which he's locked himself in, and knocks on the door. She asks him to let her in but Larry, knowing he'll become the Wolf Man soon, tells her to go away. Unable to persuade him, she heads outside; at that very moment, Niemann tells Daniel to inform Larry that he's ready for him.

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Like before, the moonlight shines through the window into Larry's room. He gets off the bed he's been lying on and looks at himself in the mirror, waiting for the inevitable. Outside his room's French windows, Ilonka, seeing the full moon coming over the horizon, slowly points her pistol at him. But, despite her conviction, she's unable to pull the trigger. Larry promptly transforms and, oblivious to Ilonka, smashes his way out of his room and disappears behind a hedge. Ilonka chases

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after him, only to be attacked when the Wolf Man grabs her from around the hedge and bites into her neck. Outside Larry's room, Daniel knocks on the door, but then hears the sound of a gunshot, as well as Ilonka screaming. Outside, the Wolf Man, having been shot in the stomach, runs and tumbles, succumbing to the silver bullet while lying across a log, and becoming Larry again. Mortally wounded, Ilonka crawls along the ground and turns Larry's body over. She nuzzles against him before her life

Franchises: Universal's Frankenstein Series. House of Frankenstein (1944) (90)

gives out. Daniel, having run outside, sees this and, unaware of the advancing mob, picks Ilonka's body up and carries him down to the lab. When Niemann sees this and realizes what happened, he seems just as shattered as Daniel (though, it's likely because he knows that, with Larry dead, his plans for revenge and his experiments won't work the way he'd hoped). Heartbroken and angry, Daniel turns on his master, grabbing him by the throat and choking him fiercely. However, the revived Frankenstein monster is having none of this and

Franchises: Universal's Frankenstein Series. House of Frankenstein (1944) (91)

breaks free of his restrains, just as Daniel has Niemann bent over a table and then on the floor. The Monster lumbers over to Daniel, grabs him, pulls him over to the window, and throws him out. The villagers arrive just in time to see Daniel slide across the roof and fall to his death. Looking at the body, Toberman orders the men to search the castle.

Franchises: Universal's Frankenstein Series. House of Frankenstein (1944) (92)

While the villagers storm the castle, the Monster picks up Niemann, wanting to help the man who revived him. There's a brief moment where the two of them look at each other, which is nicely significant since it's Boris Karloff looking at the character he made famous, before the villagers come barging in. At first, they're shocked and horrified at the sight of him, as he lurches toward them with a snarl. But then, Toberman remembers that the Monster doesn't like fire and they come at

Franchises: Universal's Frankenstein Series. House of Frankenstein (1944) (93)

him with their torches. This drives him back and out the door in the back of the laboratory. The villagers chase after him, some of them throwing their torches, and force him down some stone steps and out of the castle, all while he's still carrying Niemann. Standing out in the marsh with Niemann, the Monster is driven back into a bog when the villagers, under Toberman's orders, set fire to the grass. The fire quickly spreads all around him and he drags Niemann further, trying to avoid it. Niemann warns him, "Don't go this way!

Franchises: Universal's Frankenstein Series. House of Frankenstein (1944) (94)

Quicksands! Quicksands! Not this way!", but the Monster presses on. Sure enough, the two of them stumble into the quicksand, as the villagers catch up to them. They wade through it a little bit but soon, they sink down into it, the Monster going first, then Niemann disappearing into the muck.

Another really nice thing about House of Frankenstein is that, possibly due to the slightly larger budget, much of the music is original. That said, there's still a fair amount of recycling of themes from the previous couple of Frankenstein movies, as well as The Wolf Man, but this time around, Hans J. Salter, working with Paul Dessau and Charles Previn, was able to do more than just almost completely cover the score with work from past films. Some of it is actually new, bigger versions of familiar themes. For instance, the opening titles is a nice, sprawling string symphony based around the sympathetic theme for Larry Talbot, before transitioning into a harsher, brassier section when the film actually begins. Memorably, when Dr. Niemann is introduced, it starts out with some low-key, conventional music when the guard walks to his cell door, only for some horns to blast crazily when he grabs the guard by the throat. A memorably brassy piece also plays when the storm strikes the prison and Niemann and Daniel are able to escape as a result. An eerie violin is used for the scenes where Dracula asserts control over Rita and when Carl realizes how strange her behavior has become. The chase sequence is scored with a big, exciting string piece, with horns coming in when Dracula sees the sun rising and tries to get back in his coffin. Ilonka's introduction is played to an upbeat, gypsy tune played on a fiddle during her dance, and her own leitmotif is a poignant-sounding piece that's also played on the fiddle. You really hear it during the scene where she and Daniel are formally introduced, with a really sad version playing when Ilonka sees that he's a hunchback, hinting at how Daniel's hoped romance with her isn't to be. Interestingly, you barely hear the Wolf Man's distinctive three-note motif, one instance of which is a very light version when he's found encased in ice. Similarly, when they find the Frankenstein monster, you hear a bit of his lumbering theme from the past couple of movies but it's very muted.

The moment between Ilonka and Larry when they stop momentarily while on their way to Visaria is, again, scored with a soft little violin, with a moment of low strumming to emphasize Daniel's jealousy when he hears Ilonka tell Larry that she likes him. The scene where Daniel tries to warn her of Larry's being a werewolf is scored with that more menacing reprise of Larry's theme from the opening, but when he actually first becomes the Wolf Man, it's to one of my favorite bits of music from the movie. It starts out soft and eerie as you see the moon rising, but when Larry sees the moonlight and rushes to the French windows, you hear some urgent-sounding violins. Then, during that traveling shot of his footprints, this horn piece rises in volume and menace, before climaxing wonderfully when we see the Wolf Man running off. Ilonka's theme is not only reprised when she learns the truth from Larry and then creates her silver bullet, but when she prepares to shoot Larry that night, we get what could be my absolute favorite part of the score. We do briefly hear the traditional version of the Wolf Man's motif when Larry realizes the moon has risen again, and then, when Ilonka points her gun at him through the window, we get this incredibly sad and tragic orchestral version of her motif, alluding to both her struggling with her decision and the tragedy that Larry has to go through this again. And after she's shot him and dies with him, the soft, fiddle version of her motif is played again. Finally, the music for the climax is okay, but I really like the bit that plays over the ending credits, coming off as a lovely orchestra based around Ilonka's motif. It makes for such a nice sendoff that it does make me kind of wish this had been the end of the franchise.

Franchises: Universal's Frankenstein Series. House of Frankenstein (1944) (95)

House of Frankenstein is a very mixed bag. On the bad side, its story is episodic and jumbled, it doesn't deliver on the all-out monster brawl that you may expect, the Frankenstein monster and the Wolf Man are woefully underutilized, Lon Chaney Jr. doesn't have much new to do as Larry Talbot, and the ending is very abrupt and disappointing. However, it benefits from good performances by many of the actors, particularly Boris Karloff, J. Carrol Naish, and John Carradine, higher than usual production values that allow for quite a number of settings, nice cinematography and direction, some very well done visual effects, a handful of memorable scenes all its own, and a great and mostly original music score. In the end, it is worth a watch by fans, but you might want to lower your expectations to avoid disappointment.

Franchises: Universal's Frankenstein Series. House of Frankenstein (1944) (2024)
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