1944 - 71m.
Picking up somewhere between Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman and the end of the Universal saga, House Of Frankenstein is another of the much vaunted company's monster mashes - and this time, it really works. Dracula (Carradine) and the Monster (Glenn Strange), while not portrayed by the legendary actors who first brought them to life, are indeed at their most... monstrous. Carradine's Baron Latos is easily the most devious, evil and , dare I say, romantic of the early Draculas while Strange's powerful build and genuinely intimidating size make his version of the famous monster much more sinister than the other actors who portrayed him. Not to be outdone, Boris Karloff delivers a great performance as the driven and none-too-sane Dr. Niemann, once again making sure Castle Frankenstein remembers who brought it to the dance.
Of course, calling this a monster mash is a bit of a stretch, as the monsters rarely meet and never actually confront one another. The film is actually separated into two smaller stories. The first being Dr. Niemann's escape and dealings with Dracula, and the second his discovery of both the Wolfman and the Monster in the ice caves below Castle Frankenstein. Both ideas could have easily filled the mere 71 minute run-time of this film, but with both it turns House Of Frankenstein into one of the most action-packed and fast-paced of the entire Universal run. Depending on your opinion of this style of film, of course, this could be taken as either good or bad.
On the down side is that same short run-time that makes the film so fast-paced, as it denies a lot of great actors enough time to truly bring their characters to life - particularly the gorgeous Anne Gwynne as the gypsy princess Rita and horror stalwart Lionel Atwill's return performance as the town Inspector.
The sets (especially the massive ice caves below Castle Frankenstein) are some of the best since Whale's original films, and really bring the film to another level. I mention this because as the series went on, the sets tended to get more cramped and poorly made, this one really breaks that mold. From the laboratory of Dr. Niemann to the moors the monsters lurk in, this one is a real treat for fans of period settings.
All around though, this is one of the finest filmed, composed, and acted of the later Universal period. (Red, 12/13/04)
Directed By: Earle C. Kenton.
Written By: Kurt Siodmak.
Starring: Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, J. Carrol Naish.