Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Grave Reviews #11

House Of Frankenstein (1944)

Director: Erle C. Kenton

Starring: Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr, John Carradine.

Wow. I bought this about half a year ago because it was cheap, but had put it off till now partially due to my love/hate relationship with Karloff but I was mightily impressed. This is the middle film of a trilogy between Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman and House of Dracula.

Dr. Gustav Niemann (Karloff) has spent the last 15 years in prison after his two assistants frame him to escape prisons sentences due to their graverobbing in a bid to re-enact Dr Frankenstein's creation of the Undying Monster. He manages to escape with a hunchback named Daniel, whom he promises that if he can find Dr Frankenstein's notes he will give Daniel a normal mortal body.

Now Niemann is free to exact vengeance on his former assistants and a Burgomeister named Hussmann who sent him to prison. He murders a traveling showman named Lampini and takes his place as ringleader of a Horror show that boasts to include the staked remains of Dracula (Carradine). Arriving in the Hussmann's town, his granddaughter emotionally bribes him, her husband and the town's Police Inspector to see the Horror Show, and when Hussmann almost recognises Niemann he pulls the stake from Dracula's chest to revive him, and upon pain of re-staking commands him to assist in his revenge.

Dracula seduces Hussmann's granddaughter via the magic of his crest ring, and succeeds in killing Hussmann, fleeing by coach back to his coffin in the Horror Show. Seeing Dracula persued by the local constablary, Niemann and Daniel flee, and in an effort to distract the police, toss Dracula's coffin, and his sanctuary from sunlight onto the road. Dracula rolls the coach and is too late to make it to his coffin reverting back into a skeleton as the sun's rays strike him down.

Niemann travels to the town of Castle Frankenstein where Daniel spies a gypsy show, and subsequently falls in love with a gypsy dancer named Ilonka, whom he saves from a nasty brut, and takes her along to Castle Frankenstein where in the lower depths they find the frozen remains of The Undying Monster and the Wolfman. Niemann thaws them both out with fire, and he promises Lawrence Talbot now in his human form during the day a new body so he can be free of the mark of the pentagram.

Much to Daniel's chagrin, Ilonka falls for a non-disfigured Talbot who proceeds to change at the next full moon and kills again, alerting the town to a werewolf and the Castle used once again for nefarious scientific experiments. Daniel reveals Talbot's curse to Illonka in desperation to win her love, but she spurns his lies and finally when she learns the truth vows to love and help Talbot with his curse.

Talbot now sick of Niemann's procrastinations (and figuring out he only cared for the Undying Monster all along) attacks Niemann but relents when he realises the Doctor is his only hope to be free from the curse. Talbot changes once more at night, and attacks Illonka mortally wounding her, The gypsy girl manages to discharge her gun loaded with silver bullets into his heart, and they both die in a loving embrace (vomit).

By now Daniel has had enough and attacks Niemann blaming him for all his misery. The Monster awakens during the experiment and tosses Daniel around like leaves on a windy day, and as the villagers attack to quell the evil from rising once again, the monster thinking it is saving Niemann drags him into the quicksand nearby where they both perish.

I found this movie quite enjoyable until it got to the part of Talbot and The Wolfman. I am not a fan of the original Wolfman movie with Chaney Jr as I find Talbot's character to be a whinging sook and can't really stand monsters who are big crybabies about their condition. Lucikly he didn't play a big part but was in it enough to disturb me. This is the first time I's seen Carradine play Count Dracula and I quite enjoyed his version, but when I saw the crap bat effects I couldn't help but think of Taliesin and what he thought of this particular one, it was pretty damn crappy.

The Frankenstein Monster is hardly in it, and Karloff I see gave up the role to play more human (and more evil) characters and for once I could put up with his diabolical lispiness. The Hunchback Daniel played by J. Carrol Naish was sympathic enough, but reminded me of those ugly men in real life that expect to get a girlfriend that resembles an actress from Gossip Girl. Real life ain't like that, and I know this is a movie with vampires and werewolves, but Daniel baby if you ugly and ain't got the dough, you ain't got the chance.

The sets and costume were usual Universal Horror fare, so if you've seen Legosi's Dracula you know what to expect. Crumbling castles and dinner jackets galore. Still I enjoyed this enough as I have any other Universal Horror, though most now are quite corny in their old age.

My Grade is C.

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