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House of Frankenstein

House of Frankenstein movie poster
Directed by Erle C. Kenton
Produced by Paul Malvern
Written by Screenplay:
Edward T. Lowe Jr.
Curt Siodmak
Starring Boris Karloff
J. Carrol Naish
Lon Chaney Jr.
John Carradine
Anne Gwynne
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release date(s) December 1, 1944 (U.S. release)
Running time 71 min
Language English
Preceded by Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
Followed by House of Dracula (1945)

House of Frankenstein is an American monster horror film produced in 1944 by Universal Studios as a sequel to Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man the previous year. This monster rally approach would continue in the following film, House of Dracula, as well as the 1948 comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.



The film focuses on the exploits of the vengeful Dr. Gustav Niemann, who escapes prison. He is helped by the hunchback Daniel, for whom he promises to create a new, beautiful body. The two murder a traveling showman and take over his horror exhibit. To exact revenge on Hussmann, who had once caused his imprisonment, Niemann revives Count Dracula. Dracula seduces Hussmann's Granddaughter-in-law and kills Hussmann himself, but in a subsequent chase, Niemann disposes of Dracula's coffin, causing the vampire to perish in sunlight. Niemann and Daniel move on to the flooded ruins of Castle Frankenstein, where they find the bodies of the Frankenstein Monster and Lawrence Talbot, the Wolf Man preserved in the frozen waters. Nieman thaws out the two and promises Talbot to find a cure from the curse. However, in fact he is more interested in reviving the Frankenstein monster and exacting revenge on two former associates than in his promises to Daniel or Talbot. Talbot transforms into a werewolf and kills a man, arousing the villagers.

Talbot is also envied by the hunchback Daniel as both love Ilonka, a gypsy girl. She has fallen in love with Talbot but is the object of Daniel's affection. Daniel reveals Talbot's curse to Ilonka but she is not deterred and promises to help him in fighting the curse.

Things enter a critical stage at night, as Niemann revives the Frankenstein monster and Talbot again turns into a werewolf. Talbot is shot by Ilonka with a silver bullet, thereby releasing him, but Ilonka is killed in the process. Daniel blames her death on Niemann and begins to choke him. The Frankenstein monster intervenes, throws Daniel out of the window, and carries the half-conscious Niemann outside, where the villagers begin to chase them and drive them into the marshes. There, both the monster and Niemann drown in quicksand.

This was the first film in which the monster is portrayed by Glenn Strange, of Gunsmoke fame. He received personal instruction from Karloff himself.


Production Notes

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man had been the first on-screen pairing of two Universal Studios monsters, but House of Frankenstein was the first multi-monster (often called "monster rally") movie. Early drafts of the story reportedly involved more characters from the Universal stable, including the Mummy, The Mad Ghoul, and possibly The Invisible Man. Working titles—which included Chamber of Horrors (a reference to Lampini's travelling horror show) and The Devil's Brood--emphasized the multi-monster nature of the story.

The "monster rally" approach, which emphasized box office appeal over continuity, was used in House of Dracula the following year and later in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. It has been periodically revived since then, in Bobby Pickett's 1962 novelty song "Monster Mash," in the 1970-71 children's television series The Groovie Goolies, in the television mini-series House of Frankenstein 1997 (which shares the same title and search by the primary villain for the Frankenstein creature), and in the films The Monster Squad (1987) and Van Helsing (2004).

House of Frankenstein marked the debut, as the monster, of Glenn Strange, a former cowboy who had been a minor supporting player in dozens low-budget Westerns over the preceding fifteen years. He reprised the role in House of Dracula and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and cemented the popular image of the monster as shambling, clumsy, and inarticulate. Boris Karloff, who had moved on from playing the monster to playing the mad scientist, reportedly coached Strange on how to play the role.

Made near the end of Universal's monster-movie cycle, House of Frankenstein showed evidence of the studio's declining interest in the franchise. The "monster rally" concept sacrificed internal story continuity for audience appeal, and the sets and special effects are noticeably less elaborate than in earlier films in the cycle. The scream that accompanies Daniel the hunchback's fall from the roof is actually the voice of Boris Karloff, recycled from the scene in Son of Frankenstein where the Monster falls into a pit of molten sulfur. The face on the Monster dummy used in the ice and laboratory scenes was a mask of Lon Chaney, who had played the Monster himself in Ghost of Frankenstein.

Glenn Strange, presumably because of his physical skills, did his own stunt work on the film, notably in the climax where he flees across a field of burning grass (actually tumbleweeds, which nearly scorched him when they burned more quickly than expected) and sinks into a pool of quicksand. Stuntman Cary Loftin doubled for Boris Karloff in the fire scenes, but Karloff returned for the final scene in the quicksand.

See also

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