HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN/HOUSE OF DRACULA: A DOUBLE BILL OF HORRIFIC HALLOWEEN HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. (1944) DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES. STORY BY CURT SIODMAK. DIRECTED BY ERLE C. KENTON. STARRING BORIS KARLOFF, LON CHANEY JR., JOHN CARRADINE, J. CARROL NAISH, ELENA VERDUGO AND GLENN STRANGE.
HOUSE OF DRACULA. (1945) DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES. DIRECTED BY ERLE C. KENTON. STARRING LON CHANEY JR., JOHN CARRADINE, ONSLOW STEVENS, MARTHA O’DRISCOLL, JANE ADAMS AND GLENN STRANGE.
These two brilliant old horror romps from UNIVERSAL PICTURES are direct follow-ons from each other, but of course Dopey here watched them in the wrong order. Not that it makes much difference one way or the other, really.
Both films are completely bonkers (I say that with complete affection) and you could actually play ’em both backwards and you’d still know about as much as someone who’d watched ’em normally…!
They’re each what you’d call ‘crossover’ movies, featuring Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolf Man all in the same film at the same time, if you get me. It’s like when they put Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees in the same film nowadays and get ’em to knock seven bells out of each other. I quite like when film-makers do that, though I guess it entirely depends on whether or not you dig the characters involved.
If you like horror movie crossovers, you’ll most likely love these two. They’re mad at times, baffling, bizarre, surreal even and chock-full of unlikely coincidences and strange occurrences, but they have a five-star cast of horror royalty the likes of which you wouldn’t really see any more and they all play their roles with love and panache.
I especially love Lon Chaney Jr. as Lawrence Talbot, otherwise known as the Wolf Man. I never really noticed it before but he’s extremely attractive with his nice solid body in his dark werewolf-appropriate shirts-and-slacks combos and his thick, slicked-back dark hair, not to mention the tortured expression on his handsome face.
He hates turning into a werewolf whenever the moon is full and being consequently filled with the urge to kill the nearest human being, but I wouldn’t shed too many tears over him, dear readers. In every film, the prettiest girl falls in love with him and vows to stay with him no matter how hairy his feet and back get when the moon is full.
In THE WOLF MAN (1941), it was the beautiful and charming Evelyn Ankers as shop assistant Gwen Conliffe who was first in the queue to soothe his hairy brow. In HOUSE OF DRACULA, it’s Dr. Edelmann’s pretty nurse Milizia he’s got his eye on, and in HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN it’s a gypsy dancer girl called Ilonka who drops Boris Karloff’s hunchbacked (and lovelorn) assistant Daniel the second she claps eyes on the Wolf Man. No wonder they say women are fickle…
Will we take a peep at the two plots, just for ha-has…? Hell yeah, we will! In HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Boris Karloff plays an evil genius, Dr. Niemann, who is desperate to revive the frozen body of Frankenstein’s Monster so that he can wreak a terrible revenge on the meanie townspeople who put him in prison for fifteen years.
Along the way he thaws out the Wolf Man and causes much havoc among the villagers in the gorgeous little town which houses the ruins of the old Dr. Frankenstein’s castle. The setting is very similar to the mythical ‘mid-Europe’ ones that HAMMER FILMS would later create for their own marvellous DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN films. With the mountains in the background and the magnificent ruins of the castle in the foreground, the visuals are breath-taking in both cases.
Dr. Niemann’s travelling horror show, the one he steals from George Zucco, is so in keeping with a great old horror film’s element of mystery, the occult, the bizarre and the downright sinister. The old gypsy caravans too are a delight to see, as well as the traditional old gypsy dance performed by the fickle Ilonka. You definitely get the feeling, looking at the settings, that the shadow of the Carpathian mountains can’t be too far away…
HOUSE OF DRACULA is probably my favourite of the two films. There are definite elements of comedy as John Carradine’s Count Dracula and Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolf Man both turn up at Dr. Edelmann’s magnificent old cliff-top mansion, each demanding to be cured of their separate afflictions.
I’m telling you, it’s like rush-hour at the flippin’ surgery. I hate the way you can’t even get a same-day bloody appointment any more at those places. And yet, when the sun is splitting the rocks, isn’t it funny how many people suddenly forget about their ingrown toenails or itchy rash and go off to work on their tan…!
Anyway, mustn’t grumble. Dr. Edelmann has it much tougher as he tries to help Dracula and the Wolf Man, all the while keeping his pretty nurses in check, handling the terrified villagers and trying to revive Frankenstein’s Monster while under the malign influence of Count Dracula…! Things get very busy indeed over at the surgery. No wonder one of the nurses permanently has the hump…
These films will do perfectly for a nice spooky Halloween double feature, complete with popcorn, peanuts and maybe a drop or two of something nice and liquidy, haha. They won’t scare you in the slightest, but they’ll leave you with a lovely warm fuzzy feeling in your mid-section.
Yes, sure, that could be the booze, but even without the booze these are two great feel-good films that’ll fill you chock-full of a wonderful nostalgia for the days of UNIVERSAL PICTURES and the black-and-white logo at the start of the films that had the old-fashioned little aeroplane circling the globe while that great old familiar music played. Job done!
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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