Today’s movie is the campy good House of Frankenstein (1944). This movie brings together so many good actors and the monsters they played it can’t help but be entertaining. Also, this movie has some interesting lore about stake pulling and who can shot you with a silver bullet.
I’m going to jump right in with the actors were have previously discussed. The greatest of these is the wonderful Boris Karloff played the role of the evil want to be Frankenstein Doctor Gustav Niemann. Karloff was first introduced in Episode 7 – Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
Lon Chaney Jr. was back in a very familiar role, the Wolf Man AKA Larry Talbot. We first spoke about Lon Chaney Jr. in Episode 5 – Of Mice and Men (1939).
Carrol Naish played the hunchback murder, Daniel. Naish was first mentioned in Episode 25 – Sahara (1943).
John Carradine played, of course, Dracula, or as he was sometimes known, Baron Latos. Carradine was first covered in the wonderfully bad Episode 12 – Billy the Kidd Versus Dracula (1966).
Not surprisingly, Lionel Atwill played the role of policeman Inspector Arnz. Atwill was introduced in one of my favorite movies Episode 9 – Son of Frankenstein (1939).
William Edmunds had a very small role as Fejos. Edumnds is known for playing the bar owner Mr. Martini, good name trick, in Episode 53 – It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).
Michael Mark played Strauss, one of the murder victims. Mark was covered for his excellent work in Episode 46 – The Wasp Woman (1959),
Glenn Strange played the Monster or Frankenstein’s monster, whatever you want to call him. Strange had over 300 roles and I’m not going to get into that now. He stood 6 foot 5 inches tall so he was a good fit for the Monster. He is known for a bunch of westerns, The Mad Monster (1942), House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). But in spite of that, he was always be known as Sam the bartender on television’s “Gunsmoke” 1961-1973.
Frank Reicher played Ullman, the mad doctor’s former assistant. Reicher played the Boat Captain in King Kong (1933) but he was not discussed.
Sig Ruman was cast in the role of Burgomaster Hussman. Ruman was born in Germany in 1884. He was in the Germany Army in World War I before moving to the US in 1924. He started working regularly on Broadway. When movies switched to talkies he became very popular. He was in several Marx Brothers films including in A Night at the Opera (1935), A Day at the Races (1937), and A Night in Casablanca (1946). His German accent kept him busy in the World War II era playing the enemy in films such as Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), They Came to Blow Up America (1943), and The Hitler Gang (1944) However, his greatest role was when he played POW guard Sgt. Schulz in the magnificent Stalag 17 (1953). He was also in Ninotchka (1939) and To Be or Not to Be (1942). Before he died in 1967, he had over 100 film appearances.
Mad scientist and Doctor Gustav Niemann (Boris Karloff) and hunchback Daniel (J. Carrol Naish) are rotting away in Neustadt Prison. Niemann was imprisoned for trying to put a human brain in a dog, yet he dreams of continuing his work. He explains that he learned from his brother who was an assistant to Dr. Frankenstein. Daniel is filled with hope that Niemann could give him a new body. Niemann dreams of revenge on the people that imprisoned him.
Just on cue lighting strikes the prison allowing the pair to escape. As they wander through the woods in the rainstorm they come upon a wagon that was stuck in the mud. After the criminals get the wagon unstuck they are invited into the wagon of Bruno Lampini. Lampini has a traveling show that exhibits the bones of Dracula, complete with a wooden stake where the heart had been. Niemann scoffs at the claim but Lampini says he collected the body, soil, and coffin himself from Dracula’s castle in Transylvania.
Niemann asks if the show ever travels to Visaria and Lampini says they have has enough horrors there. Niemann then asks about Herr Hussman (Sig Ruman) and finds out he is the Burgomaster of Reigelsburg. Niemann demands that Lampini take them to Reigelsburg. When he refuses, Daniel strangles him. They later kill the other members of the show and assume their places.
Back in Reigelsberg, Hussman is playing chess with Inspector Hans Arnz (Lionel Atwill). Hussman’s grandson Carl and his American bride Rita come downstairs and want to go see Lampini’s Horror Show. The four head to the show on foot.
They go to the show, where Niemann, acting as Lampini reveals the coffin with the skeleton of Dracula. Hussman scoffs much like Niemann did earlier. Then Inspector Arnz says you are not the Lampini I ran away from her before. Niemann quickly says he got the show from his brother who had died. Hussman thinks he knows the new Lampini but can’t place him.
When the show closes Niemann pulls the stake from Dracula’s heart. This is the only part of the movie I remember from watching this as a youth so it must have had a profound effect. The body slowly reanimates, bones, veins, and finally into Dracula (John Carradine). Fully clothed. Dracula starts glamming Niemann but the doctor is too strong. Niemann says he will protect Dracula’s coffin if he will help him with revenge. Drac agrees.
The inspector leaves the Hussman’s as he walks to his home. Shortly after, Dracula arrives in a coach and picks the Hussman’s up. He introduces himself as Baron Lato. They decide to go to the Hussman’s house and invite Dracula into the house. After some drinking, the Burgomaster falls asleep and Carl goes to get more wine leaving Rita with Dracula. Dracula basically glames her and gives her his ring. He tells her he will return for her before dawn.
The Burgomaster wakes and goes to his office where he discovers the identity of Niemann. However, Dracula shows up and kills the elder Hussman. In this movie, he turns into a bat to kill. Upstairs Rita is acting crazy and Carl sees the crest of Dracula ring on her hand. He locks her in and goes to find his grandfather. When he finds the man dead he calls Inspector Arnz. He goes back upstairs but Rita is missing. Carl sees her get in the carriage with Dracula. Inspector Arnz shows up with two other and the four head after Dracula. Niemann is fleeing ahead of Dracula believing the police are chasing him. When he realizes that they are after Dracula he has Daniel go back and toss the vampire’s coffin out of the wagon. Niemann didn’t even keep the deal for one day. Dracula is having a bad night as the carriage bolt slips out and the wagon wrecks. He tries to make it to the coffin but sunlight hits him before he can make it. He reverts back and even his clothes disappear. Odd! Dracula’s ring falls off Rita. Just for the record he could have turned into a bat and flown to safety, especially when the wagon crashed.
Niemann and Daniel head to the town of Frankenstein hoping to find Doctor Frankenstein’s notes in the castle. When they get near the town a beautiful gypsy girl, Ilonka (Elena Vurdugo), is dancing. Daniel is thunderstruck by her.
The police show up and tell Niemann that they can’t exhibit horrors because they have had enough. They point out Frankenstein’s castle and say no one mentions that place since the dam broke and swept the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s monster away. They seem to be describing the end of Episode 10 – Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). But that movie was set in Visaria, not Frankenstein. That’s a lot of information for something that is never talked about.
The head gypsy Fejos (William Edmunds) tries to take Ilonka’s dancing money and they get in a fight. When he begins to whip her but Daniel steps in and almost kills the man. Daniel takes Ilonka with them. Ilonka is at first repelled by Daniel but later likes the attention.
Niemann finds a way to the castle and Daniel and he head out. On the way, Niemann promises Daniel a new body. In the lower reaches of the destroyed castle, Daniel falls through the floor. Niemann follows him down and they find the frozen bodies of the Wolf Man and the Monster.
Daniel builds a fire and thaws the creatures out. Since the moon is not full so he turns from the Wolf Man to Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.). He is still upset about being a werewolf. The Frankenstein Monster is in worse condition and doesn’t wake up right away.
Niemann tells Talbot that he will remove the curse by giving him a new body. I don’t see the logic. Talbot takes Niemann to the journal entitled Experiments in Life and Death by Henry Frankenstein. Niemann decides they need to go back to Visaria and sset upa proper laboratory.
Niemann foils Daniel’s plan by having Talbot drive the wagon with Ilonka while Daniel remains in the back tending to the rotting body of the Frankenstein’s monster. Of course, as soon as Ilonka meet the deeply depressed and stoic Talbot she fell head over heels. It must be some kind of Florence Nightingale complex – I can fix him. Daniel is out and not taking it well. Niemann is unconcerned with Daniel’s problem, both physical and emotional. The doctor is only concerned with the two monsters.
When the band reached Visaria they went right to work cleaning up the castle but most of the domestic stuff was done by Ilonka. Niemann goes right to work on the Monster while Talbot and Daniel worry more and more about the promises made to them. Niemann’s next order of business was to track down who testified against him. The pair kidnaps Strauss and Ullman. Niemann tells Ullman that his brain will be placed in Frankenstein’s monster and Strauss’ mind will be placed in the body of Talbot. This is where I am confused. It seems to me, and I’m not that kind of scientist, that if the werewolf curse could be split it would go with the brain of Talbot and not stay in his body. Back at the lab, they remove both men’s brains.
During the operation, Daniel asks Niemann for the strong body of Talbot. Niemann rudely dismisses the request and says the Monster’s brain will go in Talbot’s body. Is he trying to create a FrankenWerewolf?
Daniel goes to Ilonka and tells her Talbot is a werewolf. She responds pretty rudely to him. She runs out crying and Daniel takes the time to whip the unconscious monster because he is getting the good body.
That night the full moon rises and Talbot turns into the Wolf Man. He runs off and kills another villager. With three people now missing the town folk become concerned and form a search party.
At sunup, they find the man killed by the Wolf Man. Right off the bat, they recognize the wounds as coming from a werewolf. They decide to split into three groups. Wait! There is a werewolf, maybe we should stay together.
Ilonka tries to comfort Talbot but he is having a big old pity party. Talbot tells her to stay away or she might be harmed. At this point, I have to mention that they are in a castle and there is probably a place where they could lock the Wolf Man up for a couple of nights. Anyway, Ilonka takes her silver necklace and melts it into a bullet. In this feature, the bullet must be fired by one who “loves him enough to understand.” I was thinking how handy Ilonka was because she knows how to smelt her own bullets.
As it gets closer to dark, and werewolf time, Talbot comes into the lab where Niemann and Daniel are working. Niemann tells Talbot to be patient. Uh, he’s going to turn into a werewolf in a bit. Talbot almost kills the doctor as the voltage is making the monster smoke.
A couple of men see the flashing lights in the castle and report it to the search party. The monster wakes up and tries to grab Daniel before he passes out again. Norman sends Daniel to get Talbot but he is in his room wolfing out while Ilonka waits outside the door. The search party is moving towards the castle.
Ilonka goes outside the castle by the glass door where they have housed the guy that turns into a werewolf three nights a month. The werewolf attacks Ilonka and she shoots him in the chest with the silver bullet. They both fall to the group but before she dies she crawls onto the Wolf Man who has turned back into Talbot.
Daniel finds the woman he loves and takes her back to the laboratory and Niemann. Niemann blames Daniel and Daniel begins to strangle the doctor. About this time the Monster wakes up and breaks free. He grabs Daniel and throws him out the skylight to his death. The Monster grabs the wounded doctor and starts out but the search party shows up. They use fire to chase the Monster to the swamp. The search party sets the marsh on fire and sends the Monster further into the swamp. They end up in quicksand and sink to their death. Or did they?
World-Famous Short Summary – You love her, but she loves him, and he loves somebody else
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Beware the moors