Mid week movies need to be on the shorter side; what with working the day job, particularly as we swing into overtime hours during the annual enrollment period and still need to put my but in the chair and fingers to keyboard for writing there simply isn’t a lot of time left over for movie watching. Luckily those only Universal horror films, designed to fill the ‘B’ slot are often well under an hour and a half and House of Frankenstein is no exception, clocking in around seventy minutes.
House of Frankenstein, another in the let’s throw a lot of the monsters into the same movie early cinematic universe trend, also heralded the of Boris Karloff to the series that launched his stardom. This time Karloff isn’t playing the created monster but rather Doctor Gustav Neimann, a scientist obsessed with following the trail blazes by Henry Frankenstein. Caught earlier in the experimentations, Neimann has spent fifteen years languishing in a dungeon cell. God, eager to get the plot started, strike the prison with powerful lighting bolts and Neimann, along another prisoner, Daniel the hunchback, escape. Not happy with a single coincidence to start the story, the hand of god, known to us as the scriptwriter, also gives the convict pair a favor by having a traveling freak-show get stuck nearby in the storms muds. Neimann and Daniel kill the proprietor and his driver, and then assume their identities along with possession of Dracula’s actual skeleton.
A wise man would simple skulk off and restart their experiments, but Neimann is not wise. Bitter over those who sent him to prison her seeks revenge as he travels back to his decrepit lab. Neimann revives Dracula by removing the offending stake and sends him after his first target. Dracula, ever the skirt chaser, spends too much time on wine and charm and though he kills his target, he is forced to flee with the police in hot pursuit. Neimann throws the count’s coffin to the side of the road and the vampire, unable to reach it before dawn’s first rays dies in the sunlight.
At the next town they pick up an abused gypsy dancing girl and the next two victims for the doctor’s revenge. A quick stop at village Frankenstein yields the good doctor’s lab notes, the monster, and the wolf-man. The latter two entombed in ice from the flood that swept them away the in previous film. Like every other scientist in the universe, Neimann promises Talbot that he’ll cure the man werewolf curse. They travel reaching Neimann’s lab, after a quick montage the facility is restored to mad scientist ready. Unconcerned with either his promises or having a werewolf running loose, Neimann refuses to treat Talbot, instead he works on the monster. Talbot and the gypsy girls fall in love, angering the hunchback. When the werewolf kills the girl and the girls kills the werewolf, the hunchback blames, rightly so, Neimann and attacks him. That doesn’t go well as the Monster throws the hunchback from the battlements and then flees the torch-wielding peasant with Neimann in his arms. Showing a moment of intelligence, the mob forces he monster into the swamp where he and Neimann drown in quicksand.
Now, compared to most movies this is really just a series of coincidences, but if you look at House of Dracula this film has a central theme, revenge, and a coherent plot. House of Frankenstein is not a great film but a passable seventy minutes.