After being found guilty of performing bizarre experiments on dead bodies, Dr.Gustav Niemann escapes from prison and, along with his hunchbacked assistant, resurrects Dracula, the Wolfman, and the Frankenstein Monster in order to exact revenge on all those who wronged him.
Directed by: Erle C. Kenton
. Starring: Boris Karloff
, Lon Chaney Jr.
, J. Carrol Naish
, John Carradine
, Anne Gwynne
, Peter Coe
, Lionel Atwill
, George Zucco
, Elena Verdugo
, Sig Ruman
, William Edmunds
, Charles Miller
, Philip Van Zandt
. Music by: Hans J. Salter
, Paul Dessau
House of Frankenstein features Lon Chaney Jr. and John Carradine alongside the masterful Boris Karloff -- who is absolutely amazing for sheer presence alone -- as an enthusiastic, budding mad-scientist named Dr. Niemann who escapes from prison after a bolt of lightning inexplicably strikes the granite reformatory that he and his servant -- a hunchback assistant played by J. Carrol Naish -- are bound in.
Fortunately, after his escape, Niemann comes across the creepy Professor Bruno Lampini, who is conveniently taking a traveling show of horrors across the country. His main attraction is the skeletal remains of Count Dracula (complete with wooden stake jutting from ribs). As expected, Niemann kills Lampini, poses as the renowned crackpot, and revives the vampire (played by a 'princely' young Carradine), who, in turn, takes revenge on one of Niemann's enemies as a favor. Oh, and then Dracula dies like a wussy and his dull little role is over as if it never existed since it never helped move along or even remotely create a plot out of this revolving-door mishmash of monster cameos (read on).
Though this is essentially a sequel to 1943's Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman, the title sort of refers to Neimann's aspiration to carry on Dr. Henry Frankenstein's work (speaking of which, the Monster doesn't appear until about 45 minutes into the film), though Neimann's objectives are never quite revealed to the viewer. Nevertheless, while exploring the ruins of the great doctor's decimated Vasarian castle and to generate some semblance of plot, Neimann finds the monster offspring of Frankenstein frozen in a block of ice near the Wolfman (Chaney), who is quickly unthawed and put to work by Neimann. For some reason, the escaped doctor intends to switch the brain of Frankenstein's Monster with the brain of the Wolf Man, which, in itself, might have been funny. I just wonder if the Wolfman's curse would have followed the brain or the body, and how a Wolfman with poor motor-skills would have convincingly frightened someone - `I'll rip you to shreds like a wild dog as soon as I make my way over to the other side of this room!')
Again, aside from revenge, I couldn't really detect a plot, and the film has the single most abrupt ending I've ever seen! Plus, Frankenstein's Monster (played by cowboy actor Glenn Strange rather than Karloff) does absolutely nothing as the film plods on! Besides getting to toss a hunchback through a window (and who doesn't enjoy doing just that every now and again), he descends - quite dramatically -- into quicksand and lies around comatose the rest of the time (how about a cross-promotion film with the Weekend At Bernie's franchise -- Bernie Does Vasaria?).
As the famous Universal Studios monsters continued to parade out, I began to think of the marketing possibilities this film might have had if the whole state of affairs would have been placed in the here-and-now - playsets, lunch-boxes, limited-edition bobble-heads, House of Frankenstein-flavored fruit bars, Taco Bell Wolfman Burrito tie-ins, Dr. Neimann chemistry sets, etc.! In short, House of Frankenstein was obviously a crass attempt to bleed quick dollars out of a highly profitable franchise. There was no attempt at veiled artistry, and you can almost hear executives counting out the money beneath the hackneyed layer of canned shrieks! On a lighter note, the film would have easily qualified for 'self-parody' status with a bonus appearance from the Mummy! I certainly wouldn't have been surprised if he had been worked into the plot somewhere!!
Despite all the film's shortcomings, I was truly mesmerized by Karloff's hammy staging. In fact, his best performance comes during the film's opening scene, where his peculiar character strangles a prison guard for a piece of chalk just so he can continue to draw scientific diagrams on his wall. If only a screenwriter had been so arduous with the script for this film!
Review by ES-III from the Internet Movie Database.