As I wade through these old films, there's an interesting balance I find in them. Most of these are actual first-time watches, and I think it's safe to say that most of them I have respect for, even if I don't particularly love them myself. But once in a while, there's a real gem I take away from this experience, and I can say with gusto that 'House of Frankenstein' is one of the best - and no, I don't care about its sad sad Rotton Tomato ratings. I'm completely against the grain on this.
When Dr. Gustav Niemann (Boris Karloff) and his hunchbacked helper, Daniel (J. Carrol Nash) make a far too easy escape from prison, they murder a travelling showman named Professor Lampini (George Zucco) and steal his travelling horror exhibit. Niemann's plan is one of revenge on Bürgermeister Hussman (Sig Ruman) for putting him in prison in the first place, and some former associates of his who stabbed him in the back. This whole revenge plots results in the resurrection of a handful of classic horror heroes for the time; Dracula, The Wolf Man, and Frankenstein's Monster.
Niemann finds and revives Count Dracula (John Carradine), whose role is short-lived here, but it's an interesting take on the character. He's actually a bit of a badass here, and even gets involved in a wagon chase (or car chase, if you like). Eventually Niemann and Daniel head to the flooded ruins of Castle Frankenstein, some time after the events of 'Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man'. He finds the bodies of both Frankenstein's Monster (Glenn Strange) and Larry Talbot, aka The Wolfman (Lon Chaney Jr.), and takes it upon himself to revive them.
Larry is revived first, and explains his whole werewolf situation to Niemann, and how his resurrection is a horrible curse waiting to happen. However, Niemann offers him an experiment that should rid him of his curse, by giving him a new brain. But since Niemann has another revenge plot against a couple of former associates, his interest in reviving the monster takes a bit more of a priority. What more can I say? For the time, this movie seemed to have everything. It's like 'The Avengers' with monsters - like what they tried so hard to do with the Dark Universe concept, failing miserably. I still claim it could work if they just kept things closer to classic, but I digress.
This one was a real treat for me, because as luck would have it, the primary focus of a monster is actually The Wolfman. I've come to really like his tragic character, and Lon Chaney Jr. plays the role so incredibly well as both the scared man and the animalistic werewolf. The other most intriguing character here is Daniel, as Nieman promises him a different body, and we get to see the struggles of the hunchback for once. Any other movie just has the hunchbacked assistant as something creepy and somewhat off to the side, but this delves into the idea of this guy being innocent, and just wanting to be attractive - this includes him falling in love with someone kind at first, but he eventually scares her off all the same. I have to say, I really enjoyed that the film dug into that.
This is most definitely one of my favorites in this collection I've been going through. I love how the story includes just the right amount of monsters, and every one of them serves the story. They didn't crowbar in The Mummy or The Invisible Man for no reason; it just sticks to these big three (or four if you include the hunchbacked assistant), and everything just fits. It's quite well-constructed. The only time I might have a bit of a beef with these characters is how abrupt Dracula's appearance is. But I can't even be that mad about it, because it just makes room to further the plot which explores the Wolf Man and Daniel quite generously. I really enjoyed this one; it's fun, dramatic, just creepy enough, and it's a high recommendation for a Halloween hit.