Universal Home Video
Cast: Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Production Notes, Cast & Crew Biographies
"Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" opens with two grave-robbers visiting the crypt of the Talbot family. Their goal is to rob the corpse of Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.), better known to audiences as the Wolf Man. Instead of finding the skeleton of a man who’s been dead four years (despite the fact that this film was released only two years after "The Wolf Man"), they find Talbot’s body intact. In fact, he sits up and attacks them. Talbot is then found lying in the streets of a nearby town and is taken to the hospital, where he’s placed under the care of Dr. Mannering (Patric Knowles). Unfortunately, there is a full moon and Talbot becomes the Wolf Man, killing anew. Talbot’s pleas to Dr. Mannering for help go unheeded, so he escapes from the hospital and seeks the help of Maleva, the Old Gypsy Woman (Maria Ouspenskaya… who looks like Chris Kattan in drag). Talbot believes that Maleva can help lift his curse, which would finally allow him to die.
First of all, allow me to point out that the title of this film is "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" and not "Frankenstein Vs. the Wolf Man". I’m sure that theater patrons lined up to see these two titans duke it out, only to be disappointed that their clash only lasts two minutes. (The poster art, with Wolf Man’s ultra-long arms, is more exciting than their fight.) That complaint aside, "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" is a fun monster movie. The opening scene is creepy and there are some suspenseful moments in the film. Fans of the Frankenstein films may be disappointed that this film focuses mainly on the Wolf Man (come on, "Frankenstein" had at least three sequels by this point!), but "old bolt neck" does get into the action near the end. The cast is quite good, and except for a song in Chapter 10, which is pure filler, the movie moves along at a nice pace. "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" may not be a classic such as "Frankenstein" or "Bride of Frankenstein", but it’s an easy way to get a double-dose of classic monsters.
If the title "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" is somewhat misleading, then the title "House of Frankenstein" is an out-and-out lie. Yes, a "house" does eventually show up in the film, as does "Frankenstein’s Monster", but the implication that the action will take place in Castle Frankenstein is ill-advised. The same goes for the film’s publicity, which makes it look like the ultimate "Monster Mash" film, throwing together all of the Universal favorites, when it actually plays more like an anthology. The film has a promising opening, as the insane Dr. Nieman (Boris Karloff) escapes from prison with his assistant, Daniel the Hunchback (J. Carrol Naish). (Daniel the Hunchback? What kind of name is that for a Hunchback?) Anyway, Nieman has sworn revenge on those who had him imprisoned for conducting experiments on dead bodies. Once they are away from the prison, Nieman and Daniel happen upon Professor Lampini’s Chamber of Horrors, a traveling sideshow. They kill Lampini and his driver and assume their identities, in order to travel the country incognito. One of Lampini’s exhibits is the skeleton of Dracula. Once they reach the town of Nieman’s first victim, he resurrects Dracula (John Carradine) and uses the vampire to kill his enemy.
"House of Frankenstein" pales in comparison to "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man". The film is sluggishly paced, and as mentioned above, the promised meeting of the monsters never really happens. (Frankenstein’s Monster is in a coma for most of the film.) Also, the Wolf Man’s whining about his longing for death is even more annoying in this movie. Also, the fact that the film takes place in two parts makes it seem very disjointed. And it’s always questionable when Daniel the Hunchback is the most dangerous person in a film. On the plus side, Karloff is wonderful as Nieman. His presence lends a much-needed touch of class to the film. Also, Carradine, with his bulging eyes, is pretty good as Dracula. It’s also good to see that the residents of Vasiria can still form an angry mob very quickly. "House of Frankenstein" isn’t a complete disaster, but it does show the declining state that the Universal Monster films had reached by 1944.
Like the others, this double-feature DVD should be heaven to fans of the "Classic Universal Monsters". With Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man, and Dracula, there are enough monsters here to please any taste. And while "House of Frankenstein" isn’t as good as "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man", both films together equal monstrous fun.