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Click above to purchase "Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man/House Of Frankenstein" at amazon.com

 

Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man/House Of Frankenstein

review by Anthony D.

Starring Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, Ilona Massey, John Carradine, Glen Strange, John Carradine

Running Time: 74 minutes; 71 minutes

Written by Curt Siodmak; Edward T. Lowe

Directed by Roy William Neill; Erle C. Kenton

Studio: Universal

Retail Price: $29.98

Features: Theatrical Re-Issue Trailer, Production Notes, Talent Bios, Recommendations DVD-ROM: Weblink, Universal Newsletter,

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Digital Mono, English Closed Captions, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Search

 

Two more chapters in the Frankenstein family sage come to vivid, if not totally successful, life as Universal once again digs into its vaults for classic horror films. "Frankenstein Meet the Wolf Man" and "House of Frankenstein" appear together on the latest of Universal's bare-boned, double feature discs. It is always a treat to come across these classic black and white horror tales in any format, however, as far as Universal is concerned, these Frankenstein progeny must be the red-headed stepchildren: as not nearly as much care and effort has been being put into the latest batch of Universal titles.

"Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man" begins with a comic grave-robbing scene, as two Cockneys attempt to grab the gold from the Talbot crypt during a full moon. Bad move on their part since their presence in the crypt awakens the deceased Larry Talbot, who rises as The Wolf Man to begin his lunar-influenced murder spree. Larry finds himself the next morning in a hospital, many miles from the tomb from which he escaped. Try as he might to convince the dedicated doctors of his malady, it's to no avail. Larry breaks out of the hospital to pursue Maleva, they gypsy woman whose son turned Larry into a werewolf initially. Maleva, in compassion, takes Larry to Vassaria to find the infamous Dr. Frankenstein, whose experiments with life and death she has heard tell about. But Maleva nad Talbot are too late, the Frankensteins have been long gone from Vassaria, and the populace hold forth hope of never seeing their like again. Like everywhere else in the world, Vassaria has its monthly share of full moons, and stricken with his full-moon madness, Talbot kills again. While hiding out, he discovers the ruins of Castle Frankenstein, and in the rubble, the frozen corpse of Frankenstein's monster. Talbot seizes upon the idea to contact the owner of the ruins, the long-absent Baroness Frankenstein, so that he might purchase the place and scour the rubble for the long-lost diaries of the first Frankenstein. The Baroness is amenable to Talbot, and his needs, and accompanied by a power-seeking doctor from the hospital which treated Talbot initially, a trek is made to the Vassarian hills, and the Frankenstein home front. Talbot urges the doctor to put and end to his suffering, and that of the piteous monster, but the doctor has other plans. Those other plans are certain to go awry as he pumps up the voltage between Talbot and the monster - - creating super-beings capable of mass destruction. When the monster grabs the Baroness, Talbot - in werewolf mode, rushes to her rescue, resulting in a fabulous fight scene between the two classic monsters. But the villagers have formed an alliance, and with a plan in hand, proceed to carry out their own vengeance upon the Frankenstein name.

Filled with finely crafted characterizations, and an engaging script from the scribe of the original "The Wolf Man," this movie moves along briskly to a hasty conclusion. It's interesting, and not more, to see Bela Lugosi in the familiar makeup of "The monster;" a role he initially turned down, but since the creature is in mute mode throughout, we don't even get to hear Lugosi's Hungarian accent. Lon Chaney maintains the dignity her brought to Larry Talbot, and one's heart is tugged by his precarious balance between life and death. A touch of class and beauty is brought to the screen by the sparkling smile, and winning personality with Ilona Massey's Baroness. And then there is the sheer brilliance of Maria Ouspenskaya, recreating her benevolent Maleva. She is adorable in her own wrinkled way. Curt Siodmak's script never veers towards anything but the denouement, which though abrupt and hasty, feels absolutely correct.

"House of Frankenstein," the shorter of the two features, feels longer as it tries to pack in too many characters into too little plot. Although adapted from an original story by Curt Siodmak, the screenplay is credited to Universal scribe Edward T. Lowe. Herein, Boris Karloff portrays convicted Frankenstein-theory follower, Gustav Nieman (Did his friends just call him, "Gus?") whose escape from prison, with fellow prisoner and hunchback Daniel, is made simpler when a sudden storm hits and shatters the prison walls. Daniel's devotion to Nieman is put to the test when they hook up with a traveling horror show, and through murderous deeds, take on the roles of the proprietor and his mountebank. The fact that the main attraction of the horror show is the skeletal remains of one certain Count Dracula - complete with wooden stake planted in the chest's cavity - is but a fleeting vignette, and probably the only way to work Dracula into the bizarre mix. As in the previous film, the pursuit of the journals and diaries of the premier Dr. Frankenstein takes the action back to Vassaria, and the ruined Castle Frankenstein. To the surprise of many, The Wolf Man and the monster did NOT die at the end of the preceding film; no!, they have survived the flood in a frozen state, only to be thawed out as the doctor and his ward stumble upon them. Seeking revenge on those who initially sentenced Nieman to prison, the mad doctor plans to transplant the brains of two helpless, hapless villagers with those of the revived monsters. Once again, it takes a village to make things end happily.

"House of Fankenstein," gimmick-ridden though it might be, is one of those fun movies with no desire to do anything but entertain. When it veers from its entertainment goals, by tacking on the Dracula vignette, or creating a love interest for Talbot, it falls short of expectations. Those expectations, among horror mavens, would have to be great as the film features the cream of the crop of horror actors: Karloff, Chaney and Carradine, as well as lesser-know, but infinitely watchable stars of lesser magnitude. Elena Verdugo, known mostly today for her television work as "Marcus Welby, M.D.'s" unflappable nurse, veteran character actor J. Carroll Naish, lovely Ann Gwynne and perhaps the best character actor of the 1940's, Lionel Atwill all put in memorable appearances. To say that there probably isn't another movie like it is to speak in truths, for it would take the joint appearances of Jason, Michael Myers, the "Scream" phantom and the demon Pazuzu in today's market to even approach what Universal created with "House of Frankenstein:" a delightful, no frills horror-comedy hybrid which is still entertaining sixty years after its release.

 

"Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" has received the shoddier treatment of the two films. Filled with both video and audio drop-outs which could have been digitally mended, this is quite a disappointment. Even during the opening credits, which are presented window-boxed, there are instances of frame damage. The transfer itself is dark and muddy, without solidity on the gray scale. Probably the biggest complaint to be had, is that during the final scenes, there is a jarring vertically-inclined white jagged line which pops ups twice during the final confrontations - shame on you, Universal! On the other hand, and on the other film, most of the age-related artifacts have been cleaned up. Though neither film possesses a pristine transfer, "House of Frankenstein" is the better looking of the two. Non-bothersome halos - edge enhanced?- appear only occasionally on both films. Both films seem to be mastered on the dark side.

 

Dialogue is presented quite well with the English Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack on both films. It is one of the admiralties of Universal's presentations that the sound is as good as this for its library titles. The sound effects, certainly much more effective in the 1940's, sound prehistoric in their inaccuracy, but, these effects weren't state-of-the-art back then, either. The musical scores are pitched high with very little dynamic range. No other language tracks are offered for this set, but in addition to the literal English closed captioning, there are Sous-Titres for the French-reading crowd and Subtitulos for those with wild Spanish eyes.

 

Like the other featured Double Feature discs from Universal, the supplemental material is scant. Trailers for both films, both a little on the ragged side, but amusing in their own way are the essential bonus. Several pages of text documents devoted to "Production Notes" and "Cast and Filmmakers,"offer up tidy factoids, but no in depth analyses. It should be noted somewhere, but the text files were written by frequent film magazine contributor Tom Weaver, should anyone be following his career. Universal also includes a page of recommendations, featuring four of their double feature series titles, as well as information as to how to subscribe to the studio's online DVD newsletter.

Unlike the previous, bonus-laden Classic Monster series from Universal, these double feature discs are valuable for the films themselves, and though one is a true horror classic - thanks to its script from Wolfman creator Curtis Siodmak, the fact that they are being featured together on one disc creates the value. With both films run under an hour and a half each, this Double Feature will appeal to those seeking the legacy of the Frankenstein family, and how that legacy intertwines with those of the other Universal classic monsters.

 

,(4/5 - Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, 3.5/5 - House Of Frankenstein. NOT included in final score)

,(2.5/5 - Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, 3/5 - House Of Frankenstein)

(3/5 - both)

(1.5/5)

(3.5/5, NOT an average)

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