House of Frankenstein (1944) (Blu-ray)

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Released 17-May-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1944
Running Time 70:25
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Erle C. Kenton
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Boris Karloff
Lon Chaney Jr.
John Carradine
Anne Gwynne
Peter Coe
Lionel Atwill
George Zucco
Elena Verdugo
Sig Ruman
William Edmunds
Charles F. Miller
Philip Van Zandt
Julius Tannen
Case ?
RPI ? Music Hans J. Salter


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 mono
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
French
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

†††† Scientist Dr Gustav Niemann (Boris Karloff), caught while trying to replicate Dr Frankensteinís experiment, has been in prison for fifteen years. With the hunchbacked Daniel (J. Carrol Naish) he escapes in a storm, intending to get revenge on those who testified against him. They come across the wagon of Professor Lampini (George Zucco), who travels to fairs with various curiosities and horrors including, he states, the skeleton of Dracula which still has the wooden stake through its heart. Niemann has Daniel kill Lampini and he assumes his identity.

†††† They travel to the village where Hussman (Sig Ruman), one of the men who testified against him, is Burgomaster. Hussman is now a grandfather, and his grandson Carl (Peter Coe) and Carlís wife Rita (Anne Gwynne) are visiting the village on their honeymoon. They all visit the display of curiosities and later Niemann removes the stake from the skeleton and Count Dracula (John Carradine) is reformed. Niemann sends Dracula to kill Hussman; Dracula succeeds but he diverges from the plan and abducts Rita in his carriage. Chased by Carl and the police, Dracula crashes and dies when he is exposed to the rising sun.

†††† Niemann and Daniel move on to their next destination, the village where Frankensteinís castle is in ruins, having been destroyed, as we saw, in the end of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. Niemann is hoping to find Frankensteinís experiment records and promises Daniel that if they succeed he will be able to operate on Daniel to fix his deformity. There are gypsies in the village and Daniel is besotted by a gypsy girl, Ilonka (Elena Verdugo), he sees dancing. Daniel later sees Ilonka being beaten; he rescues her and takes her with them as they move on to camp beneath the ruins of Frankensteinís castle.

†††† Niemann and Daniel enter the ruins and in the lower reaches of the castle they discover, frozen in ice, Larry Talbot / The Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr) and the Monster (Glenn Strange). They build a fire and thaw out the two bodies; Talbot, who only wanted to die so that he would not kill again as the werewolf, is distraught, but when Niemann tells Talbot that he may be able to operate on his brain to cure him, Talbot helps him to find Frankensteinís records. The Monster, however, has degenerated significantly and is comatose. The next step for Niemann is to take them all to his old laboratory, restore his apparatus, and operate on Daniel, the Monster and Talbot.

†††† On that journey complications arise when Ilonka becomes attracted to Talbot, causing Daniel to become jealous. They arrive at Niemannís old house and laboratory and discover the equipment is not badly in need of repair. However, it is not ready for Niemann to operate on Talbot; indeed, he prefers to concentrate on reviving the Monster but as it is the full moon Talbot transforms into The Wolf Man and kills a man in the village. Ilonka becomes aware of Talbotís lycanthropy, but is in love and determined to help. Everything happens at once the next night, another night of the full moon; Talbot turns into the Wolf Man, Niemann revives the Monster, Danielís resentment boils over and the villagers arrive at the gates of the castle with flaming torches.

†††† Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man was the first film which paired two of Universalís classic monsters, but obviously the more the better and so the trailer for House of Frankenstein promises five monsters, Dracula, The Wolf Man, Frankensteinís Monster, the Mad Doctor and the Hunchback, and five times the horror. Like many films which bring together different franchises, such as in more recent times the Marvel Universe, House of Frankenstein is uneven, episodic, short changes on monster action and ends up, monster-wise, as two separate stories because Dracula dies well before The Wolf Man and the Monster appear. Nor do the Wolf Man and the Monster fight; indeed the Monster has very little to do, and no dialogue. However, what makes the film work as well as it does is the exceptional cast.

†††† The incomparable Boris Karloff, who was the first to bring to life two of the great Universal monsters, appearing as both Imhotep in The Mummy and as the Monster in Frankenstein, needs no introduction. Nor does Lon Chaney Jr in his third film as The Wolf Man, probably the most sympathetic of Universalís monsters. Dracula, this time, is played by John Carradine, father of Keith and David; he has an astounding (and record) 351 credits listed on the IMDb and with his tall, cadaverous features and deep voice is a decent Dracula, although in truth he does not get much screen time. J. Carrol Naish was nominated twice for Oscars, the second for Sahara (1943), a war film which starred Humphrey Bogart. He has 224 credits listed on the IMDb, more frequently in westerns or adventure films than horror although, with some irony, his last film role was as Dr Frankenstein in Dracula vs. Dr Frankenstein (1971).

†††† The two earlier films featuring The Wolf Man were both written by Curt Siodmak who gave the character of Talbot some depth and pathos, as a distressed man who only wants to die because of the curse upon him. Siodmak provided the story for House of Frankenstein but it was written by Edward T. Lowe, an experienced screenwriter with credits going back to 1912 who had written The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) which starred Lon Chaney Sr! He does what he can, but in trying to fit too many monsters into the filmís short running time character and sympathy is lost. However director Erle C. Kenton, who himself had 143 credits on the IMDb, including The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) in which Lon Chaney Jr played the Monster, keeps things moving along nicely, helped by an impressive Hans J. Salter score and the atmospheric black and white photography of cinematographer George Robinson, who had 185 credits including a spate of these Universal horror films including Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Mummyís Tomb (1942) and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943).

†††† House of Frankenstein is the third film in which Lon Chaney Jr plays the Larry Talbot / The Wolf Man character but whereas the first two, The Wolf Man and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, concentrated upon his character in House of Frankenstein he is a bit player, although not as short-changed as the Monster or Dracula. Chaney is still very good as a conflicted and sympathetic character but the film really belongs to Boris Karloff and J. Carrol Naish, and there is nothing wrong with that for fans of Universal horror.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††† House of Frankenstein is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

†††† It this film really 70 years old? House of Frankenstein looks fabulous with strong, clear detail. There is light grain in some sequences but otherwise this is a very clean print without obvious marks or artefacts. Blacks, greyscale and shadow detail, such the scenes in the rain or in the ruins of the castle, are very good.

†††† English for the hearing impaired, Spanish and French subtitles are available.

Video Ratings Summary
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Shadow Detail
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Audio

†††† The only audio is English DTS-HD MA 2.0 (mono).

†††† Dialogue was always easy to understand. The effects, such as the hostile crowd, were crisp, the electrical crackles and buzz where Niemann is experimenting on the monsters is loud and sounds great and provides a good audio experience for a mono track. There is obviously no surround or subwoofer use. The excellent score is by Hans J Salter.

†††† I did not notice any hiss or distortion.

†††† Lip synchronisation was fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
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Extras

Trailer (1:40)

†††† On start-up you are required first to select Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man , House of Frankenstein or House of Dracula to watch. The selected film commences without a further menu, but you can use the pop-up menu via the remote to select pause, chapters, subtitles and the filmís unrestored trailer.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

†††† This Blu-ray release of House of Frankenstein starts with the US FBI antipiracy warning. The film does not appear to be available anywhere as a stand-alone Blu-ray but is part of The Wolf Man: Complete Legacy Collection (see the summary below) available locally and in other regions. Buy local.

Summary

†††† House of Frankenstein is the first of the ensemble Universal monster films, advertising (breathlessly) in its trailer five monsters, all in one film. With such a group, and a running time of a scant 70 minutes, it is inevitable that many of the monsters will get short-changed and indeed, monster against monster action is limited. However, a great cast, atmospheric black and white visuals and a good score result in a film that is good fun and one that will please fans.

†††† The film looks good on Blu-ray, the audio is the original mono. A trailer is the only extra, although you get three Wolf Man films on the same Blu-ray.

†††† House of Frankenstein is included in Universalís 4 Blu-ray The Wolf Man: Complete Legacy Collection which has Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula (1945) on one Blu-ray, Werewolf of London (1935) and She-Wolf of London (1946) on another and The Wolf Man (1941) and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) by themselves on a Blu-ray, a collection that is great value for fans of Universal horror.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, September 14, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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