Plot: What’s it about?
Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) is still tortured by his werewolf curse, but he still tries to discover a cure, via any means he can manage. He decides to contact Dr. Frankenstein and ask him to put an end to his misery, but he soon learns that won’t happen. It seems Dr. Frankenstein has passed on and left his monster (Bela Lugosi) behind. Unlike Talbot, this monster wants to remain alive and in the same condition, so he isn’t much help in the least. Since his original plans have been canceled, Talbot soon seeks out another mad doctor, Dr. Frank Mannering (Patric Knowles) and this one claims he can cure Talbot once & for all. But will Talbot ever truly be set free from this inhumane curse, or is he doomed to stalk the nights forever?
I do love these crossover films, as it just so cool to see the different characters together, at least to me. This is by no means an effort just to push the characters together either, as Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is well written and quite well made. Lon Chaney, Jr. (Spider Baby, The Wolf Man) returns as Wolf Man, while Bela Lugosi (Invisible Ghost, The Black Cat) turns in his sole performance as Dr. Frankenstein’s creation. Lugosi is always a pleasure to watch, but he seems out of his element here and in the end, I think he was the wrong choice to take this role. Even so, this is fun movie with all the usual Universal horror touches, so it is well worth a look. The atmosphere is terrific and the sets are gorgeous, another notch in Universal’s belt, to be sure. This movie might not be as great as Universal’s top of the line horror pictures, but it is a good movie and fans of Universal horror won’t want to miss it.
Dr. Gustav Niemann (Boris Karloff) is a mad scientist fresh off an escape from prison, with his hunchback assistant at his side, as always. Niemann first overthrows the director of a traveling sideshow, with intentions to create the most lethal chamber of horrors ever. He seeks to unfold a plan that will allow him revenge on his enemies, the kind of revenge only death and suffering can allow, to be sure. After he yanks the stake from a skeleton’s chest, he is able to revive Count Dracula (John Carradine) and of course, he instructs him to kill those responsible for sending him to prison. As if Dracula wasn’t enough, Niemann soon uncovers Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange) and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.) and involves them in his sinister revenge plans. But can Niemann control these monsters and if not, what will become of him and his grand schemes?
As with Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, this movie has some crossovers, but this time, Dracula and some others are even in on the take. This is not as well crafted as most of Universal’s horror efforts, but it is so much fun, it’s simple to overlook the negative elements. With so many monsters in a single film, you have to just sit back and soak it in, as opposed to looking for flaws, or taking the whole mess too seriously. With a lighter tone and plenty of lunatic moments, House of Frankenstein is a treat to watch and I think anyone who loves Universal horror will be pleased also. It might get a little thin at times, but it has more good than bad, without a doubt. Lon Chaney, Jr. (House of Dracula, The Mummy’s Curse) returns as Talbot, while Boris Karloff (The Mummy, Black Sabbath), John Carradine (Shock Waves, The Cosmic Man), Glenn Strange (Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein), and Anne Gwynn (Phantom of the Jungle, Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome) flesh out the impressive cast of players. This movie is highly recommended and in this great double feature, there’s no reason for Universal horror fans to pass this release up.
Video: How does it look?
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is presented in a full frame transfer, as intended. I’ve never seen the movie look this good, but some age related flaws still surface. The image is sharp and never gets too soft, but the print used shows debris & marks. I know this is to be expected, but Universal has cleaned up some of their other classic horror titles, so I expected that with this film also. It all still looks terrific when you consider the circumstances, but I had assumed it was given the same care as other releases. The print looks cleaner than most from this period however, so don’t be overly concerned in that respect. The contrast is stark and well balanced also, so on the whole, this is a pleasant and effective visual presentation.
House of Frankenstein is also presented in a full frame transfer, as intended. This is an excellent visual effort, with only a few trouble scenes to lower the score. Most of the time, the print looks almost pristine and even when trouble strikes, it is never too serious. The image shows minimal marks, debris, and grain, so we can see the visuals as intended, in clean and sharp fashion. I saw no errors in terms of contrast either, as black levels were spot on accurate and detail remains high throughout. Another terrific visual treatment for a Universal classic horror title, now if only they all looked this good, right?
Audio: How does it sound?
The included mono options for both films are more than solid, but these movies were made in the 1940s, so don’t expect miracles. I wasn’t let down by either track at all, but some age signs are evident, to be sure. The audio seems a little thin at times, but that’s to expected in these cases, I think. The basics are covered well and no distortion or hiss is to be heard, so I see no reason for serious complaints here. The sound effects are well placed and vocals are well balanced within the mix, which is about all you can expect from this release. Both films also feature subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
You’ll find production notes, talent files, and theatrical trailers for both films.