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House of Frankenstein (1944)

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"I'm going to repay you for betraying me; I'm going to give that brain of yours a new home in the skull of the Frankenstein Monster. As for you Strauss, I'm going to give you the brain of the Wolf Man, so that all your waking hours will be spent in untold agony awaiting the full of the moon... which will change you into a werewolf."
Doctor Gustav Niemann


House of Frankenstein is an American horror film directed by Erle C. Kenton and released in the United States in 1944. It is the fifth film in the "Frankenstein" franchise produced by Universal Pictures and is the first film to feature all three of the classic Universal Monsters. The plot centers around aging scientist Doctor Niemann, who escapes from prison and attempts to continue his research inspired by the late Henry Frankenstein. Along the way, he encounters the vampire Dracula and resurrects the Wolf Man as well as the Frankenstein Monster.

Cast Edit

Plot Edit

Chamber of Horrors Edit

Gustav Niemann (Universal) 002

Doctor Niemann

Scientist Doctor Gustav Niemann and his hunchbacked assistant Daniel are prisoners at Neustadt Prison. Niemann continues the bizarre research that first earned him his prison sentence. He explains to Daniel how he intends on supplanting a human brain into an animal's body; in this example, a dog. Daniel asks him if he could put his brain into a new body, to which Niemann responds, "I could give you the perfect body".

Suddenly a lightning bolt from the overhead thunderstorm strikes the prison causing a section of wall to collapse. Seeing a chance to break free, the two convicts flee from the gaping chasm in the side of the prison.

Shambling through the forests, they come upon a wagon train that is stuck in the mud. The wagon caravan belongs to Bruno Lampini. Niemann and Daniel help to push the lead wagon out of the mud and in exchange, Lampini offers them a ride and shelter from the storm. Without revealing his name, Niemann tells Lampini that Daniel and he are merchants who were held for ransom by mountain bandits for three months. Lampini tells them that he is a showman and a barker of "Lampini's Chamber of Horrors". He boasts about how he had recovered the remains of the vampire, Count Dracula. Niemann is incredulous of such a claim, but Lampini insists that it is true, for he has gone to the cellar in Dracula's castle and recovered the vampire's corpse himself. Niemann inquires about a man named Hussman. Lampini tells him that Herr Hussman is now the Burgomaster of Reigelberg. Niemann orders to Lampini to take them to Reigelberg, but Lampini refuses. Niemann has Daniel strangle Lampini and murder the caravan driver. After a change of clothes and a shave, the two escaped criminals take command of the caravan and travel to Reigelberg. Niemann assumes the alias of Bruno Lampini.

In Reigelberg, Herr Hussman plays a game of chess with Inspector Hans Arnz. His grandson Carl and his American wife, Rita come downstairs to greet them. Rita tells her grandfather that Carl and she are going to visit Lampini's Chamber of Horrors down at the Crossroads. Hussman has little interest in such things, but Rita insists that he accompany them. She even convinces Inspector Arnz to ride with them as well.

Dracula Unveiled Edit

Dracula (House of Frankenstein)

Dracula

They go to the show where Doctor Niemann shows off the corpse of the vampire Dracula. Inside of the tent outside his caravan stands the coffin of Dracula. Niemann opens it, revealing a skeleton with a wooden stake through its chest. Rita is alarmed, but Hussman thinks its all rubbish. Inspector Arnz notes that this man does not resemble the Lampini that he ran out of Reigelberg three years prior. Niemann tells him that Bruno Lampini was his brother who is only recently deceased. Hussman appears to recognize Niemann, but cannot quite place the face. Niemann promises the Burgomaster that he will remember him before long. With that, the curtain falls and the show is over.

Turning around, Niemann removes the stake from the vampire's chest, and Dracula is resurrected. Niemann holds the stake over him, warning the vampire that if he makes any move to attack him, he will drive it back into his heart. Dracula tries to mesmerize Niemann, but the doctor's willpower is strong. Niemann promises to guard Dracula's coffin during the daylight hours so long as Dracula agrees to help him. Dracula agrees.

Sometime later, Dracula assumes the identity of Baron Latos. He encounters the Hussman family and offers them a ride in his carriage. They invite him back to their family estate for some wine and conversation. At the home, Dracula becomes fixated with Rita Hussman. He waits for a moment when the two can be alone and then begins to seduce her. Rita is transfixed by Dracula's crescent ring and sees images of dead people within it. Dracula excuses himself, but secretly promises Rita that he will return before the dawn.

Burgomaster Hussman cannot get Lampini out of his mind. He begins searching through old documents in his office and finally determines that Lampini is actually Gustav Niemann – the man he put away more than fifteen years ago.

As the evening closes towards dawn, Dracula returns to the Hussman estate. He transforms into a bat and attacks the Burgomaster, biting him on the throat, ultimately killing him.

Upstairs, Carl discovers Rita behaving strangely. In a malaise, she keeps staring out of the bedroom window as if hoping that someone would come to her. Carl notices the ring on her finger and recognizes it as Dracula's crest. Carl goes back downstairs into the study where he finds his dead grandfather. He quickly telephones Inspector Arnz then returns to Rita's room. Rita is nowhere to be found, however.

Dracula finds Rita and places her inside of his coach and begins driving off. Carl meets up with the police and they begin chasing Dracula's coach. Along the road, Doctor Niemann and Daniel take note of the police pursuing Dracula. Not wishing to be connected with the vampire any longer, Niemann has Daniel unload the vampire's coffin from their wagon. Now Dracula has nowhere to go once the sun rises.

To make matters even more complicated for the vampire lord, the carriage bolt slips from his wagon and the wagon veers off the side of the road down into a gulley. Dracula is thrown from the wagon, but as he desperately scrambles to get back inside, the sun comes up over the horizon, killing him. Carl pulls Rita to safety from the overturned carriage and the two embrace. The ring slips from Rita's finger and they now know that they are free of Dracula forever.

Castle Frankenstein Edit

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Castle Frankenstein

Meanwhile, Doctor Niemann and Daniel travel to the nearby village of Frankenstein. Niemann's hope is to find Castle Frankenstein so that they might be able to recover Frankenstein's journals. They come to a square that is just outside the mountain ruins of Castle Frankenstein. Niemann tries to set up camp, but the local police inspectors won't allow him a permit.

Daniel meanwhile, takes notice of a band of gypsies performing nearby. His attention is immediately captivated by a dancing gypsy girl named Ilonka. After her dance concludes, Ilonka gets into an argument with a gypsy named Fejos. Fejos tries to take all of her money from her, but when Ilonka refuses, he begins whipping her. This sends Daniel into a frenzy. He leaps upon Fejos, takes his whip and begins lashing him. Niemann rushes over to them and pulls Daniel back.

Afterward, Daniel introduces himself to Ilonka. At first, she is startled by his misshapen appearance, but she appreciates Daniel’s kindness and can tell that he is infatuated with her. Daniel asks her if she wouldn’t mind sitting with him when they travel so he would have someone to talk to. Doctor Niemann then calls Daniel away and tells him that he has found a way into the ruins.

Castle Frankenstein was nearly destroyed several years ago when the dam broke and the flood waters came rushing in. Niemann and Daniel traverse the rough terrain into the lower depths of the castle ruins. A weak patch of earth beneath Daniel collapses and he falls into an underground cavern. Niemann follows him down and they discover a glacial ice cavern. Inside this cavern are the frozen remains of the Wolf Man and the Frankenstein Monster.

Daniel starts a fire and thaws out the two monsters. As it is not a full moon, the Wolf Man instantly reverts to the form of Larry Talbot. Talbot appears no worse for wear, but still laments the fact that he is forced to live with the curse of the werewolf. The Frankenstein Monster is in much worse condition and though unfrozen, has yet to revive. Doctor Niemann promises Larry Talbot that he will be able to place his brain into a new body, thus ridding him of the curse of the werewolf forever. In exchange however, Talbot must help him to recover Henry Frankenstein's journals. It takes Talbot little time to locate the journal, Experiments in Life and Death by Henry Frankenstein. Niemann decides that his experiments must be carried out in his laboratory back in Visaria. He asks Larry Talbot to drive the carriage. This upsets Daniel as it will take away his chance to be with Ilonka, but Neimann needs him to help take care of the monster, whose body is in a rapid state of decay.

The Road to Visaria Edit

While driving, Larry Talbot meets Ilonka, who at first, mistakes him for Daniel. Ilonka is immediately smitten with Talbot and is glad for the chance to spend time with him.

Three days later, the caravan stops and makes camp. In the morning, Ilonka visits Larry outside while Daniel sees to retrieving some water. Daniel overhears Ilonka telling Larry how much she likes him and the lovesick hunchback grows extremely jealous.

The travelers finally reach Visaria and Niemann puts them to work cleaning up the laboratory. As Niemann straps the monster to a table and begins running tests, Larry begins badgering him about when he will be able to perform the operation. Niemann stalls Larry as much as possible, citing that he needs to adapt Frankenstein’s research with his own before he can move forward. After Larry leaves, Niemann muses to himself that it is time to "call on old friends".

That evening, Doctor Niemann and Daniel track down the last two men who testified against him at his trial. They first abduct Frederick Strauss off the streets and shove him into a carriage. They then track down his old assistant, Ullman, and bring him inside the wagon as well. Niemann reminds each of them as to why he has kidnapped them. He tells Ullman that he will place his brain inside the Frankenstein Monster while Strauss' mind will be transferred into the body of Larry Talbot. They bring them back to the laboratory where both men are operated upon, their brains removed from their bodies.

While Niemann is busy at work, Daniel tells him that he wants Talbot's body for himself. Niemann denies his request, indicating his intent on placing the Monster's brain inside of Talbot's body.

Wolf Man (Universal) 001

Larry Talbot -- the Wolf Man

Daniel later meets with Ilonka. He warns her about Larry Talbot, explaining to her that Talbot is a werewolf and will kill her. Ilonka accuses him of being jealous and that he is only saying these things to scare her. Daniel insists that he is only trying to protect Ilonka, but she isn’t listening. She screams at him, calling him mean and ugly and that she hates him. Ilonka runs out of the lab in tears. Daniel takes his frustration out by whipping the unconscious monster.

That evening, the full moon rises and Larry Talbot transforms into the Wolf Man. He stalks off into the night and kills a man named Braun. The disappearance of three men from the village causes quite a stir with the locals and they mount a search party.

The following morning, the villagers discover the body of Braun and determine that he was killed by a werewolf. The chief inspector decides to split the party into three groups and they all fan out in search of the werewolf armed with torches and pitchforks.

Ilonka finds Larry and tries to console him. He is grief-stricken over having turned into the Wolf Man once again. He warns Ilonka to stay away from him or else he might harm her. Saddened, Ilonka walks away. She takes a medallion from her silver necklace and melts it down into a silver bullet. She knows that only a silver bullet can kill a werewolf; fired by one who "loves him enough to understand".

The Monster Awakens Edit

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The Frankenstein Monster

Meanwhile, Niemann and Daniel are hard at work trying to bring the Monster back to life. Larry Talbot comes in and badgers Niemann some more. Niemann tells him that they are nearly ready, but Larry must be patient. Larry doesn't have the luxury of patience as the moon will rise soon and he will become a werewolf once again. It becomes clear to him now that Niemann does not intend on honoring his part of the bargain.

The moon rises and Larry stares at himself in the mirror. From outside the window of his room, Ilonka sits. She aims her pistol at Larry, but she cannot bring herself to fire. Larry changes into the Wolf Man and barrels through the glass door to the outside. He comes upon Ilonka and attacks her, but Ilonka fires her gun, hitting the Wolf Man in the chest. The beast collapses to the ground dead and turns back into Larry Talbot. The dying Ilonka falls down next to him. Daniel finds Ilonka's body and brings her back to Niemann. Furious, he tells Niemann that she is the only woman that he has ever loved. He blames the doctor for failing to live up to his promises and lunges at him.

At that moment, the Frankenstein Monster awakens. He breaks free of the straps holding him down to the table and grabs Daniel. He pitches his body through the glass skylight where it plummets to the ground. The monster then grabs the injured Niemann just as a throng of villagers arrive at the castle. They recognize Frankenstein's Monster and know that he fears fire. Still carrying Niemann, the Monster flees from the castle into the woods. The villagers chase him into the bog and begin burning the surrounding marsh grass, driving the creature deeper into the swampy terrain. Niemann warns the Monster that they are heading into quicksand, but the Monster pays him no mind. Desperate to avoid the blazing ring of fire surrounding him, the monster walks deeper into the quicksand until both Niemann and he sink and die.

Notes & Trivia Edit

  • House of Frankenstein has been made available on VHS, DVD and was included on the Frankenstein Legacy DVD collection.
  • Original working title for this film was The Devil's Brood.
  • First appearance of all three major Universal Monsters together in one film, albeit they don't all share screen time. Dracula is "killed" before the Wolf Man is revived. Even though the monsters all seem to meet their end in this film, they all return for the 1945 sequel, House of Dracula.
  • First appearance of Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein Monster. Strange reprises the role in House of Dracula.
  • This is the first Frankenstein film to star Boris Karloff where he does not play the monster.
  • Gustav Niemann is the brother of Fritz, Henry Frankenstein's original assistant.
  • In 1997, a House of Frankenstein television movie was aired which, like the original, featured a "monster rally" consisting of the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula and the Wolf Man. The plot is radically different however and thus cannot be construed as a remake.
  • It is unknown whether Ilonka survives the Wolf Man's attack or not.
  • The reasons why Doctor Niemann wants to place the mind of the Frankenstein Monster inside Larry Talbot's body are never revealed.
  • Although this is a Frankenstein movie, the Frankenstein Monster is only conscious for the last three minutes of the film. This is also the only Frankenstein film that does not include a member of the Frankenstein family as part of its cast.
  • This is the first time that a silver bullet is used to "kill" a werewolf.

Continuity Inconsistencies Edit

There are several inconsistencies in terms of continuity between this film and the last. In Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Frankenstein Castle is located in Vasaria, not Frankenstein Village. Also the name of the village alternates it's spelling between the films. In Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, stenciled lettering on the side of a wooden crate identifies the town as Vasaria, whereas in House of Frankenstein, a road sign spells it Visaria. Also, Castle Frankenstein was completely destroyed at the end of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, but in House of Frankenstein, it still exists, albeit in ruins.

Another irregularity has to do with Larry Talbot himself. In the previous film, Larry sported a deep laceration across his left temple - a holdover from when his father, Sir John Talbot, bludgeoned him with a silver-tipped cane in The Wolf Man. When Talbot revives midway through this film however, the laceration is gone.

External Links Edit



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