House of Frankenstein Blu-ray Review

Animal House

The first act of House of Frankenstein deals exclusively with Dracula. John Carradine steps into the role, an exotic seducer who puts a woman under his spell. It’s a hint of the character’s sexuality and the aura around him. With tightened standards of the ‘40s, seeing a sliver of the erotic possibilities invigorates the vampire.

Then he’s gone. House of Frankenstein works as a one act show. The monster is found, kills, romances, and then dies. Uneventful and rote, which is how the rest of House of Frankenstein plays out too.

It’s arbitrary now – a scientist with a madness for extending life uncovers the bodies of Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man (dormant in a different town than at the end of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, but no matter), subjects them to experiments, villagers revolt. The anti-science subtext is still there, yet so scattered and done out of expectation as to lack any interesting draw. By the mid-’40s with World War II catching a nation in fear, Universal extended their monster series for the lure of escapism.

It’s a measure of marketing to stuff in a trio of monsters then never have them stare each other down

Taken at that value, nothing more than mildly scintillating, wartime entertainment, House of Frankenstein passes the time. Hardly energetic though, a romance will pepper a portion of the screen time. Lon Chaney Jr. as the tortured Wolf Man falls for a gypsy woman, Ilonka (Elena Verdugo) Although impossibly brief, a small exploration of love ensues; the one who can successfully end the curse is Ilonka, and only by peppering her new lover with silver bullets. That’s a winning situation, but upset by a romantic triangle involving a hunchback.

Romance is the fuel for the inevitable finale, setting off a swell of violence and finally, after 65-minutes of a 70-minute movie, bringing Frankenstein’s monster into the fold. New to the role, Glenn Strange stiffly moves around, with face contorted as if in the throes of a seizure; his performance is not worth the wait.

House of Frankenstein never exhibits creative energy. That’s the downfall. It’s a measure of marketing to stuff in a trio of monsters (five if, like the poster indicates, that includes the mad scientist and hunchback), then never have them stare each other down. What a disappointment, made worse by the tacky build-up and repetitious plotting. Frankenstein movies despise science, yet can’t quite find a formula to extend their own interest.

Video

Laboring under the weight of noticeable DNR, House of Frankenstein struggles to project a film-like aesthetic. This is an odd one though. A handful of scenes, such as when the caravan first arrives in the gypsy camp, look excellent. Natural grain sits over the image, and texture jumps out. In the proceeding shots, not so much.

A waxy quality erodes visible definition. Faces and hair clump up, voiding resolution. Fuzzy exteriors miss their potential. Other exteriors, including a rest stop where Talbot and Ilonka discuss their situations, look stellar.

On the plus side of a generally negative impression, at least the print exhibits no signs of damage. Debris, dirt, and scratches stay out of sight. Gray scale, where not impacted by the noise reduction, creates strong contrast. Black levels dig in and contrast plays well on the opposite end.

Audio

During an opening act chase scene, the score using powerful drums. They sound outstanding in this DTS-HD mix. Power and clarity both excel.

House of Frankenstein is mixed at low volume; it’s a track that needs bumped up a few notches compared to others in the Universal set. Once there, this mix offers performance equivalent to any of the others in this set. That’s a positive.

Extras

Only a trailer is offered as House of Frankenstein is stuffed on the same disc with two other sequels.

House of Frankenstein
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  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

More than routine, House of Frankenstein is a disconnected monster tale attempting to appease an audience looking for a war reprieve.

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