House of Frankenstein (1944); House of Dracula (1945)

Karloff finally returns to Universal! Alas that House of Frankenstein doesn’t give us much to celebrate. Having put two of their classic monsters in one film, the studio clearly felt adding a third was the way to go, so we get Dracula restored to life as well. This time Karloff is the mad scientist hellbent on revenge for being locked away for years, presiding over a film of two distinctly unequal halves. While I can accept (if not happily) that Frankenstein’s monster can be used  to exact said revenge, I find it too hard to swallow Dracula being used for the same purpose, so that automatically makes the film decidedly problematic on that level… the climactic horse & cart chase is actually a decent bit of action, but it comes a third of the way into the film and we still have to suffer the rest. Plus, by trying to accommodate three monsters, the revenge plot and the doomed romance between the hunchback assistant and the gypsy girl who falls in love with Larry Talbot into just 70-odd minutes, there’s no time or opportunity to properly develop any characters or anything like that; and the monster has even less to do than he did in the last film, which is saying something…

House of Dracula does much the same thing (three monsters, mad albeit more well-meaning doctor with similar beard, hunchback assistant) but isn’t as bad, though I remain unsold on John Carradine as Dracula, who presents himself with a similar sort of weltschmerz to Larry Talbot, seeking a cure for his “condition”. At least the connecting story with Dr Edelmann is a bit more interesting than the revenge plot of the previous film, the whole thing doesn’t seem quite so cluttered, and it’s nice to see Chaney get a happy ending at last. Still, once again poor Glenn Strange need hardly have bothered getting out of bed to play the monster, especially when the fiery climax which finally takes him out is actually stock footage from Ghost in which Chaney played the monster…

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