History Of Universal's Frankenstein Part Three
We return once more with part three of The History of Universal's Frankenstein!
If you missed out on the previous installments of this series check them out:
This last segment will feature the last three official appearances of Universal's Frankenstein including House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein.
House of Frankenstein
1944’s House of Frankenstein pulls out all the stops. The poster for the film reads “Frankenstein’s Monster! Wolf Man! Dracula! Hunchback! Mad Doctor!” Karloff returns to the Universal series, not in the role of the creature but as the mad Dr. Gustav Niemann. Lon Chaney Jr. returns as the Wolf Man and John Carradine plays Dracula expertly.
Dr. Niemann escapes from prison with the help of the hunchback Daniel, for whom he promises to construct a new, healthy body. The duo steals the wagon of showman, whose exhibit includes the bones of Count Dracula.
Niemann revives Dracula in an attempt to exact revenge on Burgermeister Hussman, the man responsible for his imprisonment. After his revenge is achieved Niemann destroys Dracula’s coffin causing the vampire’s death.
Next stop on the pair’s tour is Castle Frankenstein, which houses the remains of the monster, and the Wolf Man. Once again Niemann revives the monsters seeking revenge, this time on two former assistants who betrayed him. With all the monsters now free the remainder of the film deals with a love triangle between Daniel, the hunchback, Talbot, and a beautiful gypsy IIonka. This leads to a confrontation that leaves nearly everyone dead and the monster and Niemann drowning in quicksand.
Once again pure pulp, House of Frankenstein is a mash-up of every universal monster, a mad scientist and a love story. The attraction is not a quality film but an insane spectacle. This approach is evident in various stock footage repetitions and shots of the monster from previous films. For those enlightened, the film is gem but those less kind might be left scratching their heads.
House of Frankenstein Trailer
House of Dracula
The monster’s role in 1945’s House of Dracula is so small and inconsequential that it is barely worth mentioning. He appears as a throw away attraction at the end of the film to fill out the third act.
House of Dracula concerns both Dracula and the Wolf Man seeking cures for their respective illnesses. Dracula approaches Dr. Edelmann, a generic doctor character. Edelmann is infected with vampire blood during a transfusion with Dracula and begins to transform into a monster himself. Dracula is cured but Edelmann is now cursed. The Wolf Man is similarly cured of his illness and in the process the monster, once again somehow frozen, is revived. The castle burns down and the monster dies another death.
It is a shame the monster did not play a larger role in House of Dracula but it also makes sense. The monster could be cut from the film all together. Carradine’s Dracula is the star of this show. The monster was now limping into a cycle of showing up frozen and ending up in a burning castle. He would find his way into one final appearance, this time embracing the ridiculousness he had come to encompass.
House of Dracula Trailer
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Although the title only names Frankenstein, the creature has plenty of company in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Bela Lugosi makes his final appearance as Count Dracula and also featured are the Wolf Man and a cameo by the Invisible Man. It doesn’t fit into continuity with the other Universal horror films and it is not supposed to. It’s fun and the last great film featuring Universal’s “big three,” consisting of the creature, the Wolf Man and Dracula.
Abbott and Costello play baggage clerks tasked with a ship to the “McDougal House of Horrors.” Lawrence Talbot attempts to phone them concerning the dangerous nature of the shipment but becomes the Wolf Man during the call. Abbott and Costello eventually end up delivering the bodies of Dracula and the monster to the house of horrors. The lights go out and they are forced to work by candlelight.
Soon Dracula is revived and he revives the monster. Dracula plots to have the monster’s brain with one that he can easily control, Costello’s. The monster’s escape to an island with scientist Dr. Sandra Mornay, who has studied Dr. Frankenstein’s notes and assist Dracula in his plot.
Abbott and Costello eventually meet the Wolf Man who asks for their help in destroying the monster and Dracula once and for all. This leads to everyone at Castle Dracula where the final battle takes place. Once again the monster dies in a fire.
Glenn Strange returns from House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula and is a fitting monster outside of the bounds of those films. Strange’s star shines brightest in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.
Of course Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is played for laughs but the story is elaborate and a fitting swan song of Universal’s biggest stars. Without the constraints of continuity the film was free to use the monsters in any way they liked but still managed to do the original spirit of the characters justice.
Abott and Costello meet Frankenstein
Universal already remade The Wolf Man in 2010 but had very limited success, even with the acting talent of Benicio del Toro and the direction of Joe Johnson. There have been a slew of Frankenstein adaptations in the works; from Guillermo del Toro to Sam Raimi, many directors have been connected to new Frankenstein films. Universal has had one major project in development, a remake of Bride of Frankenstein.
Neil Burger, director of recent summer hit Limitless (2011) and The Illusionist (2006) has confirmed that he and his writing partner Dick Wittenborn penned a script for the remake, which Universal is considering. Whether or not the remake will actually be produced is unknown.
Farewell Monster Lovers
No matter what happens, fans will still have the eight amazing films that Universal’s most recognizable monster appeared in. All of the films are worth viewing time and time again. They are the movies you take comfort in, the movies you watch when you’re down, the movies you watch when you’re sick.
I’ll leave with the words of Mary Shelley from Bride of Frankenstein. “It’s a perfect night for mystery and horror. The air itself is filled with monsters.”
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