6WH: Week 5.5 – Lesser Frankenstein

Of all the Universal Monsters, Frankenstein’s creature is my favorite. This is due chiefly to the first two movies in the series, Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein (Both of which were covered in the Six Weeks of Halloween marathon a few years back). Alas, while I’ve seen many of the Universal Monster movies, I haven’t seen a ton of the sequels. They don’t all have the greatest reputation, but it still seems worth checking out. Turner Classic Movies went on a Frankenstein kick a couple weeks back and thus I took the opportunity to catch up.

  • Frankenstein’s Fiance (Robot Chicken)
  • Frankenhooker (trailer)
  • Young Frankenstein (trailer)
  • The Ghost of Frankenstein – Ygor survives the previous installment and seems committed to finding Frankenstein’s monster and reviving him. Town villagers believe they’re still cursed by Frankenstein’s unnatural experiments, so they round up their pitchforks, light some torches, and organize a good old-fashioned mob to go up and destroy Castle Frankenstein. As per usual, this is the action that actually frees the monster from the foundations of the building. Ygor quickly discovers him and ushers him away to meet with another Frankenstein scientist, who has the idea to replace the monster’s former criminal brain with a normal one. It all works out and everyone lives happily ever after. Or, uh, not at all. This is a mildly successful entry in the series, but ultimately nothing special. Great atmosphere, good performances from Bela Legosi (returning as Ygor) and though they couldn’t get Boris Karloff for the monster, they did get Lon Chaney Jr, who does an admirable job. Some nice moments here, but it never really coalesced for me. **
  • Futurama: The Honking (episode)
  • An American Werewolf in London (trailer)
  • Silver Bullet (Robot Chicken)
  • Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man – This film opens with two graverobbers breaking into Larry Talbot’s crypt and inadvertently reviving the Wolf Man from his tomb. Thus freed to live his cursed life again, Talbot seeks out the notebooks of Dr. Frankenstein so that he can find a scientific way to kill himself and end the curse. Along the way, he stumbles upon Frankenstein’s monster and enlists the help of a scientist to kill both monsters once and for all. The promise of seeing the monster at full strength proves too tempting for the scientist though, so he simply revives the monster. Local townspeople assemble their mob again, and save the day.

    The Wolfman and Frankenstein

    So this is the first actual Universal Monster crossover movie, even if most of the time is spent on the Wolfman’s troubles and Frankenstein’s monster doesn’t really do much until the end. Still, we do get to see some hot Frankenstein on Wolfman action towards the end, which delivers on the promise of the title, I guess. It’s not a spectacular movie, but the Wolfman’s plight is genuinely involving and we’re treated the the usual great atmosphere that all these films engender. Since Lon Chaney is busy reprising his role of the Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster is switched again, this time to Bela Legosi, who does a pretty good job. At this point, though, the continuity of the Universal monsters series seems to be breaking down a bit. But who cares, Frankenstein’s monster fights the Wolfman, what else do you want? Again, mildly successful, but nothing particularly special. **

  • Vampire 8:00-9:00 PM (Robot Chicken)
  • The Monster Squad (trailer)
  • Is that a whip? (Robot Chicken)
  • House of Frankenstein – Ah, now here is a real monster mash movie, though again, the various monster storylines barely overlap. Mad scientist Dr. Gustav Niemann (played by Boris Karloff, who is returning to the series, but not as the monster) escapes from prison along with his hunchbacked assistant Daniel. Niemann seeks to, yes, discover the old notebooks of Dr. Frankenstein so the he can learn the secrets of life and death. Daniel assists because he wants Niemann to replace his hunchbacked body with a handsome, strong body. Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein all show up in this movie, but each basically gets their own separate segment, glued together by mad scientist Niemann. It doesn’t make a ton of sense and the continuity of the three series is way out of whack, but it nevertheless remains a lot of fun, and despite the lack of interaction between the fiends, I think this might be the best of the three sequels I watched this week. Dracula (played by John Carradine, who many argue rivals Bela Legosi’s original Dracula, and is indeed quite effective) gets the most screen time, but is basically finished off about a third into the movie.

    The Wolfman sez hi

    Lon Chaney’s Talbot gets a lot of screentime and has some good interactions with Niemann and Daniel (and the gypsy girl that travels along with them), but doesn’t get to do much as the Wolfman. Frankenstein’s monster sadly spends most of the movie strapped to a slab, but has a nice triumphant return at the end. Again, none of this is particularly well justified, but it’s a lot of fun, and using Niemann as the linking device essentially makes this a sorta road trip through Universal Monsterland, which is neat. While not really the equal of the original movies in any of the three series this continues, I managed to have fun with this. **1/2

I think I must’ve calculated the six weeks incorrectly, as it looks like we’re in for more like 7 weeks. Oh well! Stay tuned for Blumhouse movies this weekend…

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