●   HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Universal, 1944. Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, John Carradine, J. Carrol Naish, Elena Verdugo, Glenn Strange, Anne Gwynne, Peter Coe, Lionel Atwill, George Zucco, Sig Ruman. Screenplay by Edward T. Lowe, from a story by Curt Siodmak. Director: Erle C. Kenton.

●   THE MUMMY’S CURSE. Universal, 1944. Lon Chaney, Peter Coe, Virginia Christine, Kay Harding, Dennis Moore, Martin Kosleck, Holmes Herbert. Director: Leslie Goodwins.

   House of Frankenstein [recently reviewed here by Walter Albert] and The Mummy’s Curse were originally released on a double bill back in 1944, so I recently watched them back-to-back to get the full event-effect the artists involved must have intended.


   House is generally dismissed as Utter Bosh, though lots of fun, with all the old monsters (mad scientist, hunchback, Dracula, Wolfman and Frankenstein’s monster) and all the old clichés, each trotted out to strut and fret its brief fifteen minutes or so on the screen and then make way for the next: there’s the naïve young couple, suspicious burgermeister, singing gypsies, lost love, obsession, frozen-in-ice and torch-wielding villagers, all played with commendable seriousness by Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, John Carradine, J. Carol Naish and Lionel Atwill, served up with surprising stylishness by director Earle C. Kenton.

   House of Frankenstein was followed the next year by (wait for it…) House of Dracula (Universal, 1945) the sad swan song of the Monster Movie hey-day, offering the Frankenstein monster, Dracula and the Wolfman, with a Mad Scientist and distaff hunchback tossed in for good measure.

   These movies are two of my guilty pleasures; I know in my head they’re ridiculous, but it thrills my heart to see all the old clichés — and I mean all of them — treated respectfully one last time.

   But there’s something else lurking about House of Frankenstein, something oddly evocative about all the rapid-fire drama played out on moonlit nights: When you’re young, an October night can be a lifetime. You can make a life-long friend, get your heart broken, find God, decide on a career, and get into serious trouble, all of it terribly dramatic, because you’re young.


   And in some delirious way, House of Frankenstein captures this adolescent self-importance and conveys it in suitably lurid tones to anyone who can still hear that faint, defiant cry of lost youth.

   As for Curse, well, the Mummy movies were the proletarian working dogs of the horror film, slogging their way through a pointless world, and Curse is no exception, despite a memorable few minutes when Princess Ananka resurrects herself from the earth.

   Aside from that, it’s slow, slow going, but I wonder how kids reacted to seeing Peter Coe, a hero in House of Frankenstein, here playing a satanic high priest. Coe was hyped by Universal as the new Charles Boyer, before they lost interest and shunted him into dreck like this, but I have to say he delivers lines like “May the curse of Amon-Ra be upon you,” with an admirably straight face.