Thursday, October 31, 2013


Dr. Neimann is a mad scientist who is imprisoned for tampering in God's domain by continuing the work of master tamperer Dr. Frankenstein. During a storm, his prison cell collapses and Neimann and his hunchbacked assistant Daniel escape. They run into Lampini's traveling Chamber of Horrors carnival which advertises the actual skeleton of Count Dracula, stake still stuck in the bones of his chest. After they help Lampini get a wagon out the mud, he takes them in, and in return they kill him; Neimann then poses as Lampini and sets out to get his revenge against those who put him in prison. He pulls the stake out of the skeleton and Dracula is revived—for a while, at least. Dracula agrees to help Neimann get his revenge against the local Burgomaster, but when Dracula goes after the Burgomaster's daughter-in-law, he winds up exposed to sunlight and is re-skeletonized. Soon, Neimann arrives at Frankenstein's old stomping grounds and finds both the Frankenstein monster and the Wolf Man encased in ice. He revives them and hatches a plan to put switch brains and bodies, but soon enough jealous Daniel, who Niemann had promised to help but is now ignoring, throws a wrench into the plans, as do the villagers who are spooked when they see a light over at the Frankenstein place.

This is almost the granddaddy of what the 60s monster movie magazines called “Monster Rally” flicks. Technically, it came after FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, but it's the first film to have three headlining monsters. It's certainly fast-paced and atmospheric, but there is almost too much plot crammed into its short running time of about 70 minutes; of course, if this was made now, it would have the opposite problem—there would be 70 minutes of plot stretched out to 3 hours of mind-numbing action/tedium. It's also unfortunate that the film basically is in two parts; when Dracula is vanquished, it starts over, so the three monsters don't get to share any screen time. The acting leaves a little to be desired. Boris Karloff switches places here—he's the mad doctor instead of the monster (who is played unmemorably by B-western star Glenn Strange)—and he's good, but John Carradine is a rather stodgy Dracula and Lon Chaney Jr. is wooden as Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man. The always welcome George Zucco, despite co-star billing, only has a few minutes of screen time as the carnival owner. Support from Anne Gwynne (Dracula's prey in the first half) and Elena Verdugo (who improbably falls for Chaney in the second half) is mild. The best performance comes from J. Carroll Naish as the hunchback Daniel, lovesick for Verdugo, who sets the climax in motion when he rebels after Karloff breaks his promise to him to put his brain in Talbot's body. Like all the Universal horror films of the classic era, it has its moments. Some of the cast returns for the sequel, HOUSE OF DRACULA, but it's ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN that, despite being a comedy, is probably the best of the "monster mash" movies. [DVD]

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