Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolf Man, and Dracula shared three 1940s Universal films together: House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, all of which expectedly followed the success of an earlier fight, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. A certain alter ego of Larry Talbot was unfairly deprived of his own House for decades, until bittersweet redemption came in the form of Eben McGarr’s unofficial sequel, House of the Wolf Man. It has a score of 5.4/10 on IMDb, and an average user rating of 2.7/5 on Rotten Tomatoes, making this another horror sequel commonly considered inferior.
Dr. Bela Reinhardt, played by Lon Chaney, Jr.’s grandson, Ron, invites five people to stay the stormy night in his castle. The guests are told that the next day, one will inherit the residence. Barlow, the doctor’s silent, Tor Johnson-type servant, tends to the visitors and may also be keeping an eye on them. During their stay, the group becomes suspicious and soon learns the true identity of Dr. Reinhardt, how they are all related, and face the monsters who reside in the shadowy dwelling.
As a Universal fan, I liked watching this and appreciate the producers’ sincere efforts and respect for the classic precursors. However, even recognizing the restrictions the limited budget had on the film’s completion, I am disappointed in the final presentation. The screenplay could have received a rewrite to compose stronger dialog and a quicker pace. Anticipation of the monsters’ clashes lasted too long in some of the original films, with the payoffs brief and underwhelming. This tradition was followed in House of the Wolf Man, but it need not have been. Frankenstein’s Monster and The Wolf Man appear in the last 10 minutes and battle each other, using well performed stunt work. Dracula is welcomed into the house with his brides, but has no role in the fight. The movie quickly proceeds to end, with no satisfying conclusion. A lengthier struggle with the monsters throughout the story would have been more exciting and an opportunity to make amends for the lack of action in the prior flicks.
The script deficiencies were also unhelped by some of the actors who appeared fresh to the profession, and performed unnaturally and possibly without sufficient preparation. Jeremie Loncka’s nerdy, comic relief Conrad, Dustin Fitzsimon’s Reed, and Sara Raferty’s Mary are also not character types that one would have expected to see in the old films. Ron Chaney’s given presence is heavily undermined by his acting inexperience and monotonous, unusual delivery. More tolerable is Cheryl Rodes’ sexy Elmira, one of the stronger personalities of the cast. Jim Thalman’s big game hunter, Archibald, is a colorful character, and one of the best acted of the non-monsters.
Eben McGarr and his film crew were successful in lighting, cinematography, and set construction. These skills strengthened the appearances of the monsters and provided Chaney with his best scene using his expression invoking a striking resemblance to Lon Chaney, Jr. The late Michael R. Thomas’ tribute to Lugosi’s, rather than John Carradine’s, Dracula was a treat to view, especially when he recreated an iconic scene from Dracula. Saba Moor-Doucette’s witch, Vadoma, and her depressing reveals to Elmira, gave what I think is the best monster performance accented by excellent makeup effects. John McGarr’s Barlow is imposing, and I like how he stood watch at the end of the guests’ hallway, ever so quietly in the shadows. Craig Dabb’s Frankenstein’s Monster is physically powerful and retro, and Billy Bussey’s The Wolf Man has the right level of fur and fury.
I would support McGarr if he were to film another homage, learning from the strengths and failures of House of the Wolf Man. May I suggest House of the Mummy or House of the Creature?