If the horror boom hadn’t burst in 1945 – after Universal had made Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula – I suppose this title would have been used in 1946, though something about it doesn’t quite fit … surely, the Wolf Man is an outcast who wanders from place to place, and therefore unlikely to be a householder, even if The Wolf Man is set around Talbot Castle in Wales. In the event, Universal shifted gears and made Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein instead. Sixty or so years on, writer-director Eben McGarr decided to extend the series, with the high concept of casting Lon Chaney Jr’s grandson Ron Chaney as a (not the) Wolf Man, who turns out to be the son of Peter von Frankenstein (the moppet from Son of Frankenstein) and the hitherto-unmentioned sister of Bela the werewolf from The Wolf Man and is going by the name of Dr Bela Reinhardt. Shot in black and white, it’s somewhere between the pastiche of Tales of Dracula and the spoof of Dark and Stormy Night – and, in a way that’s sort of typical of the old Universal, it’s a bit of a cheat as a monster rally.
Five folks – preppy twins Reed (Dustin Fitzsimons) and Mary (Sara Raftery), bespectacled scholar Conrad (Jeremie Loncka, doing Adam Tsekhman’s act avant la lettre), vampy Elmira (Cheryl Rhodes, sporting serious foundation garments) and alpha dog big game hunter Whitlock (Jim Thalman), along with three African porters who don’t count in the final score – arrive at the isolated castle (nice miniature) of Dr Reinhart, in an Old Dark House rainstorm, complete with a few visual lifts from the James Whale film and Barlow the butler (John McGarr), a fusion of Karloff’s scarred Morgan and Tor Johnson’s Lobo. Reinhart has summoned them all with the promise of deciding which of them inherits and ominous stuff about eliminating the losing contestants … which segues into repetitive talk about portraits with eyeholes cut out, mysterious paternities (they’re all – in quite a nasty touch – children of women who were raped and mangled by the werewolf), and who fancies who before they all turn out to be siblings. This takes forever to get sorted out, and it’s all played at a measured, ominous, over-insistent pace that’s very unlike the rapid, clipped, get-on-with-it haste of 1940s monster movies.
Chaney is especially one-note as the sinister, mocking Reinhardt-Frankenstein-Wolf Man – and you wonder why they didn’t have this fusion of the two monster strains bitten by Dracula to become a vampire on top of it. Instead, the busy finale has Reinhardt transform as the full moon rises – a nice touch is his drumming fingers on the tabletop becoming scratchy claws – and go after his heirs (Billy Bussey takes over as the Wolf Man). Now it turns out that the house also contains the Frankenstein Monster (Craig Dobbs), who looks like a cross between the character’s equivalents in Son of Frankenstein and Evil of Frankenstein – and Dracula (Michael R. Thomas), who dresses like Bela Lugosi but looks more Grandpa Munster. The werewolf and the monster re-enact the finish of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man with tolerable enthusiasm, and Dracula unleashes vampire brides – horror harridans who look like something out of a Mexican movie – on the few survivors among the rapidly-killed-off heirs (I think one of them makes it through for a sequel, but it’s all a bit too hurried to tell). Then, it just kind of stops – with a snatch of the song from Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.
A lot of care has gone into some aspects – the make-ups for the monsters are excellent, the music score is fine, and the cinematography is nice – but the script and performances range from iffy to no-good. It might make an interesting double bill with the similarly-toned (and scaled) Hammer pastiche House of the Gorgon. Or maybe you’d rather fire up the BluRay and watch the original films for the umpteenth time.