Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

House of Dracula

House of Dracula - posterCinema Monolith: 6/10 I watched this movie on the late-night horror show Svengoolie!
IMDb: 5.8/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: **½ out of 4

Released on December 7, 1945
Not rated
67 minutes

Directed by Erle C. Kenton

Written by Edward T. Lowe

Cast: Lon Chaney Jr, John Carradine, Martha O’Driscoll, Lionel Atwill, Onslow Stevens, Jane Adams, Ludwig Stössel, Glenn Strange, Skelton Knaggs, Joseph E. Bernard, Fred Cordova, Casey Harrison

For those of you who were hoping to actually see Dracula’s house—his dining room, his bedroom, his garage, his belfry—I’m afraid I’ve got some disheartening news: this film goes nowhere near the living quarters of the fabled Count, unless you consider that coffin in the cellar a place of residence. Instead, we visit the castle home and workplace of one Dr. Franz Edlemann, a scientist who’s experimenting with plant spores, and who is called upon late one night by a dapper visitor who calls himself Baron Latos. The Baron, it seems, is needing the doctor’s expertise to cure his rampant case of…vampirism? Hmmm.

Yes, Latos is actually Count Dracula, hoping to bring an end to his vampiring ways, and coming to Edlemann as a patient, and not a fanged hell-spawn intent on draining his life’s blood. Edlemann agrees to help, and brings his two lovely female assistants into the picture; one of them, Miliza, draws the lustful eye of Dracula, who of course can’t keep his mitts—and fangs—off of her. Meanwhile, another visitor to the sanitarium asks for the doctor’s help with his bothersome lycanthropy, preferably before the next full moon, and soon the ‘monster rally’ comes full circle when Frankenstein’s monster is found in a cave beneath the castle, buried up to his neck in muck.

This was a decent and entertaining flick, as far as classic monster movies go, and ably directed by Erle C. Kenton: moody and atmospheric, with impressive Gothic sets and shadowy interiors, and lighting that reminded me at times of film noir cinematography. Of course, the main attraction was the creature-feature trifecta of vampire, wolf man, and man-made monster, brought together on-screen just as they were in 1944’s House of Frankenstein, and as they would again three years later in Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. It was fun seeing all these monsters gathered under one roof, and if this film had been made in the 1950s, I’d expect to see the Creature from the Black Lagoon wander into the proceedings at some point as well.

As for the actors, John Carradine was an interesting choice to play Dracula, making him more aristocratic and human than I would’ve expected, and it was nice to see Lon Chaney Jr back again for a fourth go-around as the Wolf Man, but what I thought was the coolest was having a hunchback included in the mix…a female hunchback I might add, who served as one of Edlemann’s assistants. A nice touch, adding a one-time RKO ‘monster’—albeit one you feel compassion for—to the ranks of Universal horror characters. But even with with all these unearthly terrors at my disposal, it was Onslow Stevens’ pragmatic Dr Edlemann I enjoyed the most, who assuredly (and fearlessly) brought science, medicine, and common sense into play to combat the power of legends and curses.

Though some might consider it slow-going, even at 67 minutes, and the ending comes quite suddenly and without much fanfare, I’d say House of Dracula is still worth a watch, especially if you’re a fan of classic Universal horror and the ambience of 1940s black-and-white horror cinema. This is not the best of its kind, nor is it the worst, but there are still many good reasons to have fun with what this film has to offer. If you’re ever stuck at home on a cold, rainy night, and in an old-time chiller kind of mood, and are looking for something to watch that’s simple and unpretentious, House of Dracula will fit the bill quite nicely.  (6/10)

House of Dracula

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10 comments on “House of Dracula

  1. grandrapidsgirl
    7/16/16

    Sounds like a good / classic time! And “lycanthropy”! Had to Google that one. Thanks for another glimpse into your collection Todd! 🙂

    • Todd B
      7/16/16

      If you watch enough werewolf movies, trust me, you’ll definitely become acquainted with the term ‘lycanthropy’! And thanks for checking out my review late on a Saturday night! Now go to bed!

  2. These films of the Universal cycle can really do no wrong in my eyes. I dearly love the monsters and the actors who essayed the roles on screen. Funny how you like Stevens and I kind of wish it had been a name actor in the role. My film buff arrogance shining thru I guess. I’d have preferred a Naish, Atwill or in a perfect world, Claude Rains who dabbled with the horror cycle.

    • Todd B
      7/17/16

      I’ve now got 19 of these Universal horror classics on my shelf, and I’m really enjoying the ones I’ve seen so far…cool little B-movies that offer a lot more than one might expect. And I really liked how Onslow Stevens played his part…he didn’t fear any of these visiting horror icons at all, and treated them as patients who needed his help. Although, I could also appreciate Claude Rains in that role…he would’ve done a great job with it, I think!

  3. Stu
    7/18/16

    Good read Todd! I like the idea of all these monsters together, even if the title and your review suggest that it’s still Dracula-centric. Whether I actually see this or not…hmmm…I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to find it.

    (A not-unrelated point…funnily enough I’m just about to settle down and watch a Lon Chaney film that…er…isn’t actually a Lon Chaney film, in the strictest sense. 1927’s London After Midnight…which has been lost for a long time, but some bright spark once reconstructed the film for TCM using production stills. Sounds interesting.)

    • Todd B
      7/18/16

      This was indeed quite Vampire-tronic, but I’d say it was somewhat Wolf-encumbered as well (at one point it was going to be titled Dracula vs the Wolf Man). Frankie was a late addition to the script, so perhaps that’s why you don’t see too much of him in the film, or read too much about him in my review. I’d let you borrow my disc, but I caught it on Svengoolie, so no such luck. But I’ll let you rent my 4-disc Close Encounters of the Third Kind set if you like.

      I’ve heard about London After Midnight…interesting that it’s a still-image movie. Were you going to watch it on TCM, or did you rent a disc, or is it playing at a theater?

      • Stu
        7/19/16

        We don’t get Svengoolie over here – in fact I’d never heard of it before. It’s a cable horror channel, I presume?

        I just watched the version of London After Midnight on YouTube. It was quite good fun actually, though it had the other (senior) Lon Chaney in it…my mistake!

      • Todd B
        7/19/16

        Svengoolie is the host of a horror show out of Chicago who shows cheesy B-level sci-fi and horror movies, and the occasional higher-class film, and does a lot of fun things in-between film segments. He actually does a good job, and he’s pretty funny…here’s a sample if you’re interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvQEXo9BVns.

        If I can find the time – and remember to – I’ll check out London After Midnight. I guess it would be a tough one to review…kinda like reviewing a slide show? And hey, look at you, taking over for a TIE-menaced Cary Grant in your avatar! I guess it’s time to change mine up, too.

      • Stu
        7/20/16

        Svengoolie looks like fun…we don’t have much along those lines on TV over here, which is a shame!

      • Todd B
        7/20/16

        I always look forward to Saturday nights…definitely an enjoyable two hours of TV!

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