Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on December 7, 1945
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)