Wednesday, September 16, 2015

House Of Dracula (1945)

House of Dracula
Director: Erle C Kenton
Starring: Lon Chaney Jr, Onslow Stevens, John Carradine, Marta O'Dricscoll, Lionel Atwill, Glenn Strange, Jane Adams
Rating: "Approved"

Now, Mr. Talbot... You broke your promise to me, didn't you? Told the police. I don't like people who break their promises, Mr. Talbot.

                      ~Dr. Edelman

After House of Frankenstein proved a big success and very popular with audiences, of course they'd move along with another.  The same dynamic was kept here; Frankenstein monster, Wolf Man, Dracula, Mad Scientist, Hunchback.  This time we'd call it Dracula's house and put together a story weaving them all together.  Much of this proves to be the same kind of stories these monster's constantly face leading to a finale that all to much resembles the previous film.  There are things this movie has that are intriguing, but also stuff that is far less impressive.  
One thing is very apparent in this movie; Universal definitely cut back on the budget for this movie and its pretty apparent in every frame.  The film takes place in one central location, which is inside the Dr. Edelman's home.  They don't really go outside much at all even.  And when they do spend time you can tell its in front of a rear projection backdrop.  Adding to the cheapness is the finale which is pretty much the end of Ghost of Frankenstein, copying and using pretty much all its footage from that finale, mixed in with a couple shots from Bride of Frankenstein.  Its a bit of a mess if you're familiar with the films, but I'm positive the folks back in 1945 probably didn't notice.  Its something you could get away with then, since people weren't watching them obsessively on home media or television yet.
Speaking of our man, the monster, he's once again just a tool to cause destruction in the finale of the film.  Glenn Strange reprises the role and seems to be inspired from the Lugosi rendition of the monster with his clogging and stiff arms.  Unlike the other monster's in the film, his continuity is intact as he's found where the quicksand in the last film drowned him, clinging to the skeletal remains of Dr. Niemann from the previous film.  The other two monsters, the Wolf Man and Dracula just show up in the film with no explanation as to how they're back after being defeated or killed in House of Frankenstein.  I'm fine with that though, but I'm sure some nit pickers demand some background in that area.
Our Mad Scientist in the film is an interesting cat.  He seems devious just looking at the fella.  He winds up getting Dracula's blood mixed in with his and turns very diabolical.  Its a good and interesting take on the stereotype we've had throughout these movies providing something more fresh.  Also with a very fresh take is his hunchback assistant.  Its not only played by a woman, but an attractive one at that, which seems like a pretty significant moment, especially for the time here.  She joins the ranks of The Bride and Dracula's Daughter as one of the few female Universal Classic Monsters.  
John Carradine returns in his final Universal Dracula performance.  He would take the role on years later in a couple other films.  Here, Dracula and the Wolf Man both want the same thing; to be cured.  However, Dracula is a bit more devious and winds up being up to no good.  He's more of an involved player with the rest this time though, which is welcome.  There's something cooky about Carradine in the top hat that I enjoy.  The Wolf Man is basically now our hero in this tale as he is actually cured this time around.  Lon Chaney also sports a mustache this time around.
House of Dracula is definitely an enjoyable film, but it does have problems and those problems are quite clear just from seeing it.  This film does bring some significant new elements to the Universal Monsters series, but in all reality is like the last film in being more of the same.  It is interesting though that the actors playing the monsters were actually all kept intact for two films in a row.  Feels like some sort of feat (No, i still think "mad scientist" and "hunchback" are a stretch in terms of big names).  This would also be the last Universal Monster movie for another 3 years.  The biggest gap since before Son of Frankenstein.

NEXT TIME:  The Monster is on first

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