House of Dracula (1945) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

House of Dracula (1945) Review

Horrorific content by TE Simmons on June 12th, 2021 | Movie Review | Vampire, Classic Horror

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It’s about Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Wolf Man all converging on the house of – wait for it – Doctor Franz Edelmann?!

House of Dracula was directed by Erle C. Kenton (who also directed The Ghost of Frankenstein). It stars John Carradine (here, as Count Dracula, but elsewhere, such as in Frankenstein Island, as Victor Frankenstein), Glenn Strange (who also played the creature in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein), and Lon Chaney Jr. (here, in one of his many appearances as Lawrence Talbot and who also starred in Spider Baby) alongside Onslow Stevens as Dr. Edelmann, Martha O’Driscoll as his first lab assistant, Jane Adams as his second lab assistant (billed as “the Hunchback”), and Lionel Atwill (Doctor X) as Police Inspector Holtz.

Can the screenplay writer craft a plot in which three Universal monster-creatures coincidentally converge without creating a comedy?

House Of Dracula Review

The hat trick of this follow-up to House of Frankenstein how to integrate Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Wolf Man without losing all sense of plausibility. So, here we go:

Count Dracula (if you can trust what he says) has visited Dr. Edelmann’s house because the Count has heard that the doctor might be able to cure him of vampirism. With that kind of reputation preceding the doctor, no one is surprised when Lawrence Talbot appears about the same time saying that he’d like to be cured of lycanthropy. But how does Frankenstein’s monster manage to fit in?

A lazier writer would describe three long, powerful knocks at Dr. Edelmann’s door. “I wonder who that could be?” the doctor wonders aloud. He opens the door and there on the porch is Frankenstein’s monster who explains, haltingly, “Me want cure, too.” And we’d be off to the races.

But that would be beneath the standards of a writer like Edward T. Lowe Jr. So, instead, the distraught Lawrence Talbot dashes out of Dr. Edelmann’s home and throws himself from the cliffs into the sea. He survives the fall and the doctor pursues him into a cave. What do the two men find there? Frankenstein’s monster, unmoving, in a pile of wet sand. A little exposition from Dr. Edelmann is necessary: “As the story goes, the villagers drove him into a swamp, and he went down in the quicksand. After all these years, the mud has brought him here.” What are the odds?

Dr. Edelmann still has some time to fill in between curing Count Dracula, Lawrence Talbot, and the Hunchback, so he proceeds to rinse off the creature, rewire his lab, and revitalize him. The animated creature doesn’t get much screen time; nor does Lawrence Talbot in furry form. Rumor has it that the disruptions of World War II made it too difficult to import sufficient quantities of yak hair for his werewolf make-up. Indeed, his facial hair looks a tad whispy. War touches all.

House of Dracula adopts a very scientific approach to monsters. Dracula is infected with blood parasites. The Hunchback’s bones are too soft. Lawrence Talbot’s skull exerts too much pressure. Even the ensuing madness of the mad scientist has a medical etiology.

But there is a scene in which Dracula encounters one of Dr. Edelmann’s lab assistants as she is playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on the piano. As the vampire brings her into his orbit, the music becomes postmodern and dissonant. Still recognizable as Moonlight Sonata – but disconnected; warped. With one exception, no scene has ever better captured what it sounds like to fall under the spell of an evil one. And that one exception is Dracula’s Daughter from which the scene was stolen. 

Worth Watching?

Yes. Worth watching and worth a medium-sized bag of popcorn to go along with it, too.

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