House of Dracula (1945)

Universal fires up its most popular monsters once more in this, the last of the “serious” horror movies featuring the Frankenstein Monster, the Wolf Man, and Dracula. The results are about what you would expect: serviceable monster hijinks that don’t make any sense, but isn’t terribly difficult to sit through.

In this episode, there isn’t really any thing that the viewer would call “inspired” and you can’t help but cringe at the way characters appear and disappear with little regard for good pacing. Once again Dracula is dispatched way before the movie ends in fairly bland fashion. The Wolf Man totally disappears from the action for the middle part of the movie and the Frankenstein Monster is animated for all of about three minutes in the closing part of the film.

Dracula (John Carradine) shows up at this doctor’s office/castle and tells him that he needs his help. At first he pretends to be someone other than Dracula and actually uses that silly Baron Latos name he came up with in the previous year’s House Of Frankenstein. I was impressed that they could keep that bit of continuity, yet completely fail to explain how Dracula was revived, how the Monster and the Wolf Man survived and how they all managed to turn up at the same doctor’s office together. (How’d you like to be in that waiting room?)

Being the man of science that he is, Dr. Edelman is skeptical of Latos’s claims that he’s a vampire, at least until Latos takes him down into the basement and shows him the Dracula brand coffin he somehow snuck into the house. Suddenly, Edelman is a believer and gets to work on culturing some molds in an effort to fix Dracula’s blood. It involves introducing a parasite into the blood to fight off some other parasites and some other cutting edge stuff that made you wonder if Dracula’s Blue Cross would cover it.

Another prospective patient, a very cranky Larry Talbot, appears. Lon Chaney, Jr. has once again slicked his hair back and screwed up his face in that expression of pathetic whining that we’ve grown to love over the course of the previous films the Wolf Man appeared in. Larry is demanding to see the doctor, but the doctor can’t see Larry right away. Larry gets huffy and runs out. With no help from the doctor forthcoming, he turns himself into the authorities so that he can be locked up before the full moon.

Dr. Edelman goes to the jail to check Larry out at the request of the police and even though he has just run smack dab into Dracula in his basement, he refuses to believe that Larry Talbot is a werewolf. Even when the moon is full, and Larry changes before his eyes, he still tries to diagnose it as a hyperactive gland or something more akin to gout than to being a straight up legendary monster!

Following an unsatisfactory meeting with Edelman, Larry escapes and jumps off a cliff into the ocean! Edelman rescues him in a cave and also finds the Frankenstein Monster. As soon as the Monster is lugged back to the secret lab, Edelman immediately sets out revive the dang thing. His sweet-tempered hunchback nurse convinces him not to do it though and we are struck with the realization that hunchback nurses are meddling fools!

Recognizing that since the mad doctor is such a wuss and that he’ll have to turn things up a notch, Dracula pulls the old switcheroo on Edelman, dumping all his yucky blood into Edelman when Edelman was supposed to giving his goody two-shoes blood to the vampire count!

This probably could be considered a bit a backfire since as soon as Dracula hits the stanky pillow in his coffin, Edelman hauls the coffin into the sun, cracks it open, and Dracula melts away, stunned that he has fouled out before the end of the game for the second straight movie! Drac’s blood though starts giving Edelman the business and it isn’t long before the doctor turns ashen and has an annoying lack of reflection in mirrors.

The blood also causes him to have hallucinations about the Monster and other things, which allows the filmmakers to fill out the 67 minute running time with some footage from Bride of Frankenstein. I can’t really blame them. With six other movies behind them, they’ve already committed something like 457 minutes (over 7 and a half hours!) of Frankenstein mayhem to celluloid and it’s understandable if they thought that maybe everything interesting and/or important had already been filmed.

Edelman decides he really owes it to the Monster to revive him once more so that he can stumble around and allow the audience to shake its collective head at how much this character has crapped out in the last 10 or so years. It’s up to Larry Talbot to play the part of the angry mob and dispatch both the Monster (through the use of the fiery ending scene from The Ghost of Frankenstein) and Edelman.

Nostalgia-wise, it’s nice to see everyone one last time and you finally get a little closure with Larry Talbot being cured of his lycanthropy. Carradine again is a standout and you’re sorry to see his storyline abruptly cut off. I guess they never did figure out how to work all the monsters into the same story at the same time. The fact that the Monster gets almost no screen time, and the Wolf Man makes two very brief appearances attests to the fact that the whole team-up concept looks good on a movie poster, but is impossible to carry off in a satisfying way.

Both House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein focused on the mad scientist in each film and used the monsters as simply set decoration. That’s okay, but all the action with the monsters seems terribly forced, from their unexplained resurrections in each movie, to miraculously being all drawn to the same place, and then basically playing out the same story (experiments to cure the Wolf Man, scientists who go nuts and revive the Monster). Worth watching for Carradine and to say that you saw Lon Chaney with a mustache and cured of his hairy back.

© 2015 MonsterHunter

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