The Monster Mash: House of Dracula

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“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.”

It’s no surprise that Universal followed its last two successful multi-monster movies with yet another. This time they dubbed the film House of Dracula (1945), which doesn’t really make sense as a title, but it at least improves in some of the areas where House of Frankenstein (1944) failed.

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John Carradine as Dracula in a promotional image.

Dracula (John Carradine) visits the castle of a Dr. Franz Edelmann (Onslow Stevens). The count, who has already moved his coffin to the castle’s basement, wants Edelmann, an unconventional but kind scientist, to discover a cure for his vampirism.

Well, in the film he says something about wanting to find peace, which made me think he just wanted to be killed. Maybe it’s just me, but I found it a confusing plot point. If the idea was that Dracula wanted a cure, that should’ve been clearer in the dialogue. As it is, I was left wondering why, if Dracula wanted to die so much, he didn’t stake himself or just not reenter his coffin when the sun came up.

Anyway, another patient is Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.), who is also seeking a fix for his never-ending lycanthropy. Unlike previous films, there is never a reason given for how Dracula or Larry are alive after the events of their last appearance did them in so thoroughly. It’s a bit lazy that the script writer couldn’t find some way to explain the pair’s survival, but then again, I’m probably worrying too much about continuity in a B-Movie.

While working on both cases, Edelmann and Larry stumble upon the remains of the Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange). Edelmann transports the Creature back up to his lab and begins the process of bringing the Monster back up to full speed.

But is bringing the Creature, who has caused little more than death and destruction to all who enter his life, really such a good idea? Does Dracula have ulterior motives? Will a cure for Larry be found before the next full moon forces him to claim more victims? Will Edelmann’s assistant Nina (Poni Adams) ever have her hunched-back fixed? Will little Timmy find his way out of the well? All answers will be revealed in House of Edelmann…I mean, House of Dracula.

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Larry, as the Wolf Man, may very well kill Edelmann before a cure can be found.

You may recall that one of my complaints concerning House of Frankenstein was the lack of Dracula. Well now he’s been given what appears to be his own film. Except that it’s not. He appears more in House of Dracula, but the film has little to do with him. He’s killed and turned into a skeleton again part way through the film, leaving us with no Dracula and a house that was never his to begin with.

What material Dracula does have to work with is okay but still pales in comparison to Dracula (1931). It’s a paint-by-numbers Dracula plot without many surprises.

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Dracula hypnotizing another of Edlemann’s assistants, Milizia (Martha O’Driscoll), not a terribly new or riveting concept by this point.

While all the monsters are better incorporated this time, I wish the scriptwriter had found a better way to get the count into the movie. He’s not the driving force I was expecting, but more a side-character when compared to our real lead, Dr. Edelmann.

 If this is any of the three monsters’ story, it’s Larry’s. Looking at it from that point of view, the movie’s not bad. Chaney doesn’t have as good of material to work with as The Wolf Man (1941) and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), but I found myself touched by Chaney’s always enduring pathos.

*SPOILERS* Unexpectedly for these films, Larry actually is given a happy ending: finally being cured. You can see the relief wash over him as he sees the full moon for the first time in years, his smile bathed in moonlight. After all the turmoil he’s been through in these films, it’s so satisfying to see Larry finally find the peace he so desperately wanted. *SPOILERS OVER*

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The Creature, sadly, spends almost the entire movie like this.

The subplots with the Creature and Nina are fine, but needed more time to develop. This is especially so of the Monster, who, like House of Frankenstein, doesn’t do anything until the literally the last couple minutes of the movie. His story, what little he has anyway, also felt too same-same. It’s a sign of a lack of new ideas and invention on the part of the writer. Still, the old story is infused with enough excitement that I never found myself bored by it.

That’s true of the whole film. House of Dracula is no masterpiece, but it’s an enjoyable enough creature feature that keeps you entertained and even throws a twist or two into the pot. It’s certainly more cohesive and satisfying than the first attempt at a monster ensemble.

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