Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year is Universal’s second Monster mash up, House of Dracula, and being one of the last movies to feature these iconic creatures also indicated that the times were changing and a new shift in horror was about to occur.
Treated as a direct sequel to House of Frankenstein, this feature would once again Count Dracula, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster, and a mad scientist together.
This time though, it is the Count (once again played by John Carradine) that seeks a cure for his vampirism. Although there are questions around the legitimacy of his intentions as he seems to still go about his day (or should I say night?) without a care. This in complete contrast to the doomed and tragic figure, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr reprising his role once more). Dracula approaches Dr. Edelmann (Onslow Stevens) to aid him in his quest for a cure, who believes he can do so using a mysterious plant that can reshape bone. It is Dr. Edelman’s belief that using a series of blood transfusions, he can assist Dracula.
It is at this point that Larry Talbot enters the scene, also hoping that the Doctor can help him. Dr. Edelmann however is too consumed with the Count and so Talbot gets himself incarcerated by the police for fear that he will turn into a wolf and kill again. Whilst imprisoned, Inspector Holtz (Lionel Atwill in one of his last film roles) and Dr. Edelmann witnesses the transformation, with the latter now convinced, and promises he will try to find a cure.
Larry Talbot continues to be one of the most fascinating characters in the Universal Monster franchise, with his inner conflict and turmoil, the characteristics that Chaney Jr played so well. Here Talbot is driven to suicide, throwing himself off the cliff into the waters below, only to survive the ordeal. Dr. Edelmann finds Talbot in the caves beneath the castle and in doing so stumbles across Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange) still clutching the skeletal remains of Dr. Neimann from the previous movie. Edelmann takes the monster back to his castle but swears not to revive him for fear that it will only cause ruin.
Through all these distractions, the Count has been using his charms on the Doctor’s assistant Milizia (Martha O’Driscoll) but is prevented by the good old cross. The Doctor’s other assistant, Nina, (Jane Adams) a hunchback, witnesses the Count’s attempts and notices the absence of his reflection. Time for another blood transfusion, only Dracula turns the tables, hypnotising Nina and Edelman and then reversing the transfusion, so that Edelmann is given the vampiric blood.
This action proves to be the Count’s downfall however as Edelmann exposes Dracula’s coffin to sunlight, killing him. This is just beyond the half an hour mark leaving the question again as to the true danger that Dracula exhibits when he doesn’t last the entire feature.
With the Wolf Man being treated and the Dracula out for the… count (ahem), this leaves a hole for a villain to fill. In steps a transformed Edelmann, struggling with the vampiric blood in his system that sends him crazy and a climax that brings about the rise of Frankenstein’s creature, a horde of angry villagers, and only a cured Talbot to bring down the house.
House of Dracula serves up a much neater storyline compared with its predecessor, House of Frankenstein, and the performances are strong. It still struggles to incorporate all the different aspects, but considering it’s short running time of just over the hour mark, there’s enough packed in to entertain, and ultimately became a commercial success as a result.
- Saul Muerte