Friday, May 10, 2013


Erle C. Kenton, 1945
Starring: Lon Chaney, Jr, John Carradine, Martha O’Driscoll, Lionel Atwill, Onslow Stevens

This weird, campy film should probably be retitled Monsterpalooza, as it’s chock full of classic Universal beasties. And then some. It is actually unrelated to Dracula or any of its sequels. House of Dracula is really part of Universal’s “Monster rally” films, which began with Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943), continued with House of Frankenstein (1944), and was concluded with House of Dracula. All these films include a mash up of Universal’s classic monsters facing off against one another, as well as handful of Universal’s popular horror themes like evil scientists and mad doctors. House of Dracula concerns the adventures of Dr. Edelman and his encounters with the supernatural.

Dracula (a sadly dull John Carradine) is incognito as the Baron Latos and knocks on Dr. Edelman’s door and begs for help. OK, he doesn’t really knock. At five in the morning he flies into the good doctor’s house as a bat, transforms and demands to be taken down the basement. The doctor doesn’t believe the supernatural elements of his story, but agrees to help him with his “curse.” While he is helping Dracula, Curse #2, in the Lon Chaney, Jr. sized form of Larry Talbot, also demands help for his furry problem. Dr. Edelman agrees to help him too, but is convinced, as he was with Dracula, that Talbot’s ailment has to do with psychiatry rather than the supernatural.

Eventually the doctor saves Talbot with a medicine made from spores that he has been cultivating to save his beautiful, but unfortunately hunchbacked assistant(?!?). Meanwhile, Dracula gets out of hand and tries to seduce and transform his other assistant, Miliza. Dr. Edelman destroys him... almost in time. Though Dracula doesn’t harm anyone, the blood transfusions the doctor has given Dracula have infected the doctor’s blood. But instead of turning into a vampire, Edelman randomly transforms into a cross between mad doctor and murderous ghoul.

Oh, did I mention that earlier in the film they found the undead corpse of Frankenstein’s monster? When the doctor makes his maniacal transformation, he manages to reignite the spark in the monster’s brain. Can Dr. Edelman survive his mad creation, murderous visions from a dead Dracula, his growing instincts to kill, good Samaritan Larry Talbot, and a rampaging mass of angry townspeople? I guess you’re just going to have to watch it to find out.

Unsurprisingly, this film has a connection with a lot of other Universal horror films from the period. Director Erle C. Kenton also helmed House of Frankenstein and The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) and horror classic Island of Lost Souls (1932). John Carradine appeared (although uncredited) in early Universal films like The Invisible Man (1933) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and in later movies such as Captive Wild Woman (1943), The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944), The Mummy’s Ghost (1944), and House of Frankenstein. Onslow Stevens is great as Dr. Edelman and also appeared in Secret of the Blue Room (1933), Paramount’s The Monster and the Girl (1941), and Them! (1954). 
Lionel Atwill basically reprises his role as the police inspector from Son of Frankenstein (1939) and he appeared in many other horror films from the ‘30s and ‘40s. Glenn Strange reprised his role as Frankenstein’s monster from House of Frankenstein. He would don the make up once more for Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), where he again acted alongside Lon Chaney, Jr. House of Dracula also contains clips of Frankenstein’s monster from Bride of Frankenstein and The Ghost of Frankenstein

If you want to watch it, you’re going to have to buy, borrow or steal Dracula: The Legacy Collection. It also contains Dracula, the Spanish-language Drácula, Dracula’s Daughter, and Son of Dracula. There are two discs, though one is annoyingly double-sided. There are a fair amount of special features, though they all only deal with the original Dracula. The inclusion of House of Dracula makes The Legacy Collection well worth purchasing, though it would be nice to see all three of the “Monster Rally” films in one collection. As of now, House of Dracula is only available in the Legacy Collection. Though it is an obscure entry in Universal’s horror canon, it is campy, bizarre, and entertaining enough to grab your attention for its short, 67 minute run time. Highly recommended.

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