Tuesday, October 13, 2009

“I must apologize for the intrusion. But travel is very difficult for me, and I've come a long way.”

By now you should realize that it is impossible to escape the grasp of Dracula. Face the truth, the Count is here to stay. He’s foreclosed on a house on the coast and he’s invited his…friends over to party like its 1945. Can you survive 67 minutes in the House of Dracula?

In the…country I suppose of Visaria, a certain Dr. Edelman lives in a castle by the sea and has a reputation for treating strange medical cases. One night, Dracula approaches him seeking a cure for his vampiric condition, and the doctor, intrigued by the challenge, begins trying to come up with a cure. Meanwhile, another man comes to the doctor seeking help to cure his lycanthropy, who eventually accepts this challenge as well. Over the course of the movie, things get…weird.

Dr. Franz Edelman: Onslow Stevens plays the kindly doctor, a man of both science and faith. He lives in a castle, but he’s got a reputation as a good man with a staff of attractive women working for him. One of his major developments is growing a plant/fungus/whatever that releases spores that can soften bone enough that it can be shaped like putty. At first, he seems like a stock skeptic character, but he’s also pretty quick on the uptake to recognize a vampire and werewolf when he sees one jump out at him. He’s more or less the Hero, selflessly trying to help people, until Dracula messes with the blood transfusion thing they’ve got going on and the doc goes into a Jekyll & Hyde kind of thing.

Count Dracula/“Baron Latos”: John Carradine (father of David Carradine & siblings) plays the count as a thin, intense man haunted by his cravings. He’s also upgraded the costume to include a dapper top hat at most times. His Dracula isn’t a bad one, actually, though you never really buy the idea that he wants to get cured since he backslides faster than a directionally challenged junkie on a ski slope. Still, he’s got one really sinister scene where he’s trying to seduce one of Edelman’s aides as she plays the piano and he goes on about the darkness of the music she’s playing. Admittedly, it was also done in Dracula’s Daughter, but here its got that whole creepy sexual predator thing that Drac’s got going on.

Miliza Morrelle: Martha O’Driscoll is the Doctor’s blonde nurse/assistant, and someone who had met “Baron Latos” previously. She’s basically there to be the Count’s mark and a damsel in distress.

Nina: Jane Addams plays Dr. Edelman’s much more interesting nurse/assistant. She’s a hunchback, which I suppose makes her a Shegor (like an Igor but- well, you know). She’s also a charming, sweet, fairly attractive lass who’s also got a fair amount of initiative. She’s really sympathetic and a stark contrast to standard Igor type hunchbacks. Probably my pick for badass of the film for being an interesting variation on a theme.

Lawrence Talbot/The Wolf Man: Lon Chaney Jr. playing the horror character he’s most famous for, just not in the horror movie he’s most famous for. Talbot approaches the good doctor seeking a cure for his werewolf status since his life sucks. At first, the Doc’s not sure, but he sees the transformation right before his eyes, so he agrees to help. However, Talbot’s a bit…impatient about the situation and not sure if he’s got the time to wait for enough spores to be harvested for the surgery.

Frankenstein’s Monster: Glenn Strange plays ol’ bolt neck, but really, he’s barely in the movie and just seems to be in there…just to have the Frankenstein Monster in the movie for a big finish. I mean, they just find the monster’s body in the basement of the castle by chance and drag him upstairs and tease out his reanimation until the end of the movie where he brings the building down on top of himself.

Directed by Erle C. Kenton, the movie’s fairly well shot. Makeup effects, particularly on Dr. Edelman when he goes full crazy are great, as are the Wolfman and Frankenstein’s Monster costumes (for however briefly they’re seen). The movie also uses the animated trick for Dracula going from bat to human forms from Son of Dracula. I’m also pleased to note that rubber bat on a string technology has consistently moved forward in these movies.

Edward T. Lowe Jr., Dwight V. Babcock and George Bricker threw everything at the wall on this one. Dracula, Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, a hunchback (though not a villain) and a mad scientist (though only for the last half of the movie). Hell, there’s even a torch-bearing mob at the end of the movie. The mid-movie twist is an interesting one, since it basically eliminates Dracula, making you think the heroes have won, then the Doc starts freaking out and becomes the new villain.

The score by William Lava is quite fine and melodramatic for the action.

House of Dracula is a really weird movie. On the one hand, it’s a monster mash that just throws horror characters together, sometimes without rhyme or reason. On the other, the mid-movie twist is pretty fun and spirals the movie into a pretty dark ending with a burning building.

And again the trailer goes and spoils the end of the movie.

And for funsies, here's the piano scene that I mentioned above

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