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- House of Dracula review by NP
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Universal films’ second run of horror films (kick-started by 1939’s ‘Son of Frankenstein’ – itself commissioned due to the success of repeat showings of the original ‘Dracula’ and ‘Frankenstein’ films) fizzled out with this final serious monster-mash. It’s not difficult to see why. Whereas the early films were master-crafts of the macabre, with careful courting of actors and directors alike, the series had by this time become mere monster-rallies. Films for the kids to enjoy. Cosy. Familiar. Popcorn. Not that there is anything wrong with this approach, but once you’ve thrown three of the best known monsters together for no reason other than to bolster sales, artistically, there is nowhere left to go except a meeting with Abbott and Costello.
If anything, the story is perhaps a little tighter than the preceding team-up. John Carradine’s Dracula appears to be searching for a cure for his nocturnal habits, as does Lon Chaney Jr’s forlorn Larry Talbot. Whilst the Wolf Man is sincere, The Count seems to have ulterior motives, given away by secretly keeping his coffin in the cellar of Doctor Edleman, the man who he has come to for salvation.
This is really Edlemann’s story. He becomes a strange Mr Hyde character as a result of Dracula’s machinations, and Talbot struggles with his conscience after he sees Edleman up to no good – after all, here is the man who appears to have cured him.
It’s a good run-around but nothing more. It features Lionel Atwill in one of his last appearances (he died the following year) – in the scene when the police are searching the premises, you can hear Atwill hacking in the background. Also featured briefly is the wonderfully named Skelton Knaggs, a Universal regular, turning in a truly laughable performance.
And what of the third named monster, Frankenstein’s lumbering creation? Once more played by the impressive Glenn Strange, he is utterly wasted, lying comatose throughout, only coming to life at the end to wreck the laboratory and bring the film to a close. Strange’s brief screen-time is cut down further – the Monster’s finale is actually the climax to 1942’s ‘Ghost of Frankenstein’ replayed, featuring Lon Chaney Jr in the role. A slipshod ending to a classic range of terrors.