Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 250: House of Dracula (1945) - Rank 3.5/5


Lycanthropy, vampirism, reanimated corpses, hunchbacked dames and insanity...all these things were what lured me into the science field as a youth. I suppose I was no different than the standard six year-old that aspires to be a cowboy or astronaut when he grows up. It's just that my doe-eyed dreams involved me becoming a mad scientist. Regrettably, there are no institutes of higher learning that offer degrees in delirium with minors in biology (unless you count the Word of Life Bible Institute's creationism program - Hey-oh!).

Here's a film that delivers a promise more golden and misleading than any of the other horror fodder I enjoyed as a youth. Dr. Edelmann is a scientist researching fungi in a Gothic castle with his saucy, hunchbacked nurse, when Dracula (David Carridine) arrives and reveals to the doctor that he's been slumbering in the castle's secret crypt. Dracula wants to be cured and Edelmann sets off to find one. Shortly thereafter, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) is captured by the police and turns into a werewolf in his jail cell. Edelmann asks if he can have him, much as a child would ask for a puppy in a store window, and the police agree. After the third night, while trying to cure Larry with the help of the villager hoard (headed by Skelton Knaggs), Edelmann discovers the Frankenstein monster in a series of cove caves, which just so happen to connect to his recently-discovered crypt. And then he goes insane.

The ludicrous nature of this all makes this film quite fun. Old Doc Edelmann has to be thinking "Holy shit! Pay dirt!" when he goes from the banal study of fungal spores to having a vampire, wolfman and a reanimated corpse all inside of his castle walls (which also have a crypt and catacombs) in less than 72 hours. Too bad he goes insane. Bound to happen, I suppose. I do have to mention that one of the best "Dracula moments" in any of the Universal installations takes place when Dracula approaches Edelmann's assistant (Martha O'Driscoll) as she plays the piano. He begins to stare at her ominously, and soon she finds herself playing a haunting piece of music unknown to her. Eerie, yet effective. I was actually surprised that I enjoyed this better than the prior installment, "Son of Dracula." My assessment is that "Son of Dracula's" greatest fault is that it took itself too seriously, a quality that "House of Dracula" thankfully never strives for.

Watch the Trailer

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