House of Dracula (1945)

A sequel to House of Frankenstein, this would be the seventh film to feature Frankenstein’s Monster (Glenn Strange*) and the fourth for both Count Dracula (John Carradine) and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.). Although it was a success, it would be the last of the serious Universal Monster films, with the comedic Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein coming out in 1948.

Director Erle C. Kenton made 131 movies between 1916 and 1957, including several horror movies for Universal like The Cat Creeps and The Ghost of Frankenstein. He started as an actor with Mack Sennett’s Keystone Kops and finished his career on TV, directing shows like The Texan and Telephone Time.

Baron Latos — come on, everyone knows that you’re Dracula — ha come to Visaria to discover a cure for vampirism from Dr. Franz Edelmann (Onslow Stevens, Them!) and his assistants Milizia (Martha O’Driscoll, Ghost Catchers) and Nina (Jane Adams, who was given her first name by American servicemen and played Vicki Vale in the second Batman and Robin movie serial). Of note is that Nina is a hunchback, which is certainly a gender switch way ahead of its time.

Edelmann has been working on the clavaria formosa plant, which has the ability to reshape bone. How this is possible is the kind of horror movie science that requires you to just accept it and move on.

Soon, Larry Talbot also shows up and he wants the cure for his lycanthropy. What, did Edelmann put out an ad in a trade magazine for monsters? They don’t believe him, so he begs Inspector Holtz (Lionel Atwill, who memorable was quoted in Hollywood Babylon as saying, “All women love the men they fear. All women kiss the hand that rules them… I do not treat women in such soft fashion. Women are cat creatures. Their preference is for a soft fireside cushion, for delicate bowls of cream, for perfumed leisure and for a master – which is where and how they belong.”) to lock him up. He transforms and then the doctor theorizes that pressure on the brain is why he turns furry, not the moon. He responds by flinging himself into the ocean, where he survives and washes up inside the castle, where an unresponsive Frankenstein’s Monster still holds the skeleton of Dr. Niemann from House of Frankenstein.

If you’re thinking — I bet Dracula tries to sleep with that comely blonde assistant, because after all Martha O’Driscoll played Daisy Mae in the original Li’l Abner, you’d be right. The quick-thinking Edelmann drags his coffin into the sun and sets him ablaze, but before long, a blood transfusion gone wrong leads to Dracula’s blood making him evil.

By the end, the good doctor is breaking necks, villagers descend on the castle and Talbot ends up being the one to save the day, wiping out every single other monster. This would be Chaney’s last Universal contract film, although they’d bring him back for the aforementioned Abbott and Costello movie.

Throughout the production, his drinking was out of hand. For example, Glenn Strange was stuck in the cumbersome Frankenstein’s Monster makeup and also had to spend the day in quicksand. He could barely feel his feet, so Chaney helped the only way he knew how. He got the actor smashed thanks to a bottle of scotch.

Speaking of sad stories, Atwill died a few months after this movie from lung cancer. The last few years of his life were a mess. He had married socialite Louise Cromwell Brooks, the ex-wife of General Patton, but after their 1939 separation, he went a little wild. So wild that a 1940 Christmas party, where at the least stag loops were shown and at the worst underage girls were assaulted, ended up getting him in front of a grand jury on morals charges. Sure, he was judged guilty of felony perjury and sentenced to five years probation. But thanks to the Hays Office — who also took the fangs )pun intended) out of the original version of this script — his career went from Universal to movie serials and lower than B movies. He died while making one of those serials, Lost City of the Jungle.

This movie was a big part of monster kid’s lives, as it was part of the Son of Shock package that was sold to TV stations in 1958. The other movies are Before I HangBehind the MaskThe Black RoomThe Boogie Man Will Get YouThe Face Behind the MaskIsland of Doomed MenThe Man They Could Not HangThe Man Who Lived TwiceThe Man With Nine LivesNight of TerrorThe Devil CommandsBlack FridayThe Bride of FrankensteinCaptive Wild WomenThe Ghost of FrankensteinHouse of FrankensteinThe Invisible Man’s RevengeJungle CaptiveThe Mummy’s Curse and The Soul of a Monster.

*Actually, four different actors played Frankenstein Monster: Strange, Boris Karloff in footage from Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Lon Chaney Jr. and his stunt double Eddie Parker from The Ghost of Frankenstein.

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