Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 19, 2015)
One of the last entries in the series of films launched by 1931’s classic Dracula, 1945’s House of Dracula comes with a slightly misleading title. Despite the focus on our favorite vampire, House features a mess of other monsters as well.
Essentially a sequel to 1944’s House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula picks up introduces us to Dr. Franz Edelmann (Onslow Stevens), a specialist who may be able to cure various creatures of their “maladies”. “Baron Latos” – really Count Dracula (John Carradine) - goes to Dr. Edelmann in alleged pursuit of a way out of his vampiric status, but in truth, he simply uses this as a ruse so he can get closer to the doctor’s assistant Milizia Morelle (Martha O’Driscoll) and transform her.
In addition, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) – aka the Wolf Man – also comes to visit Dr. Edelmann for treatment. Both threads lead to a series of concerns.
Though House of Dracula acts as a follow-up to House of Frankenstein, the two films seem quite different. House of Frankenstein offers a silly but fun romp, whereas House of Dracula tends to take itself a lot more seriously.
That becomes a strength and a weakness. On one hand, I admire the movie’s attempts at drama and psychological depth, as it digs into the burdens that come with monster status. Dracula boasts a narrative more ambitious than one would expect from a quick, cheap horror sequel.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t manage to live up to its aspirations. Despite the movie’s interesting plot/character notions, it remains shallow and without much emotion. Even at a brief 67 minutes, it tends to plod and move at a snail’s pace.
It’s definitely nowhere near as entertaining as the goofy House of Frankenstein. As absurd as the earlier film was, at least it kept us involved. House of Dracula lacks much excitement, as it just meanders from one dull conversation to another.
Oh, we still find the occasional “action” scene, but these fall flat. Even the climactic attempt at mayhem seems perfunctory, and the movie’s abrupt ending becomes bizarre and unsatisfying.
At least the actors do fairly well. I was never wild about Chaney’s Wolf Man, but he brings a bit more gravity to the role here, and Carradine does much better as Dracula in this flick than he did in House of Frankenstein. Tall and gaunt, he feels wrong in a physical sense – he looks more like he should play the Mummy – but Carradine offers reasonable menace and eerie qualities to Dracula.
All of this leaves House of Dracula as a middle of the road horror effort. It works better than it probably should, but it still seems too dull to be more than an admirable misfire.