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Universal Monsters: House of Dracula (1945)


They should have quit while they were ahead. I don’t know when that would have been, considering no matter how bad they became, the Universal Monsters movies featuring the original three (Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man) were almost always fun to watch. The final installment, though, House of Dracula (1945), is no fun at all and, at 67 minutes long, is also quite boring.

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Its failure lies with the title monster, Dracula. None of the other Universal Monsters suffered as greatly as he did throughout their runs. Here, he’s inexplicably risen from the dead and seeking release from his curse. John Carradine plays him for the second time and fares a little better than he did in House of Frankenstein. At one point, I almost wondered if his appearance didn’t come closer to what Bram Stoker envisioned for the character.

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But when did he become so wishy-washy? He’s barely a threat to anyone, least of all Miliza Morelle (Martha O’Driscoll), the blonde assistant to Dr. Franz Edelmann (Onslow Stevens), who is instead, as all women seem to be, attracted to the “tragic” Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.). Talbot also comes to Edelmann for a cure. Impatient about getting results, he throws himself off a cliff, the better to end up in a cave where Frankenstein’s monster lies.

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I always thought the Wolf Man was the common thread among the later Universal Monsters movies. Instead, it’s really The Monster. He’s the only character that remained true to any continuity. Wherever he is found in a movie is where he “died” at the end of the last one. In House of Dracula, there’s no explanation for how Larry Talbot survived a silver bullet. He became somewhat tiresome, always whining about his condition and even willing to kill himself.

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We also have a hunchback in this one, played by the lovely Jane Adams. Her Nina is a loyal assistant to Dr. Edelmann, never asking for anything. But when given the choice of being able to cure only her or Talbot, Edlemann would prefer to help her. Unfortunately, the multi-tasking doctor has been giving Dracula transfusions of his own blood and has become tainted, turning into some kind of vampire/Mr. Hyde monster at night.

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Ultimately, it’s a happy ending for Larry Talbot. He does not transform into a wolf when the moon rises. But almost everyone else is dead and The Monster once again lies beneath a pile of fire and rubble. I suppose that’s a good place to leave our beloved characters. We know that with the simple click of a typewriter, someone could have resurrected them. Thank goodness, though, no one ever did.

Written by Edward T. Lowe, Jr. Directed by Erle C. Kenton Starring Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Lionel Atwill, Jane Adams, Glenn Strange US Release Dec. 7, 1945 RT 67 min. Home Video Universal Studios Home Video

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