61 Days of Halloween: House of Dracula (1945)

Introduction

For an introduction to the concept of 61 Days of Halloween, as well as a list of previously featured titles, please go here.

House of Dracula (1945)

What House of Dracula attempts to do is similar to what House of Frankenstein did before it, and that is to create a tale that balances most if not all the Universal monsters. When people complain of the lack of originality in modern cinema I can’t say that I blame them, it’s only that they act like it’s new. There have always been property projects and series that became cash cows that studios went back to repeatedly. The smaller ones were more likely to over-exploit certain successes. So after House of Frankestein worked, why wouldn’t Universal try the trick again?

The problem here ends up being one of balance. The Wolf Man’s involvement, here it’s Lon Chaney, Jr. playing him as per usual, is perhaps the best because his storyline gets the fullest and most complete treatment. The notion of the current Count Dracula being the one to seek a cure, much in the way Dracula’s Daughter did, except this time through blood transfusions rather than psychiatry is an interesting one. His fairly static nature, as the battle is fought and lost isn’t really an issue, but rather it’s his scarcity. That scarcity makes the title a misnomer.

This film is really about the doctor all these monsters seek his counsel. However, that doctor’s plot is not without its issues. It may have been a hamfisted attempt at foreshadowing, but there is an uncharacteristically dumb and manic maneuver he tries early. If it is a foreshadowing attempt it’s in no way earned and poorly executed.

The element that’s used to bring the story to a conclusion is also one of the least effective in all of drama and I’ll leave it at that. It’s not that this film isn’t without moments but that’s all it can boast, and what do moments really mean when the center doesn’t hold?

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