Today’s movie is House of Dracula (1945). It is said to be a sequel to House of Frankenstein (1944), but it’s more like a rehash. The movie is rated 5.8 on iMDB.com and 56 percent on the Tomatometer and 29 percent audience approval in Rottentomatoes.com. I’m going to have to say those ratings are about right.
I could not find a contemporary review of this film from a major newspaper, but I do have some ideas. I love classic horror. I have always empathized with the pain that Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) carries as the Wolf Man. I think John Carradine is the second-best Dracula ever. So, I’m am going to enjoy this movie no matter how good or bad it is.
The website machinemean.org makes a good case for the monsters changing and no longer being invaders, as this was the first major classic horror film released after the end of World War II. This seems to be right on point, as we quickly changed our fear to invaders from outer space and mutated atomic monsters.
As for the castle/doctors office for both this movie and House of Frankenstein (1944), I want to know who the real estate listing agent was. In the earlier movie, Doctor Gustav Niemann (Boris Karloff) and his hunchback Daniel (J. Carrol Naish) ran the medical facility. When Niemann was killed by the Frankenstein monster, I assume the castle went on the market. Did it list, “dank castle, with complete medical facilities, suited for the greatest doctor ever. A tendency towards madness is a plus.”
The new owner, Dr. Franz Edlem (Onslow Stevens) is a pretty fantastic doctor. But I am more interested in how he advertised. Is he an SEO master? He must have an amazing Twitter following to have Dracula, and the Wolf Man show up at his house within 24-hours of each other.
Dr. Franz Edlem was not very curious. You don’t want the first time seeing your castle basement to be when Dracula shows you his coffin down there.
Lon Chaney Jr. played Lawrence (Larry) Talbot / The Wolf Man. Chaney was covered in Episode 5 – Of Mice and Men (1939).
Glenn Strange played Frankenstein’s Monster. Strange was briefly covered in Episode 76 – House of Frankenstein (1944).
Boris Karloff was in this movie through the use of archival footage. He appeared during the dream sequence. Karloff was covered in Episode 7 – Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
Martha O’Driscoll played Nurse Miliza Morelle. She was born in Oklahoma in 1922. As a child, lovely Martha, modeled, and studied singing and dancing. She began working in a theater in Phoenix, Arizona. From this, in 1935, she began doing uncredited parts in movie musicals. Martha started modeling for Max Factor, RC Cola, and other companies.
Her first uncredited film was made in 1936 when she was only 13. Martha had a 12-year career which included Li’l Abner (1940), comedy like Henry Aldrich for President (1941), oaters like Under Western Skies (1945) and Down Missouri Way (1946), classic horror such as House of Dracula (1945), and Film Noir like Blonde Alibi (1946). Her final film was Carnegie Hall (1947).
She was briefly married to a Naval officer but divorced after less than a year. Her second marriage was done the correct way. She married Arthur Appleton, who was so wealthy that he was retired by age 25. After leaving the film business, Martha and her husband moved to Ocala, Florida, where they raised Thoroughbred horses. Martha died in 1998.
Onslow Stevens played the amazing Dr. Franz Edlemann. Stevens was born in 1902 in California. He is the son of actor Houseley Stevenson who played the plastic surgeon that taunted Humphrey Bogart with the possibility of looking like a bulldog in Dark Passage (1947). Because most of his family were actors, Stevens was on the stage by age 3. Stevens joined the Army right out of high school. But after that, it seemed he spent most of his life at Pasadena Playhouse collecting wives, for a total of 5. He was a devote nudist and spoke of the medical values to those that would listen. Must have been fun to hang around with.
Stevens was primarily a stage actor. He worked a lot on television and had a decent movie career. His first uncredited film role was in The Gay Diplomat (1932). He was credited in Radio Patrol (1932). His best-known movies include Life Returns (1935), Three on the Trail (1936), House of Dracula (1945), Canyon Passage (1946), Film Noirs The San Francisco Story (1952) and New York Confidential (1955), the great sci-fi Them! (1954), and a small bit in The Buccaneer (1958).
In later life, he suffered from alcoholism and bipolar disorder. This and the shock treatments he took hurt his ability to act. In November 1976, while in a nursing home, Stevens broke his hip as the result of a push from another patient. He never recovered and died of pneumonia in January 1977. Charges were brought but later dropped.
Jane Adams played Nina, the hunchbacked nurse. Adams was born in 1918 in Texas. She was an accomplished violinist and was offered a scholarship to Juilliard. Instead, she spent four studying at the Pasadena Playhouse. She began working on syndicated radio shows. Adams also worked as a model, where she picked up the nickname “Poni.” She was briefly married to a Navy pilot that was killed in World War II.
Her first credited film was Salome Where She Danced (1945). That same year, House of Dracula (1945) was released and remains her best-known role. She appeared in crime movies like The Brute Man (1946). An advanced horse rider, she was in a lot of westerns such as Gun Law Justice (1949). Adams was in Master Minds (1949) and Batman and Robin (1949). She married Tom Turnage near the end of World War II and shortly retired from acting. When he was sent to the Korean Conflict, she worked briefly in television. Adams’ husband worked for the Reagan administration. She died in 2014.
A bat flies to the second floor of a house. The bat transforms into Count Dracula (John Carradine) and checks out a woman sleeping in a bed for a bit. He then goes downstairs and enters the house. Dr. Franz Edelman (Onslow Stevens) of Visaria is sleeping in a chair. His cat takes exception to the vampire entering the house. Dracula uses his unholy powers to chase the cat from the room. He could have just tried to pick it up and would have had the same effect.
When Doc Edelman wakes, he is shocked to see a man standing over him. Count Dracula introduces himself as Baron Latoes. That is quite a social demotion from Count to Baron, as Baron is the lowest of these royal titles. Dracula asks for help from the doctor.
Dracula asks to be taken to the basement of the castle. The Doc is skeptical, but he takes Dracula down anyway. Dracula asks the Doc if he believes in vampires, supernatural, and eternal life. Dracula has already moved his trusty coffin to the basement. The coffin has the Dracula crest, and he admits to the skeptical doctor that he is in fact Dracula. Dracula explains that he has native soil in his coffin. The Doc has a history of helping special cases.
That day the Doc goes into his lab where his nurse, Nina (Jane Adams), is working on samples. He tells her to make a blood smear of Count Dracula’s blood. When she gets up, she has a bad hump on her back. “I can fix that hump. What hump?” The Doc tells her she will be the first to benefit from their research. When the Doc looks at the blood smear, he sees some type of parasite. He tells the nurse to make an antitoxin.
When the Sun sets, Dracula rises for his doctor’s appointment. They charge $25 if you miss an appointment. Dracula knocks on the front door, and Nina lets him in. The other nurse, Miliza Morelle (Martha O’Driscoll) knows Baron Latoes from another town. The Doc says he thinks the antitoxin with work when given through a series of transfusions. Dracula will stay in the basement while he undergoes the treatment.
In the waiting room, is Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr) AKA The Wolf Man and he is trying to get in to see the Doctor. Talbot says he can’t wait an hour, because there isn’t time.
The Doc is giving direct transfusions from himself to Dracula as Nina assists. Dracula really wants to bite Nurse Morelle. She tells the doctor of Larry Talbot’s visit and the doctor gets a phone call from the police inspector asking him to come down. He takes Nurse Morelle along.
Police Inspector Holtz (Lionel Atwill) tries to disperse the crowd, in the most unpleasant tone possible. The Doc and nurse arrive and are led into the station. Talbot has asked Holtz to lock him in a cell. Larry asks the Doc about the pentagram and a man turning into a beast. The Doc tells him there is no such thing as a werewolf. Just then the moon comes out, and Larry transforms into the Wolf Man right before their eyes. The Doc decides to take the case. He asks Holtz to bring him to his castle in the morning.
Nurse Morelle comes to take the sulking Talbot to see the Doc. Edelman has found several places where Talbot’s skull is pressing against his brain. He then says when Talbot thinks he is turning into a werewolf, certain glands overproduce, making him turn into a wolfman.
The project that the Doc and Nina have been working on involves growing mold that softens bones. The Doc thinks he can fix Talbot by using the mold to reshape his skull.
It will take a month for the mold to be ready and Talbot doesn’t want to transform again. He runs and jumps off a cliff into the sea, hoping to kill himself. The Doc says there are caves below the cliff and Talbot may be alive.
The two nurses wait on the top of the cliff that night. The Doc has men build a device so he can be lowered to the caves below. He hopes to time his arrival with Talbot de-wolfing. Talbot is still the Wolf Man and attacks the doctor. But the moon sets just in time, and he turns back into a human. As they get ready to go up, the Doc realizes that the cave they are in would be the perfect place to grow the mold producing plants.
Just then, they see the Frankenstein monster (Glenn Strange) and the skeleton of Dr. Niemann who was played by Boris Karloff in House of Frankenstein (1944). The monster’s hand is moving. Talbot gets more excited by finding a secret way into the castle than he was finding the Monster.
They get busy moving the plants into the cave. The Doc is really impressed by the monster. He wants to bring the monster back to full life. He is warned by Talbot and Nina that it is a monster and it killed its last doctor. The Doc starts sending electricity to the monster, but Nina finally talks him out of it.
One-night Dracula comes in, and Nurse Morelle is wearing an evening gown and playing the piano. Dracula gets all excited and out of control. He uses his mind power on her. She starts playing crazy music and sees life as an undead. Morelle pulls out a cross she has around her neck, and the music returns to normal. Dracula turns away. He tries to force her back into a trance, but she gets his injection ready. The Doc walks in and sends Morelle away.
The Doc tells Dracula that a different species of antibodies is forming.
Later Morelle is working, but she is still suffering from the trance. She almost falls off the stairs, and Nina is very worried about her. She follows Morelle upstairs and finds her with Dracula. Nina sees that Dracula does not have a reflection in the mirror. Dracula leaves with Morelle while Nina goes to warn the Doc.
Dracula is trying to get Morelle to take off the cross. The Doc runs to the garden but not before saying that if anything happens to him for her to burn what is in the basement. Dracula sends Morelle away, and the Doc prepares for a new transfusion with the help of Nina. It is too soon for the Doc to do another transfusion and he passes out. Dracula uses his mind power to knock out Nina. He then switches the flow of the transfusion sending his blood into the doctor.
Dracula escapes, and Nina wakes up sometime later. She wakes the Doc. Dracula is outside and turns into a bat. He flies to Morelle room. Nina wakes up the brooding Talbot. Dracula transforms into human form, and Morelle is ready to go. The Doc uses a crucifix to stop Dracula. Talbot runs in with Nina and helps Morelle. Dracula runs to his coffin as it is almost sunrise. The Doc pulls the coffin into the sunlight and opens the lid. Dracula turns to bones.
Morelle is released from Dracula’s spell. The Doc tells Nina that he has killed Dracula.
The Doc is coming under the vampire spell from the blood of Dracula. The cat runs away, and he sees he is dying. At night he sees visions of Dracula and himself as undead. His evil self wants to use the Monster as a weapon. The Doc is running out of time. His evil side is working on the Monster. He is trying to save his own life. The circuits blow, and he cannot completely revive the Monster.
The Doc finds out from Nina that there is only enough mold to fix Nina’s hump or Talbot werewolfing. She nobly lets Talbot go first. Nina and Morelle continue to work on the mold. The Doc uses the mold to fix the skull of Talbot. Morelle is very concerned about Talbot. After his surgery, they continue working on the mold for Nina. Morelle tries to put the hooks in Talbot. He is skeptical, because, he kills everyone he loves, sooooo….
That night the Doc is getting a little weird. Talbot is in a wheelchair and watches the Doc get on a cart. He later kills the cart driver. The villagers form a mob and head back to the castle because they think Talbot is the killer.
Inspector Holtz checks the body, and then he and the mob go to the castle to find the murderer. Holtz sees that Talbot is in a wheelchair so he can’t be the killer. Morelle stands up for Talbot. The police leave without a killer. Talbot goes in and tells the Doc he saw what happened. The Doc wants Talbot to stay quiet until he can help Nina.
The villagers are riled up because they found a medical tag in the hand of the murdered cart driver. The police go to the castle just ahead of a village mob.
The Doc and two nurses wait with Talbot as the full moon rises to see if he changes to a werewolf. Is that the best plan? Could they have him in a cage or some chains? The moon comes up, and it has no effect on Talbot. He’s cured. Morelle runs to him and embrace.
The Doc has disappeared, and Nina goes looking for him. She finds him in the laboratory electrifying the Monster. It is halfway up when Nina speaks. The Doc in his Dracula rage closes in on Nina. The police come in the front door just in time to see the Doc strangle Nina. He throws Inspector Holtz into the electrical panel and kills him. Talbot has a gun, and the Doc comes towards him. Talbot fires a couple of shots killing the Doc.
The village mob makes it to the front door. When he sees his creator dead, the Monster attacks Talbot. The Monster starts a fire while destroying the lab. The fire kills the Monster. Yeah right. Morelle and Talbot walk away in the moonlight and live happily ever after.
What kind of ending is this? Nina worked hard, and she gets killed. While the hussy that was running around with Dracula is now with a former Wolf Man.
World-Famous Short Summary – No good deed goes unpunished.
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Beware the moors