Stone me it's finally here! Bet you all thought old Jim had forgotten. No such luck matey! At long last, here's the review of the final movie in the Universal Frankenstein saga ...
It's 1945, and the curtain falls of the Universal monsters. Back for this final hurrah were most of the personel from House of Frankenstein. Erle C. Kenton was back in the director's chair, with Chaney, Strange and Carradine reprised their roles as Larry Talbot, the Monster, and Dracula. The trailer even recycled the 'count the monsters' gimmick used for it's predecessor.
However this movie is a very diferent kettle of monsters. The script is far better, Kenton's direction sports a good deal more flair and Carradine - obligatory pun alert! - really gets his teeth into the role of the Lord of the Undead.
The story this time around flows nicely, focusing on Talbot and Dracula seeking a cure for their conditions from Onslow Stevens' Dr Edelmann. However the Count soon reverts to type and corrupts the good Doctor via a blood transfusion. Edelman is soon periodically transforming into a Mr Hyde style mad scientist...
Naturally there is a continuity gap, there's no explanation for Dracula's return from staking in the previous film. And as we've come to expect from these monster rallies, the plot doesn't really do all five creatures credit. To start with this film's Hunchback, Nurse Nina isn't really a monster. Aside from being quite attractive - nop seriously she is - Nina is a sympathetic character and can be definitely classed as one of the heroes in this story. Secondly, Frankenstein's monster has even less to do than in House of Frankenstein, and again most of what little screen time it has is spent on a lab table before the inevitable rampage in the film's finale.
It is a shame the Monster has so little relevence to the plot, but frankly this is somewhat forgivable as a stronger film does result. Unlike the almost anthology film structure of the previous movie, House of Dracula builds up suspense and pace steadily right up to the final climax.
On the whole the script is far better. As prevoiusly stated Carradine's Dracula really shines, portraying the Count as intelligent, sinister and a real force of evil. Dr Edlemann's character is really great, and interestingly is both hero and villain at different points during the movie. Plus his experiments, both as a good physician and evil scientist actually make sense too. Thankfully there's none of the musical brains routine that robbed sanity from Ghost of Frankenstein and House of Frankenstein here.
Performance-wise, as previously stated Carradine really delivers the goods as Dracula and Chaney is dependable as ever. However the stand out turn comes from Onslow Stevens who excels as both the goodly doctor and Hyde-style villain. His character gives the film an original twist and his stellar performance really holds the movie together.
Overall House of Dracula is a satisfying end to the series. There's some fine locations, a cracking plot and plenty of creepy images. Admittedly it never scales the heights of the earliest entries in the saga but it's marked improvement over the later entries.
JIM MOON, 1st February 2009