House of Dracula

Reviewed By MP Bartley
Posted 06/22/04 23:52:57

"Monsters Ball"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

So there you are, you're a good, hardworking doctor, when all of a sudden Dracula decides to drop by and announces he wants you to find a cure for his condition. Then moments later the Wolf Man also pops in unannounced after a cure for his condition too. And just when you think that you're overworked as it is, the Frankenstein monster ends up your doorstep. Isn't it always the way that unexpected guests just drop by in threes?

I love the Universal horror movies of the 30's and 40's. As well as being some of the most iconic movies ever produced, they're damn good fun for the most of them and never outstay their welcome, usually lasting just over one hour.

And 'House of Dracula' may be just about the most insane movie I have ever seen.

Dr. Ingelman (Onslow Stevens) is happily asleep when Dracula (John Carradine) turns up, quickly followed in a totally unrelated fashion by the Wolfman, Lawrence Talbot, (Lon Chaney Jr) and the Monster (Glenn Strange). And as you'd expect, this isn't a combination that mixes well.

Firstly though, a few random thoughts that occurred to me while watching this. To begin with, how come these good doctors we see so often in these movies all run their practice from their own home and secret dungeon? Surely you'd want your doctor to have his own surgery nearer the town? Talk about lazy. Secondly, the old Dracula-metamorphosising-into-a-bat trick is pulled here. But have you ever noticed when he turns into his human form from a bat he's always dressed in his best suit with a top hat? Does the bat fly around with a little top hat tucked into its claws? Just a thought. And lastly, but most hilariously, no-one seems to be able to pronounce Dr. Ingelman's name. At various times he gets called Ingleman, Indelman, Andelman, Atom-man and I swear at one point Dr. Wambamaloombamawambamboom.

But this film gets even more insane. Indelman has a beautiful assistant called Nina. Who is also a hunchback. What a great decision that was to combine beautiful assistant/hunchback into the same role. The first reveal of Nina's hunch made me laugh so hard, it was like seeing Marty Feldman's hump for the first time.

Still more insane/hilarious than is, is the scene when Indelman/Andelman/Wambamaloom - oh whatever he's called, and Lawrence are strolling through a cave on the beach and literally trip over the comatose Frankenstein monster and aren't shocked by it in the slightest. Which you wouldn't be would you?

If this is making it sound one of the worst films ever made, you'd be wrong - it's precisely this prevailing air of insanity that makes it a joy to watch. It's so convinced that it's a great horror movie you can't help but be pulled along with it no matter how hokey it is. And how often do you get to see old-school Dracula, Frankenstein and Wolf Man in the same picture? Needless to say it's done with infinitely more class, intelligence and style than the grave robbing Stephen Sommers 'Van Helsing'.

It's so hilariously bad, it's hard to believe that it's done so seriously. The scene where Indelman reveals to Nina that Dracula is his new patient is something Mel Brooks didn't better in 'Young Frankenstein'. A scene where Indelman is battling in his mind between his good self and bad self, whether to revive the Frankenstein monster is so ludicrously over-the-top you've just got to cheer it. And this insanity spreads to the cast. Carradine is no Lugosi (he's too much of a dandy to convince as an evil vampire) but just watch him run out of Indelman's castle. It's a performance Ed Wood would have been proud of. When Indelman turns from good doctor to mad scientist halfway through, Stevens responds by giving the most insanely over-the-top performance in screen history. It's like the whole cast were on speed throughout the shoot and the mind truly boggles when watching it.

And did I mention the beautiful lab assistant who's also a hunchback?

'House of Dracula' is far from a 'good' film. But it's effortlessly watchable and laughably entertaining. A true 'they don't make them like that anymore' movie, it may not be anywhere near as iconic or as imitated as the original 'Dracula', but it's certainly a lot more fun.

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