Erle C. Kenton’s House of Dracula is the last adventure of the classic Universal monsters before they finished their decline in the most traumatic manner possible, by meeting Abbot and Costello. It’s not a terribly good one, as last hurrahs goes, but it’s also not as bad as it could be. At the very least, House of Dracula (a film not at all concerning the house of Dracula, not even metaphorically, of course) is a watchable and mostly entertaining film if you go in with the appropriate lowered expectations and do have a degree of patience and sympathy for this stage of Universal’s development.
The film’s main problem, as always with the monster mash phase of Universal,
is a terrible script that is episodic for no good reason, can’t be bothered to
make even a lick of sense, and seems afraid of doing anything even vaguely new
with its characters. So Lon Chaney Jr. whines, John Carradine’s – bad but not as
bad as in his last outing – Dracula maybe has evil plans or not, and
Frankenstein’s Monster (this time around Glenn Strange who is no Karloff, nor a
Chaney Jr.) wakes up for a thirty second rampage. The more interesting and sort
of new elements of the plot and cast, consisting of actually friendly Mad
Scientist Edelmann (Onslow Stevens) turning into an alter ego I can only dub
Evilmann while his sympathetic pretty hunchbacked assistant Nina (Jane
Adams) nearly becomes the film’s heroine, could have made for a nice film of
their own – particularly since Kenton suddenly shows himself as a stylish
old-style Universal director whenever Evilmann is on screen. Alas, this is late
period Universal, so the usual tired creature pool and the Jekyll and Hyde
plot rob each other of the screen time they’d need to breathe.