Tuesday, March 24, 2015

House of Dracula (1945)

Originally Universal Studios had planned to make a film entitled The Wolf Man versus Dracula which would have  been a direct sequel to Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man (1943). In this film the Wolf man would battle with Dracula . At the climax the villagers would raid the house, and the Wolf man would kill a large number of them. The Hays office rejected the script for being too violent so a much tamer script was written by Edward T. Lowe Jr. which was titled House of Dracula (1945).  The film was directed by Erle C. Kenton, who had also directed Island of Lost Souls (1932), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) and House of Frankenstein (1944).

 The cast of House of Dracula (1945) was comprised of veteran horror stars including:

 Lon Chaney Jr. making his fourth appearance as Lawrence Talbot / The Wolf Man.

John Carradine in his second appearance as Count Dracula. Carradine would go on to play Dracula on stage, once on television (in a 1956 episode of "Matinee Theatre"), and in three more features, Billy the Kid versus Dracula (1965), The Vampire Girls (1967), aka ("Las Vampiras"), and Nocturna (1978).

Lionel Atwill made his fifth and final appearance in a Frankenstein feature, he also appeared in Son of Frankenstein (1939), TheGhost of Frankenstein (1942), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) and House of Frankenstein (1944).

Jane “Poni” Adams as the sympathetic hunchbacked nurse, Nina. She also known for appearing in Lost City of the Jungle (1946), The Brute Man (1946) and  two early adaptations of comic book inspired  franchises: Batman and Robin (1949) and one episode of Adventures of Superman television series as Babette DuLoque  in 1953.
Glen Strange, a former rodeo cowboy made his second appearance as Frankenstein’s creature, he had previously played the creature in House of Frankenstein (1944). He is best known for his role as Sam the bartender on the classic CBS western Gunsmoke (1955) series from 1962 until 1973.

Strange underwent an ordeal while filming the scene were Frankenstein’s Monster is discovered trapped in quicksand. After three hours of makeup each morning, Strange would spend the rest of the day buried in cold liquid mud (which was meant to be quicksand).

"Then everybody else went out for lunch," Strange recalled. "By the time they came back, I was so cold, I could barely feel my legs."

Lon Chaney Jr., suggested to Strange that he could use alcohol to keep himself warm. Throughout the day of filming, Chaney would pass a bottle of whiskey to Strange in between takes. Strange later recalled, that he was so drunk by the end of the day that he could barely dress himself after removing his monster makeup and costume.

House of Dracula (1945) actually featured four different actors in the role of Frankenstein’s Monster. In addition to Glenn Strange, Boris Karloff plays the Monster in footage taken from The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and the climatic scenes of Frankenstein’s creature trapped by the fire was taken from the ending of The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), where Chaney played the creature. Therefore, when Chaney (as Talbot) shouts to the villagers to "Get out! The Frankenstein Monster!” he in reality running away from himself and Eddie Parker, who was Chaney’s stunt double in the earlier film.

One of the few highlights of this film was the ingenious makeup created by Jack B. Pierce. And this would mark Pierce’s last time to work with the monsters that he created. Pierce had created the makeup for Frankenstein’s creature, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, Dracula and a host of other Universal monsters. But as new more efficient makeup techniques became available Pierce refused to change his methods and after more than two decades he found that his services were no longer needed by Universal Studios.

House of Dracula (1945) was released on December 7, 1945. It was the sad swan song for three of Universal’s classic monsters, Frankenstein’s creature, Dracula and the Wolf Man. It was the last film to feature all three of Universals classic monsters during Universal’s Golden Age of Horror with the exception of the Abbott and Costello comedy, Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein (1948). By the time of the film’s production Universal was merely turning out horror films for a quick easy buck and as a result House of Dracula (1945) suffers in production value and story line. The monsters that had made Universal so much money in the previous decade deserved much better, and so did their fans.


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