House of Dracula ★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I had the sense about 15 minutes into House of Dracula that I was watching a special Halloween episode of a Mexican soap opera. This is perhaps the most contrived entry in the series, and the hokiest - which is saying something, because The Ghost of Frankenstein certainly lowered the bar. Dr. Edelmann (Onslow Stevens) recounts for our benefit the ending of that film; that The Monster (Glenn Strange) and Dr. Neimann (Karloff in that film; prop bones here) were apparently carried by quicksand to the cave where they're found. Which would be fine, except this expository dialog is addressed to Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) who was there.

Which, in turn, invites the obvious question of why no explanation is given for how he survived being shot with a silver bullet in the end of that film. Larry could give South Park's Kenny some lessons on inexplicable resurrections!

There are two reasons why this film is at least better than The Ghost of Frankenstein. One is Onslow Stevens's performance as Dr. Edelmann. Alternately warm and empathetic, then deliciously campy, Stevens is genuinely fun to watch despite the mediocrity of the story.

The other nice thing is the resolution(?) of the story of Larry Talbot. Despite how lazy it is to not even try to account for his surviving House of Frankenstein or his whereabouts in the intervening years (a storytelling crime of which the film is also guilty where Count Dracula is concerned), Chaney's performance elevates the material. It isn't just that we've already invested in Larry; it's that Chaney continues to earn our sympathy. It's pretty obvious that Larry's lycanthrophy is a representative for any number of personal demons, from addiction to chronic depression, and Chaney never lets us forget that anguish.

Still, once we've seen him successfully kept in jail overnight, the obvious question is just what has stopped that from being his go-to solution in the past. Or, for that matter, why he refuses to check back into the graybar hotel and instead tries to commit suicide by leaping off the cliff into the drink. Seriously, how many times do you have to not stay dead before you stop bothering? I think we can connect Larry not only to Kenny McCormick, but also to Phil Connors (Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day). Those glaring plot holes aside, I have to admit it really did feel good to see Larry stare down a full moon without transforming into The Wolf Man.

House of Dracula Re-Ranked on My Flickchart (#615/1584)

House of Dracula < You, Me, and Dupree --> #793
Neither film explains how Count Dracula and Larry Talbot are still alive, but only one was supposed to. Advantage: You, Me and Dupree.

House of Dracula > Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24 ½th Century --> #793
Glaring plot holes and narrative mediocrity bog it down, but that shot of Larry Talbot staring at the full moon without transforming is rewarding enough to win here.

House of Dracula < Jonah Hex --> #991
What's more egregious than squandering Megan Fox? Squandering Count Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster in the same film.

House of Dracula > Semi-Pro --> #991
My investment in Lon Chaney, Jr.'s Larry Talbot pays off in House of Dracula, and while the rest of the film is a contrived mess, that aspect is more satisfying than anything in Semi-Pro.

House of Dracula > The Wedding Planner --> #991
Are we sure that Matthew McConaughey isn't a vampire? 'Cause he's aging remarkably well so far, and I have to think hypnosis accounts for the success of some of the movies he's been in - The Wedding Planner included.

House of Dracula < Superman/Batman: Public Enemies --> #1016
Once again, Batman > No Batman. Though, now I want to see a crossover mash-up of the DC Universe vs. the Universal Monsters. Someone make that happen.

House of Dracula < Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason --> #1027
That prison "Like a Virgin" scene in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason is less contrived and more entertaining than 95% of House of Dracula.

House of Dracula < Three Men and a Baby --> #1033
Remake Three Men and a Baby, but replace the guys with Dracula, Larry Talbot, and Frankenstein's Monster. Most amazing sitcom EVER.

House of Dracula > Eraser --> #1033
I actually remember liking Eraser in 1996, though I haven't re-watched it so I dunno how well it holds up. Going with House of Dracula for its nice send-off for Larry Talbot.

House of Dracula > The Milky Way --> #1033
The animation and whimsy of The Milky Way make it more impressive than anything in House of Dracula, but it doesn't top Larry Talbot finally being cured.

House of Dracula < Troy --> #1034
I haven't seen Troy since it played in theaters a decade ago, but I remember liking its scale and storytelling focus. Those are just two areas in which it has House of Dracula beat.

House of Dracula was re-ranked on my Flickchart to #1034/1584