Film Review: The File On Thelma Jordon (1949)

Release Date: November 4th, 1949 (London premiere)
Directed by: Robert Siodmak
Written by: Ketti Frings, Marty Holland
Music by: Victor Young
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Wendell Corey, Paul Kelly

Wallis-Hazen, Paramount Pictures, 100 Minutes

Review:

“I wish so much crime didn’t take place after dark. It’s so unnerving.” – Thelma Jordan

I guess the coolest thing about The File On Thelma Jordan is that it brought prominent classic film-noir director, Robert Siodmak, together with classic film-noir star, Barbara Stanwyck. Seeing the finished product, their joint effort at making something solid doesn’t disappoint.

While I can’t say that this is either Siodmak’s or Stanwyck’s best, they still brought their A-game and made a compelling picture out of a fairly redundant and derivative noir story.

The plot sees an assistant D.A. fall for a woman with some dark things in her past. He uses his power to get her off of a murder charge but ultimately finds out that she isn’t so innocent and her devious husband is still waiting in the shadows, ready to pull her away again, as he’s also tied into this plot. However, the femme fatale does realize she has feelings for the assistant D.A. she strung along and she does something drastic to salvage whatever she can.

Barbara Stanwyck is powerful as hell in this and she commands every scene, almost overshadowing everyone else in the picture. However, she’s not as devious and dark as she was in the masterpiece that made her a real star, Double Indemnity. Still, she never disappoints and she certainly doesn’t in this.

In fact, the only thing that hurts the film, somewhat, is that I felt like she didn’t have a true equal to play off of. Sure, Wendell Corey and Paul Kelly are both very good but neither of them seem to have the chemistry with Stanwyck that Double Indemnity‘s Fred MacMurray had.

From a visual standpoint, this looks just as good as you would expect if you’re familiar with Robert Siodmak’s work in film-noir. Superb lighting, perfect use of shadow and just crisp and pristine, all around.

Also, Siodmak typically gets the very best out of his actors. I think his job, in that regard, may have been too easy in the case of Stanwyck. She’s just a dynamo.

The File On Thelma Jordan is a neat movie to check out if you love classic noir, Stanwyck or the directorial style of Siodmak.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other film-noir pictures by Robert Siodmak, as well as those starring Barbara Stanwyck.

Film Review: The Dark Mirror (1946)

Release Date: October 18th, 1946 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Robert Siodmak
Written by: Nunnally Johnson, Vladimir Pozner
Music by: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cast: Olivia de Havilland, Lew Ayres, Thomas Mitchell

International Pictures, Nunnally Johnson Productions, 85 Minutes

Review:

“Not even nature can duplicate character, not even in twins.” – Dr. Scott Elliott

For a B-movie film-noir, this motion picture is quite impressive. While I love a lot of B-movie noirs, there are many more that are just mediocre or outright shit. But I think that this film’s quality has a lot to do with its director, noir veteran Robert Siodmak, as well as its star, the great Olivia de Havilland, who won an Academy Award the same year for her role in To Each His Own.

Watching this film, I was kind of reminded of Brian De Palma’s Sisters from 1972. Both films deal with a good twin and a killer twin that tries to frame (or destroy) their better half.

The films are very different but I can see where De Palma may haven taken some cues from this picture. But honestly, which young filmmaker wouldn’t between the great split performance by its leading lady, as well as the visionary style of its director, a true auteur and master of the noir genre and visual storytelling.

This is a superbly acted film and not just by de Havilland, who plays two roles, but also by its top two male stars, Lew Ayres and Thomas Mitchell.

Everyone in this film is believable and pretty close to perfect. Siodmak got truly great performances out of the three top stars and they had immense chemistry.

I also love how this was shot and for a film from the mid-’40s, Siodmak did a stupendous job in the composite shots that feature both of the twins on the screen at the same time. These sequences go off without a hitch or any visual or audible hints that may wreck what you see on the screen. There’s no obvious Patty Duke Show trickery.

The film’s story is also really good. It pulls you in and you’re never really sure which sister you’re seeing from scene to scene. While the ending and the darker sister’s plot is kind of obvious, you still don’t fully know how it will conclude and whether or not tragedy will befall the good sister or the decent male characters that just want to help them.

That being said, the picture builds up suspense well. The movie does a great job of not coming off as too formulaic or cliche while telling a good, compelling tale that leaves you unsure till the final scene.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other classic film-noir pictures that were directed by Robert Siodmak.

Film Review: Phantom Lady (1944)

Also known as: Condemned to Hang (working title)
Release Date: January 28th, 1944
Directed by: Robert Siodmak
Written by: Bernard C. Schoenfeld
Based on: Phantom Lady by Cornell Woolrich
Music by: Lester Horton, Hans J. Salter
Cast: Franchot Tone, Ella Raines, Alan Curtis, Aurora Miranda, Thomas Gomez, Fay Helm, Elisha Cook Jr.

Universal Pictures, 87 Minutes

Review:

“[to Carol, as he is led back to his prison cell] Oh, if you feel like a train ride, visit me sometime. I’m getting a new address tomorrow. A big country estate on the Hudson. On a clear day you can see New Jersey.” – Scott Henderson

I am a pretty big fan of Robert Siodmak’s film-noir pictures like Criss Cross, The Killers and Conflict. But up until this point, I hadn’t seen Phantom Lady, which I must say is his best noir picture of the bunch.

This was a breathtaking movie in several aspects.

To start, the cinematography was incredible and I don’t want to say that lightly. The sequence in the film where Kansas is following the bribed bartender through the dark city streets is mesmerizing and gritty. It’s frankly enchanting, especially to those who appreciate the noir visual style or what came before it in German Expressionist movies.

While Siodmak has a great eye, this may be his best looking and most visually refined motion picture. From a cinematography, lighting and shot framing standpoint, this stands above most other noir films, which is pretty impressive, as the genre’s look is typically well crafted and executed superbly, regardless of directors, cinematographers or studios.

Another way that this film is breathtaking is in its building of tension and suspense. Even though you find out who the real killer is well before the film’s conclusion, it’s the knowing who he is that makes you fear for the heroine’s life. Franchot Tone and Ella Raines really kill it in their scenes together and once you get to the point where Raines’ Kansas realizes the mortal danger she’s in, it’s almost soul crushing.

Additionally, Ella Raines, herself, was breathtaking. She isn’t the top billed star in the movie but she was absolutely the star of this picture. She carried the film on her back, showed how great her acting chops were and made you care for her and her objective.

She’s not a femme fatale, in fact, she was the polar opposite and that kind of made this movie work in a way that isn’t the noir standard. She’s a heroic but gentle character that only wants justice for the man she cares about and for the victims of the killer. Plus, she’s simply stunning. Ella Raines’ Kansas is what rappers call a “dime piece”.

This is a wonderful movie. It’s what I wish most film-noir pictures could live up to. It’s head and shoulders above the standard and being that it came out pretty early in the genre’s run, it helped set the stage for all the films after it. And while it doesn’t check off all the film-noir boxes, it represents the style well, especially in regards to the look of the picture and the visual flourish that Robert Siodmak employed.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: The Killers, This Gun for Hire, Criss Cross and Suspect.

Film Review: Conflict (1945)

Also known as: The Pentacle (working title)
Release Date: June 15th, 1945 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Curtis Bernhardt
Written by: Arthur T. Horman, Dwight Taylor
Based on: The Pentacle by Robert Siodmak, Alfred Neumann
Music by: Frederick Hollander
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Alexis Smith, Sydney Greenstreet

Warner Bros., 86 Minutes

Review:

“It’s funny how virtuous a man can be when he’s helpless.” – Kathryn Mason

Humphrey Bogart is a bad guy. No, seriously. He is pure evil in this film and that alone is worth the price of admission. This rugged, usually lovely, manly man that wooed all the ladies and some of the guys is a complete and total bastard in this. And that is why I had to see this film.

Now the reasoning behind this is pretty interesting. Despite the success of The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca, the head of Warner Bros. refused to see Bogart as a sexy leading man. The women wanted him, the men wanted to be him but his boss just wasn’t buying into it. Luckily, this didn’t stop Bogart from being Bogart going forward.

This film was also very close to home for the actor, as he and his wife at the time were known around town as the “Battling Bogarts” for their very public spats. A lot of this film’s narrative lines up with things in Bogart’s personal life, except Bogart obviously didn’t murder his wife like his character in this film. But it was said that Bogie had a really hard time making this film and was miserable having to act out a role that was too close for his personal comfort at the time.

This film was originally supposed to come out in 1943, just before film-noir exploded and it could have been a trend setter for that style. However, a lawsuit delayed this film’s release until 1945, which was also better for Bogart, as by that time he had already gotten a divorce and was happily remarried.

All things considered, Bogart’s scenes in this were superb and he didn’t show signs of his inner turmoil on screen. He was able to play this evil bastard yet still had scenes where he had to convincingly seem like a good guy.

While this film isn’t a horror movie, it had moments that felt like it was. The scenes that took place on the mountain road were chilling to the bone. When Bogart appears in the shadows and walks towards his wife, who is in her car, he does so in such a predatory way that is reminiscent of some of the greatest horror icons of all-time: Lugosi, Karloff, Rathbone, Price, Cushing and Lee.

Conflict is a marvelous film that may be a step below great but it is certainly effective and does a great job telling its story and churning up the right kind of emotions from scene to scene.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The Two Mrs. CarrollsDead ReckoningThe Big Shot and Dark Passage.

Film Review: People On Sunday (1930)

Also known as: Menschen am Sonntag (Germany)
Release Date: February 4th, 1930 (Germany)
Directed by: Robert Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer
Written by: Billy Wilder, Robert Siodmak, Curt Siodmak
Music by: Otto Stenzeel, Elena Kaets-Chernin (2000 version)
Cast:  Erwin Splettstößer, Brigitte Borchert, Wolfgang von Waltershausen, Christl Ehlers, Annie Schreyer

Filmstudio, Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek/Berlin, 73 Minutes

Review:

I was delving into the deep recesses of film-noir throughout the entire month of November, as I was celebrating Noirvember and dedicated to covering just the noir style for a month here at Cinespiria.

While delving deep, I came across this picture, which isn’t noir but was created by four people who would become prominent contributors to the film-noir movement after they left Germany in the 1930s.

Those four men are:

Robert Siodmak – the director of The KillersCriss CrossThe Phantom Lady and others.

Curt Siodmak – Robert’s brother and a screenwriter who worked in film-noir and often times with his brother.

Edgar G. Ulmer – the director of DetourThe Strange WomanMurder Is My Beat and others.

Billy Wilder – one of the most accomplished directors in history, who gave us the film-noirs Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard, as well as other classics such as, The ApartmentSome Like It HotSabrina and so many others.

The film is notable for its historical importance, as it displays everyday life for Berliners just before Adolf Hitler and the Nazis rose to power in Germany. Their rise to power is also why the men behind this film escaped to Hollywood.

People On Sunday starts by telling you that none of the people depicted in the film are professional actors and that they are indeed real people whose jobs in the film are their jobs in real life. The film also states that these people have already returned to their day jobs by the time of this film’s release. The movie was filmed on Sundays in Berlin, when the people in the film had time to do it around the hustle and bustle of their lives.

Critics that were around Berlin back in 1930, have said that the film feels like a true and authentic experience of what life was like at that time in Berlin. The film initially gives you hope that these people will always be able to enjoy their lazy carefree Sundays but in modern times, we know that there is no happy ending with the evil powers that will soon overtake much of Europe.

People On Sunday is a fairly short and sweet film but it is impossible to watch it and not think of what is on the horizon for the people in the movie, all of whom are real and not fictional characters. It has a similar effect on me as Fritz Lang’s M, a German film from 1931, that also showcases urban life just before Hitler changed the world forever.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: The Killers (1946)

Also known as: Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers, A Man Alone
Release Date: August 28th, 1946
Directed by: Robert Siodmak
Written by: Richard Brooks, Anthony Veiller, John Huston (uncredited)
Based on: Scribners Magazine short story The Killers by Ernest Hemingway
Music by: Miklós Rózsa
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Ava Garner, Edmond O’Brien, Sam Levene

Mark Hellinger Productions, Universal Pictures, 103 Minutes

Review:

“If there’s one thing in this world I hate, it’s a double-crossing dame.” – Big Jim Colfax

In the 1940s, Robert Siodmak made some of the most memorable film-noir motion pictures. The Killers is considered to not just be one of Siodmak’s best but one of the best films of the noir style and of the decade.

The Killers is really high up on a lot of the noir lists I have looked at from top critics, blogs, books and magazines. I thoroughly enjoyed it but I wouldn’t say that it was my favorite Siodmak noir, as of now, that honor goes to Criss Cross. However, I still haven’t seen Phantom Lady or The Dark Mirror yet.

I have enjoyed Siodmak’s work for a long time but as a kid it was primarily in the form of Son of Dracula and The Crimson Pirate. I was much more into horror and swashbuckling back then but my experience with those films had me enthused when I realized that the guy who directed both of those films, had a handful of noir movies wedged between them.

This film stars Burt Lancaster, a regular of Siodmak. This was also his debut on the big screen and for a first time performance, Lancaster knocks it out of the park. He was teamed with film-noir regulars Edmond O’Brien and Sam Levene. However, it was his scenes with the elegant and fascinating Ava Gardner that helped to set this guy’s career on a long and fruitful career that saw four Academy Award nominations and a win for his part in Elmer Gantry.

The Killers is based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway. However, the Hemingway story only really comprises the first twenty minutes or so of the movie, which shows the contract killers arrive and murder Burt Lancaster’s “Swede” Anderson. Where the film begins to follow Edmond O’Brien’s Jim Reardon, as he investigates the murder, the plot is wholly original and works as an expansion on Hemingway’s story. It was said, by Hemingway’s biographer, that The Killers “was the first film from any of his works that Ernest could genuinely admire.” John Huston, also an accomplished film-noir director, contributed to the script. He wasn’t originally credited for his contribution due to his contract with rival studio, Warner Bros.

With crime dramas running rampant in the 1940s, this is one that wasn’t a cliché on celluloid. While I love film-noir and I honestly have a hard time trying to find truly bad ones, sometimes the rehash of tropes, over and over and over again, can get mundane. The Killers, like Siodmak’s Criss Cross, is one of the films that lifts the cinematic style to a higher level. Plus, with a score composed by Miklós Rózsa, you can expect a lot of energy, excitement and a real soul within the film.

I love The Killers, it is hard to deny its greatness between the solid direction, iconic performances and its pristine look.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Criss Cross (1949)

Release Date: January 19th, 1949 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Robert Siodmak
Written by: Daniel Fuchs
Based on: Criss Cross by Don Tracy
Music by: Miklós Rózsa
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Yvonne De Carlo, Dan Duryea, Stephen McNally, Alan Napier

Universal Pictures, 84 Minutes

Review:

“I should have been a better friend. I shoulda stopped you. I shoulda grabbed you by the neck, I shoulda kicked your teeth in. I’m sorry Steve.” – Det. Lt. Pete Ramirez

Working my way through a lot of film-noir for the month of Noirvember, this is one of the ones that really stands out. In fact, Criss Cross could be a top five noir for me.

Burt Lancaster plays Steve Thompson. He is perfectly cast for this film, as he literally lives in every scene where he is on screen. He’s handsome, he’s tough, he’s clever and there is just an air about the guy that glows through the celluloid.

Then you have Dan Duryea, who is just so good at playing stylish slime balls. While I enjoyed Duryea’s work in Fritz Lang’s Woman In the Window and Scarlet Street, both opposite of Joan Bennett and Edward G. Robinson, his villainous Slim Dundee, in this film, takes the cake. He’s an awful bastard in this and he’s spectacular.

Yvonne De Carlo is enchanting and viscous as Steve’s ex-wife and forced lover of Slim. She plays a hardened woman yet still a damsel in distress… or is that just her angle? While she had to compete with two powerful and charismatic men in this film, she held her own and felt at home in this picture.

The film starts with a powerful theme, as soon as the credits roll. You immediately get dragged in and watching the behind-the-scenes machinations of how the armored truck driver job works, is fascinating. The director, the great Robert Siodmak, and the cinematographer, the veteran Franz Planer, did a fantastic job showing this world in a visual sense. Plus, there are just some great shots in this film, particularly when the armored truck arrives at the plant for the big setup and we get a nice bird’s eye tracking shot of the truck traversing between the buildings.

Criss Cross is a true film-noir in every sense. It’s got the lead that falls for a textbook femme fatale, gets in over his head because of the girl, does some dirt and despite his unfortunate circumstances, has to face the music for his actions.

This isn’t a great film because it has a perfect noir narrative, many noir pictures hit the right narrative notes. In the case of Criss Cross, it has a great cast, a great director and cinematographer with great eyes, it’s great technically and everything just sort of comes together like magic.

Criss Cross is one of the best film-noirs of the classic era.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: The Spiral Staircase (1946)

Also known as: Silence of Helen McCord (working title), Some Must Watch (working title)
Release Date: February 7th, 1946 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Robert Siodmak
Written by: Mel Dinelli
Based on: Some Must Watch by Ethel Lina White
Music by: Roy Webb
Cast: Dorothy McGuire, George Brent, Ethel Barrymore, Elsa Lanchester

Vanguard Films, RKO Radio Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“The only thing that keeps me from cracking you in the jaw is the almost certain possibility that it would break your neck.” – Dr. Parry

The Spiral Staircase isn’t specifically categorized as horror. It is categorized as a thriller but it is definitely horror in its subject matter and in its ability to build suspense and give you a real sense of terror. Plus, the opening moments of a woman dressing, as the camera closes in on an eye watching her from a hidden position is chilling and nightmare inducing by 1940s standards.

The story follows a mute girl (Dorothy McGuire) who is targeted by a serial killer that picks off young women with disabilities. She lives in a mansion, taking care of a wealthy bedridden woman (Ethel Barrymore). The woman, as well as the girl’s doctor, urge her to leave the house. The doctor knows the cause of the girl’s muteness and wants to cure her.

The film really has similar notes to a slasher or giallo movie without the violence. It also predates giallo by several decades.

The film is dark and moody but it is just as beautiful as it is haunting. It has great cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca, who did amazing work in the horror/noir hybrids Cat People, The Curse of the Cat PeopleThe Seventh VictimBedlam and The Ghost Ship. He also did the beloved noir classic Out of the Past. With the direction of Robert Siodmak, this film was helmed by two artists who were masters of creating atmosphere and visual suspense.

This is a solid psychological thriller and an atmospheric gem. The acting is better than average and the music is also really good, adding to the slow build of dread in this film.

I actually find it surprising that this RKO horror/noir creation was not produced by Val Lewton, who was the mastermind behind most of these pictures for the studio. It was produced by Dore Schary, who would eventually go on to be the head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Universal Monsters, Part II – The Dracula Series (1931-1945)

I recently reviewed the classic Frankenstein film series by Universal and am continuing on in my quest to cover all their old school horror franchises. This round, I am reviewing the Dracula series.

Dracula (1931):

Release Date: February 12th, 1931 (New York Premiere)
Directed by: Tod Browning, Karl Freund (uncredited)
Written by: Garrett Fort
Based on: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Cast: Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan

Universal Pictures, 85 Minutes 

dracula1931Review:

Dracula was released the same year as Frankenstein and both of these films started what became the Universal Monsters franchise, which also encompassed a film series for The Mummy, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man and The Creature From the Black Lagoon. By the end of the franchise’s run, these monsters started crossing over into each other’s films. In the beginning however, they were focused on one monster and on creating a terrifying piece of film art. Dracula in many ways is a masterpiece.

Starring the iconic and legendary Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula, the first film in the series was eerie, chilling and an incredibly fantastic adaptation for the resources of the time. It was directed by Tod Browning and Karl Freud (who was uncredited). Browning was also known for directing the infamous film Freaks, a year later. Regardless of which director was responsible for what, the end result was a film that still holds a place in the upper echelon of great horror films. Historically, it is still one of the top five Dracula films ever made.

This movie made Bela Lugosi a household name. He is still the most recognized version of Dracula in human history. In fact, just about every Dracula since has tried to emulate what Lugosi did in this film. He made the role his and this is one of the most iconic performances in cinema history.

Apart from the mesmerizing performance of Bela Lugosi, I have to point to Dwight Frye. Frye gave us the best version of Renfield that has ever appeared on film, even to this day – 83 years later.

Additionally, Dracula is gothic horror perfection, visually speaking. There are very few films that have been able to emulate the ambiance of this picture. Although, hundreds have tried.

If you are ever going to give a course on the history of horror movies, this, along with Universal’s Frankenstein, must be showcased.

Rating: 10/10

Dracula – The Spanish Version (1931):

Release Date: March 11th, 1931 (Havana Premiere)
Directed by: George Melford
Written by: Baltasar Fernández Cué, Hamilton Deane, John L. Balderston
Based on: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Cast: Carlos Villarías, Lupita Tovar, Barry Norton, Pablo Álvarez Rubio, Eduardo Arozamena

Universal Pictures, 104 Minutes 

draculaspanishReview:

The Spanish language version of Dracula is pretty unique. It was filmed alongside the Bela Lugosi film using the same sets. The English version filmed during the day and the Spanish version filmed at night. Both movies had two entirely different casts and the Spanish cast and crew had the benefit of watching the English version being made, which gave them an edge when they went on to film the same scenes. The Spanish cast and crew wanted to make the superior version and according to many historians and critics, they did.

Conde Dracula was played by the very talented Carlos Villarías, who may not have been as iconic as Bela Lugosi in the role but wasn’t too far behind him either. Villarías was legitimately scary and acted with his facial expressions much more than Lugosi.

A notable difference with this film is that the girls were able to show a bit more skin. The dresses were different even though the wardrobe for the male stars was generally the same.

Also, some of the scenes played out longer, giving the film a slower pace. Actually, the film is about a half hour longer than the English version.

While I prefer the English version, the Spanish film is a solid piece of work and worth a watch by classic horror aficionados.

Rating: 10/10

Dracula’s Daughter (1936):

Release Date: May 11th, 1936
Directed by: Lambert Hillyer
Written by: Garrett Fort
Based on: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Music by:
 Heinz Roemheld
Cast: Otto Kruger, Gloria Holden, Marguerite Churchill

Universal Pictures, 71 Minutes 

draculas_daughterReview:

Dracula’s Daughter was the first sequel to the Bela Lugosi classic. Unfortunately, Lugosi would never reprise the role of Dracula (for fear of being typecast) but Universal wanted to capitalize on the character after the success of Bride of Frankenstein.

This film follows a completely new character, Countess Marya Zaleska played by Gloria Holden. Zaleska is the daughter of Dracula and she shows up after her father’s death to properly dispose of his corpse in an effort to free herself from vampiric urges. One thing leads to another and eventually, the urges take over.

Holden’s performance as Zaleska was pretty enthralling and the premise was interesting enough but I feel like this film was a pretty weak sequel, especially after how well Bride of Frankenstein followed Frankenstein.

This film wasn’t as huge of a hit as Dracula but it did go on to spawn more sequels in the franchise.

Rating: 7/10

Son of Dracula (1943):

Release Date: November 5th, 1943
Directed by: Robert Siodmak
Written by: Curtis Siodmak, Eric Taylor
Based on: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Music by:
 Hans J. Salter
Cast: Lon Chaney Jr., Robert Paige, Louise Allbritton, Evelyn Ankers

Universal Pictures, 80 Minutes 

son-of-draculaReview:

How do you get things rolling again after a seven year hiatus in the Dracula series? Well, you hire Lon Chaney Jr. to play the son of Dracula. In this film, Dracula’s offspring uses the name Count Alucard (Dracula spelled in reverse). While that has been done in other Dracula tales, I believe that this was where it originated.

This chapter is also unique in that it takes place in and around New Orleans, which is a place that would become synonymous with vampire-lore after Anne Rice penned Interview With A Vampire decades later.

I prefer this film to the previous one and it is the best of the Dracula sequels. Chaney does a great job as the antagonist and even if he is villainous, he feels like a tragic character in the same fashion that he does when he plays the Wolf Man.

Rating: 8/10

House of Dracula (1945):

Release Date: December 7th, 1945
Directed by: Erle C. Kenton
Written by: Edward T. Lowe Jr., Dwight V. Babcock, George Bricker
Based on: Dracula by Bram Stoker, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Music by: William Lava (uncredited)
Cast: Lon Chaney Jr., Martha O’Driscoll, John Carradine, Lionel Atwill, Glenn Strange

Universal Pictures, 67 Minutes 

house-of-draculaReview:

This is the film where all of the classic monsters ended their run. There was one other film that featured them Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein but that was more of a parody than anything.

Like House of Frankenstein, the year before it, this film featured Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man. It also had a mad scientist and a hunchback character – this time a female. I’m not quite sure why they never threw the Mummy or the Invisible Man into these crossover pictures and the Gillman from The Creature From the Black Lagoon is excluded because his first film actually came out nine years later.

This film features John Carradine returning as Dracula, Lon Chaney Jr. returning as the Wolf Man and Glenn Strange returning as Frankenstein’s monster. This film would’ve benefited from the inclusion of Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Claude Rains and Basil Rathbone but that much star power may have caused the Earth’s magnetic poles to reverse.

This film is entertaining and it is a proper goodbye to these beloved characters. While I have no problem with Carradine as Dracula and Strange as Frankenstein’s monster, it would have been nice to see these characters go out with the original actors back in these parts. The amazing believably that Lon Chaney Jr. can bring to any role actually propelled this film forward and once again showed how talented he was as he stole the scene every time he walked on screen.

Rating: 7/10

More Universal Monsters reviews are coming as soon as I rewatch them. Next up will be the Mummy series.