House of Dracula Blu-ray Review

House of Science

The send-off for Universal’s Dracula, Wolf Man, and Frankenstein’s monster, House of Dracula brings the trio together for the last time – barring appearances alongside Abbott and Costello. As the climax for each series, it’s appropriate the script from Edward T. Lowe, his first and last offering for the monsters franchise, brings in a unique perspective.

House of Dracula centers around the conflict evident in the prior Frankenstein films, that of science and playing god. With a final surge into the lore though, those themes play with a dramatic take. Christian symbolism isn’t hidden. Dracula shies away from the cross as is the norm, yet pursues a woman to quote, “Forsake the cross,” in a lurid sexual draw. Letting desire win as she tosses her crucifix to the ground is a poignant moment.

That pairs with a reinvigorated lore, attempting to scientifically explain the mysticism of vampires and werewolves. It’s ridiculous with a mixture of antibodies and cranial pressure respectively, yet allows House of Dracula freedom in what the story can draw from. Forever depressed Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) doubts anything can cure his affliction. His last hope is a doctor (Onslow Stevens) who puts his practice entirely in science, not mysticism.

There’s notable, clever subtext to House of Dracula

Onslow Stevens plays arguably the most interesting character of the late sequels, a man who professes belief in god until his trust in science turns him toward evil. By trying to help Dracula through modern medicine, Stevens turns against his religion, succumbing to science in a complete spin on Frankenstein’s overarching metaphor. That alone sets House of Dracula above the rudimentary chills of House of Frankenstein.

While the third act is hung up on expectations, from a late revival of Frankenstein’s monster, riotous villagers, and a crumbling castle, the preceding attraction is an unusually strong effort. There’s onus to each trope. Villagers attack because one of their own was murdered on their streets. The monster returns because of Stevens’ science affliction. It’s only fair to perish amid the unholy research.

The religious conservatism of House of Dracula speaks from a less progressive time; the idea of woman finding a man sexually attractive is a sign of deviance. Certainly, the pro-Christianity angle to a B-tier monster movie stands out as an oddity. There’s notable, clever subtext to House of Dracula, embedded into a mash-up of lore that feels connected to both the totality of each series and the themes making these films the classics they are.

Video

With the last true horror film involving these characters, Universal gives it proper due on Blu-ray. Offering a crisp, naturally clean scan at high resolution, detail pours from the frame. Textural qualities on clothes and skin belie House of Dracula’s age.

Dense shadows give this monster clash proper black levels, returning the gothic horror style. That’s offset with bright contrast where possible, giving this film depth along with the well defined gray scale.

As with the rest of the Blu-rays in this collection, Universal took fantastic care of their library. With the lone exception of some first act fraying that passes in seconds, House of Dracula doesn’t suffer any print damage. It’s pure.

Audio

Powered by some stock music cues (and a few new ones from uncredited composer William Lava), age likewise takes little from the audio. Strong low-end clarity adds needed drama to kill scenes. Vibrant highs do the same to fast-paced action scenes.

Dialog doesn’t suffer from degradation. Each line is delivered with consistency from a well mastered DTS_HD track.

Extras

Just a trailer sadly. House of Dracula shares a disc with two other films, so space was a likely issue.

House of Dracula
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  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

An undervalued closure on three different Universal series, House of Dracula finds a way to uniquely present the lore and themes.

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