A peaceful, rainy day. G. came over in the evening and we watched b&w monster movies together.
One of them was House of Dracula (1945):
"Shave off your mustache! Shave off your stupid little mustache, Lawrence Talbot, it's making it impossible for me to take you seriously as a tragic monster. Shave it--he's not listening to me."
Dr. Edelmann the scientist (not mad at first, just apt to think outside the box) is the grandpa I always wanted. Kind-natured, intelligent, practical, afraid of nothing, and even a little corny (he calls young men "m'boy" and young women "m'dear" and leads people about his study with one arm linked through theirs).
Yaaay, Nina! At last we have equal representation for cute, friendly, female hunchbacked lab assistants. Is "Nina" a nickname for Igorina?
You can tell that the Wolf Man will have a happy ending in this movie, because he transformed into a werewolf in front of a roomful of credible witnesses. All the horror in the last three Wolf Man movies happened because no one who could stop Larry Talbot from killing again would ever believe there was such a thing as a werewolf.
"Aaaa! Evil blood spirochetes! Eeeevil!"
Honest to God, Dracula has evil microscopic wiggly things in his blood. Dr. Edelmann looks at a microscope slide of Dracula's blood cells, and each cell has a thing like a malevolent liver fluke curled around it.
Aaand it's the middle of the night and Dr. Edelmann is about to descend into a flooded tidal cave, armed only with a cork lifejacket and a flashlight, to capture a werewolf and bring him back alive. Not only that, but he succeeds. This is why Dr. Edelmann is my hero. Oo! And there's a bonus secret passage and Frankenstein's Monster--who is still holding a biology skeleton, otherwise known as the remains of Dr. Niemann, the much less lovable mad scientist from the previous film. Edelmann has even heard of him. I wouldn't have thought the scriptwriters gave that much of a damn about continuity.
[As Dr. Edelmann puts the Monster on a slab and plays with his new toy:]
"Wait. He's a surgeon. Where did he get these Strickfaden gadgets and switchboards and rabbit-ear generators? Like, we were in this lab on the previous day and he didn't have any gizmos."
"Well, you know. He was keeping them in a closet against the day he'd need them."
"To zap a corpse on the slab?"
"He must have picked them all up after Dr. Niemann died."
"He bought them at the yard sale."
Dr. Edelmann tries to cure Count Dracula of vampirism with blood transfusions, because he is a man of science and honestly thinks he can turn a fiend back into a human being. Count Dracula macks on one of the nurses, hypnotizes the other, and reverses the transfusion to inject Edelmann with 10 cc's of gross, awful, tainted, vampiric scum-blood, because he is a douchebag. There's a syphilitic sense of violation about it all. The AIDS generation would know what to make of infection via hypodermic/transfusion, but even coming from 1945 it's worrying. And yet this is safe sex for vampires, Hays Code style. Dracula is not allowed to bite a grown man on the neck onstage, because that would be erotic, and gracious to goodness and mercy me. (In fact, didn't Tod Browning or somebody decree that Dracula should only "go after women"? I certainly remember being a young girl and watching Bela Lugosi bite Dwight Frye; vague and stylized as it was, it filled me with some deeply confusing emotions that I understood later upon my discovery of slash.)
I have certain strings that are very easy to pull. One of them is yanked hard whenever I see a story where a kind, trustworthy character becomes evil and turns on you. Dr. Edelmann does not become a vampire. He becomes a sort of unofficial Jekyll and Hyde analogue. His reflection in a mirror gets sunken-eyed and pallid and gross and then disappears. He has visions of himself on an EVIL RAMPAGE, resurrecting the Monster ("Go forth, my minion! Attack! Slay! Dismember! Ah ha ha ha haaa!" he is apparently shouting in a silent sequence) and either strangling Nina or making a creepy pass at her, it's hard to tell which. Then he wakes, pale and shaky and sickened by his own thoughts. I know I laugh at these movies as much as I laugh with them, but here it's a little hard to maintain ironic detachment. Onslow Stevens is too good a performer.
Hey! It's Lawrence Talbot, Boy Detective! Good for you, kid, you're the survivor, I mean hero.
[Nina gets strangled and flung down a long flight of stairs by Evil Doctor, theoretically killing her.] "She's not dead! She landed in the mud pit, with the Monster and Niemann's skeleton. The next film will be House Of The Cute Hunchbacked Assistant, pitting the three of them against Steinmuller the creepy neighbor and his torch-wielding mob. What? I can dream, can't I?"
And the film ends with a giant flaming kablooey, because apparently Edelmann stored his acids next to his bases. THE END, except for Abbott and Costello and sundry merchandising.