by William Pattison, aka Eric Morse
For Horror Bob's Blog
For my review this time I got a retro horror film by Eben Mcgarr, House of the Wolfman.
Five strangers; athlete Reed Chapel and his twin sister aspiring scientist Mary Chapel along with expert antique authenticator Conrad Sullivan, great white hunter Archibald Whitlock, and woman of mystery Elmira Cray; are invited to the creepy castle of Doctor Bela Reinhardt (played by Lon Chaney’s grandson Ron Chaney) under the pretense that one of them would be made Reinhardt’s heir and inherit the castle along with all his scientific research. The all find out the share a common link, their mothers had been attacked, ravaged, disfigured, and left pregnant. Also, none of them knew who their real fathers are. Things get creepy as Whitlock along with his servants discover odd animal tracks outside the castle. They find they are being observed by some who is looking through holes in the eyes of the portraits in their rooms. Also, Elmira discovers an old gypsy lady in the tower room who claims to be Reinhardt’s mother and says that Reinhardt has secrets including the fact that his real name is Frankenstein. Soon Reinhardt reveals the horrifying true reason for bringing them together.
I found this a very amusing attempt at creating the final installment of Universal studio’s unfinished trilogy. The storyline is very authentic. The dialogue is nearly spot on, but feels a bit off. The acting could have been better. Though the actors tried to duplicate the acting style of the time they ended up being a bit over the top and almost comical. Though filmed in black and white the film has no graininess to it, which helps spoil the feel that this could have been made in the 40s. Also, the sound is too clean as well, it sounds way too modern. The filmmaker would have done well to add sound crackles, grain, and scratches to artificially age the film. Finally, the makeup work, though trying to pay homage to the classic Universal films, looks too modern and overly detailed. Having the monsters wear contact lenses took away from the 30s and 40s feel of the makeup. The Frankenstein’s monster makeup looked practically like the one used in the modern Universal Monster film, Van Helsing. Also, the Wolfman makeup could have been a rejected version made for the remake of The Wolfman rather than being anywhere near the classic makeup worn by Lon Chaney Jr. Also, Dracula’s three female vampire companions at the end of the film looked way too modern and detailed, which was actually annoying to me. The only monster that comes off spot on is Count Dracula, who is actually played masterfully by Michael R.Thomas, though painfully short in duration.
All in all House of the Wolfman is a good try. If Eden Mcgarr and crew had simply tried to create a Universal style gothic film without trying to put their own spin on it, this film could have been the masterpiece it should have been. Remember, people, less is more. If you are a fan of the classics you won’t cringe, but after watching this film you will be tempted to pull out your DVD collection of the classic Universal monster films and see the good stuff.