Tag Archives: Skelton Knaggs

House of Dracula (1945, Erle C. Kenton)

House of Dracula is immediately disappointing. The film opens on man of science Onslow Stevens as Dracula (played by a boring John Carradine) comes visiting, hoping for some cure to vampirism. Will Carradine try to seduce Martha O’Driscoll’s fetching nurse? Will something go wrong with Stevens’s cure for Carradine? Unfortunately, yes to both. Director Kenton and screenwriter Edmund T. Lowe Jr. don’t so much have foreshadowing in Dracula as much as they immediately follow tangents.

The film feels relatively tame; I wonder if it was meant for a more child-aged audience than usual. George Robinson’s photography is boring, though somewhat competent–the shadows don’t tell stories or hide monsters, they’re just contrasted well against the lights. There’s no nuance to Dracula. Kenton’s particularly disappointing.

Lon Chaney Jr. escapes mostly unscathed. He has a lousy part but he does try. Same goes for the rest of the cast, with the exception of Carradine. Once Stevens starts to feel the effects of the vampirism, he plays an excellent Mr. Hyde. But Lowe’s script is still lame. Kenton’s direction is still disinterested.

Some of the problem is how uncomfortable the film gets with Jane Adams’s nurse. She’s the hunchbacked assistant this picture, only Lowe doesn’t give her anything to do. Kenton gives her a little more–mostly because O’Driscoll’s just around for the nurse’s outfit’s skirts–but not enough. The film’s in desperate need of a protagonist. It’s not Stevens, it’s not Chaney, it’s not Adams.

In Dracula’s smallest significant role–inciting, wrong villager–Skelton Knaggs does some good work. It’s a shame there’s not a good film here for him to be doing that work in.

House of Dracula barely runs sixty-five minutes. It’s boring from the first three minutes. Nothing so short, so full of monsters and effects and Universal contract players should ever be boring.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Erle C. Kenton; written by Edmund T. Lowe Jr.; director of photography, George Robinson; edited by Russell F. Schoengarth; produced by Paul Malvern; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Onslow Stevens (Dr. Franz Edlemann), John Carradine (Count Dracula), Lon Chaney Jr. (Lawrence Talbot), Martha O’Driscoll (Miliza Morelle), Jane Adams (Nina), Lionel Atwill (Police Inspector Holtz), Ludwig Stössel (Siegfried), Skelton Knaggs (Steinmuhl) and Glenn Strange (The Frankenstein Monster).


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The Ghost Ship (1943, Mark Robson)

Although the title suggests otherwise, The Ghost Ship is not a supernatural thriller. It is, however, a very effective suspense picture.

Russell Wade (in a sturdy lead performance) is a new officer. On his first ship out, he begins to suspect the captain–Richard Dix, who steadily gets creepier–is a little off his rocker. Of course, almost everything about the ship is somewhat strange, leaving Wade in a bit of a pickle.

The film moves along at a brisk pace–director Robson keeps the scenes short, which makes it feel more substantial than its seventy minutes. Only towards the end does Robson compress too much, likely due to the low budget.

Ghost Ship gets better as it moves along, mostly because the first third is so narratively disjointed. Wade’s undoubtedly the protagonist, but a mute sailor (Skelton Knaggs) narrates the events. The eerie narration is for tone, but Ghost Ship doesn’t need it. The dark ship–Nicholas Musuraca lights the picture beautifully–is never safe, even during the day scenes.

Donald Henderson Clarke’s screenplay recovers in the second act (only to falter for the finish). But Ghost Ship is always unnerving, thanks to Robson’s sure direction and the acting.

There are some strong supporting turns from Dewey Robinson, Edmund Glover and Edith Barrett. Some of the crew members are a little weak, but they’re passable.

John Lockert’s editing is poor. Nice score from Roy Webb.

Ghost Ship has its problems–particularly that finish–but it’s an good, uncanny trip.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Mark Robson; screenplay by Donald Henderson Clarke, based on a story by Leo Mittler; director of photography, Nicholas Musuraca; edited by John Lockert; music by Roy Webb; produced by Val Lewton; released by RKO Radio Pictures.

Starring Russell Wade (3rd Officer Tom Merriam), Richard Dix (Capt. Will Stone), Edmund Glover (Sparks, the Radioman), Dewey Robinson (Boats), Ben Bard (First Officer Bowns), Skelton Knaggs (Finn, the Mute) and Edith Barrett (Ellen Roberts).


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