In the tradition of "House of the Wolf Man" and "Frankenstein vs the Creature from Blood Cove" comes a new, black-and-white, indie opus, which masterfully captures the crossover joys of "House of Frankenstein" and "House of Dracula"..."Tales of Dracula"!!!
With a story conceived by director Joe DeMuro, Jessica DeMuro and Thomas Edward Rice (with official screenplay by Dwight Kemper and Mickey Ray), "Tales" is an intended first chapter in what should become on ongoing saga. It's also a veritable treat for horror fans, sprinkled with Universal and Hammer components in the way it presents character names and settings.
The story is introduced by Von (not Van) Helsing, played with cool sophistication by Mickey Ray. The prelude is really a "Tales of Frankenstein" salute, and from there the film adapts its "House of Frank" structure, its various parts merging until an abrupt cliffhanger leaves us craving more.
Before Von Helsing arrives in Romania, we're treated to a Larry Talbot character named Creighton Reed (wolf buffs will get it), portrayed with heartfelt delight by Tom Delillo, who casts a resemblance to Lon Chaney Jr. (with maybe a dash of Raymond Burr, as well). Reed meets a kindly man named Daniel (Dave Merrell), whose daughter, Ilona (Greta Vokova) has just departed on a woodland sojourn to the local inn. Reed is to follow her trail, with the intent of eventually locating the Chateau Frankenstein, where he hopes its resident doctor will cure him of lycanthropy: a plot device lifted from "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man".
Dr. Victoria Frankenstein (Courtney Bennett) isn't very interested in helping, however. In her Strickfaden-sparked lab, she injects her grandfather's lumbering Monster (Joe DeMuro) with vampire blood to make him permanently invincible. (For those in the know, this was an abandoned plot device for Al Adamson's "Frank vs Drac".) At any rate, she gains the chance to fulfill her experiment when Ilona is slain during her trek. However, it's not the werewolf who nails her, but rather Dracula, played by Wayne W. Johnson, of "Star Trek New Voyages" fame, who wants to transform her into his blood-sucking bride.
It must be noted that Johnson is a most formidable Count, with long hair and mesmerizing eyes. He's also an aristocratic snob and doesn't take well to Frankenstein using Ilona's altered blood to strengthen the Monster. This leads to a confrontation between the ghastly titans, capped by Von Helsing's stalwart appearance, while furry Reed yet roams in the backdrop.
Colorful supporting characters help round out the action: Dwight Kemper as the comedic innkeeper; Cassandra Hayes as his feisty daughter; and Stanley Babola and Anthony Yajko as intense priests.
Also, in keeping with the Universal sequel tradition, "Tales" is both contemporary yet Old World, with no distinct time line identified. It also offers atmospheric cinematography by Mike Rudolph and to-die-for make-up by veteran Ron Chamberlain, who injects subtle alterations to the classic designs of Jack Pierce. (Even the big, CGI bat is fascinating to behold.)
Unlike "House of the Wolf Man", which pays prime homage to PRC and Monogram films, and "Frank vs Creature", which fits more into the "Frank Meets Space Monster" and "Horror of Party Beach" mode, "Tales" is a non-stop monster-rally done precisely in Universal's style, with elements of "Assignment: Terror", "Drac, Prisoner of Frank", "Lady Frankenstein", "Jesse James Meets Frank's Daughter"... stirred in to heighten the mood.
My only objection is that the film doesn't actually conclude in a satisfying way, which I suppose is fine as long as we get a sequel...and this one damn well deserves one.
Let's keep our fingers crossed that the next chapter premieres soon. If folks are willing to purchase the DVD (now available from Alpha Home Video at oldies.com), I bet there's more than a good chance such will occur.