Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolfman in one movie? This isn’t the first time horror icons from Universal’s monster menagerie have teamed up on screen. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945) all featured monster mash-ups not to mention homages in the 70s and 80s like The Monster Squad TV series and the unrelated 1987 movie of the same name. Here the idea gets the big budget treatment from Stephen Sommers (director of 1999’s The Mummy).
This isn’t old Abraham Van Helsing from Bram Stoker’s novel, but Gabriel Van Helsing (any family connection is unexplained) a secret agent for an underground society called the Knights of the Holy Order based in the Vatican. Sent to Transylvania, Van Helsing’s mission is to kill Dracula who is waging war on the Valerious family who, due to a centuries-old curse, cannot enter heaven until Drac is dead. The vampire count and his three brides are hatching a scheme to bring life to their children by using the recently bitten Velkan Valerious (now a werewolf) as a power source for the equipment Dracula appropriated from Victor Frankenstein. Why a werewolf is needed for this is anyone’s guess. Teaming up with Anna Valerious (Velkan’s sister), Van Helsing finds Frankenstein’s monster (also wanted by Dracula after his scheme with the werewolf fails) and tries to take him to Rome so he cannot be used in the count’s dastardly plans.
If all of this seems hard to follow, you’re not alone. The film’s main failing is a near incomprehensible plot. I don’t set out to review films on this blog but I can’t help but share my feelings of a wasted opportunity here. It’s not the most solid example of Steampunk put on screen but it is perhaps one of the more well-known entries. There’s plenty of cool gadgets such as Van Helsing’s semi-automatic crossbow, grappling hooks and other gear. But the main ‘steampunky’ thing is the film’s take on Frankenstein’s monster which is part sewn-together creature and part steam-powered automaton.