1 Hr., 11 Mins.
Dracula's Daughter / Son of Dracula May 14, 2019
Lon Chaney, Jr.
1 Hr., 20 Mins.
attributes. The film would make for the first time a Dracula would set foot on American soil, and the first time we’d see someone in the family turn into a bat, on screen.
Son of Dracula, which stars Lon Chaney, Jr. as the titular anti-hero (referred to, by all, as Count Alucard, which is patently “Dracula” spelled backward), is less brainy and stylish than its forebear. But it is, like many a classic-era Universal horror movie, an amusing exercise in monster-centric horror, opportune for a back-to-back-to-back viewing along with its two predecessors. In the movie, Alucard has been invited to the United States by a wealthy, brunette 20-something named Katherine (Louise Allbritton), whom he’s been courting through mail. Upon his arrival, Katherine’s father dies, leaving her and her sister, Claire (Evelyn Ankers), with not only much inheritance money but also his shadowy estate, Dark Oaks.
What Alucard doesn’t know is that Katherine has, for years now, been seeing a local man named Frank (Robert Paige). After Katherine and Alucard abruptly get married, Frank confronts the couple. He’s led to shoot Alucard — who appears impervious to the bullets that slip out of his gun — but in the violent exchange does Katherine appear to get hit herself.
The general premise of Son of Dracula is that Alucard, in coming to America, has plans to turn Katherine into a vampire, which, in turn, could lead to further mayhem. Compelling about the film, though, is not necessarily Chaney — whose bland performance lacks the quiet menace of filmic sibling Holden’s and even phony father Lugosi's — but rather the chaos brought on by the title character, and the measures taken to bring his ambitions to a halt.
The movie’s procedural-like style makes it more purely efficient than much else. But Dracula ephemera that at least competently recapitulates the majority of the things that make the general mythology fun is good enough. Taking into account the narratives surrounding all the members of the sinister clan, I’ve found, ultimately, that it’s Marya whom I’ve taken to the most: When your greatest aspirations in your years of undead living are a little more complicated than sucking the life force out of unwitting civilian after unwitting civilian and unabashedly keeping your family’s legacy intact, you become a lot more engaging a character.
Dracula's Daughter: A-
Son of Dracula: B
he Dracula series would continue following the release of Dracula’s Daughter. But the process of story-expansion would be slow to start: nearly a decade would pass until the world would see that movie’s successor. The conceit of us following the adventures of one of Dracula’s children would remain — this time, we’d be focused not on the count’s daughter but on his son — but different would be a handful of pivotal
out just how long I can keep my eyes bugged for laughs — is so inarguably über-creepy that even the exaggeration of everything else cannot undermine it.
In Dracula’s Daughter, a 1936 sequel about one of the count’s kids, the actress playing the title character, Gloria Holden, maintains the no-blinking rule for the most part. But much else about her performance differs, and wonderfully so. Whereas the devil-eyed Hungarian chewed scenery (though fortunately not too aggressively) just as much as he upheld the enigmas surrounding his character, the mystery and mystique surrounding the Dracula family name is better bolstered by Holden. Her portrayal is a tour-de-force in ghoulish restraint, her performance all wispily delivered lines, stoic body movement, off-center eye contact, unsettling self-assurance. She’s a cryptic character, but she's cryptic in such a way that hypnotically expounds on intrigue rather than obviously so, like in Lugosi's case.
Holden was putatively not keen on taking the role. Before being officially cast, she both thought of horror films as inferior and was nervous that she would be subject to typecasting in the way Lugosi was in the intervening five years. Yet I think it’s this reluctance that most benefits the performance: There’s a passivity here that contributes to the spooky equanimity Holden so exquisitely exhibits.
The movie takes place just after the events seen in the 1931 movie. Although Count Dracula is dead — destroyed, rather — it’s his specter that helps the film get going, as if he actually were among the living players. After some preliminary scenes involving Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan), the kooky doctor responsible for the eponymous vampire’s destruction, the daughter of the title, Marya (Holden), descends on a Whidbey jail, where her father’s body is being kept, and steals the “corpse” for herself. She intends to make her father’s annihilation more official by burning his body.
Intriguing about Marya is that she is not exactly an out-and-out supervillain — at least not at first. Much of the film involves her suffering as a result of her father’s influence — which she can still feel, even though he’s met his demise — and attempting to essentially emancipate herself from the blood-thirsty desires that come with being both a vampire and part of the Dracula clan. Ample time is dedicated to her attempts to align herself with a doctor, a high-society type named Garth (Otto Kruger), to help her put an end to or at least control her vampirism (though, of course, to little avail).
Dracula’s Daughter reads, and not that subtly, either, as an allegory for homosexuality, too. The movie more literally evinces that Marya is trying to simply run away from the family name and her condition. But the subtler implications say something else. Though she tries to see her put-an-end-to-it-all ambition through many times via various means, she cannot deny herself of who she is and what she desires — something made especially clear in a key scene during which she lures a young woman (Nan Grey) to her temporary place of living. The circumstances are seemingly benevolent at the start, but then, in a moment of weakness, Marya attacks her.
Marya’s ultimate fate is made further horrific if we keep looking at the story through an allegorical lens. She’s finally punished for being a vampire, in the literal sense. But, allegorically, she is reprimanded for her homosexuality, attesting to still-reverberating social horrors. The film’s sympathetic rendering of Marya, and Holden’s rich way of bringing her to life (or, I suppose, reanimation), fortunately boosts an idea that we are meant to commiserate with Marya instead of outrightly fear or condemn her. The movie, better than horror sequels aplenty, is alive with subversion — and is better for it.
n the Dracula movie of 1931, it was difficult to catch leading actor Béla Lugosi blink. The rest of his performance, which is generally the one most people mimic when trying to do their best vampire imitation, is so lined in camp that, as much as I like his work, it remains difficult to take him completely seriously as a villain. He’s too much fun. Yet the no-blinking thing — so trippy that I often, when thinking about Lugosi's portrayal, test