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Click above to purchase "Dracula's Daughter/Son Of Dracula" at amazon.com

 

Dracula's Daughter/Son Of Dracula

review by Anthony D.

Starring Gloria Holden, Edward van Sloan, Lon Chaney

Running Times: 71 minutes, 82 minutes

Written by Garrett Ford; Eric Taylor

Directed by Lambert Hillyer; Robert Siodmak

Studio: Universal

Retail Price: $29.95

Features: Theatrical Trailers, Production Notes, Cast and Filmmakers, Recomendations DVD-ROM: DVD Newsletter

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Son Of Dracula only), French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles (Dracula's Daughter only), English Closed Captioning, Chapter Search

Relatively speaking, the two films on Universal's Double Feature disc of "Dracula's Daughter" and "Son of Dracula," have more in common thematically, than in progeny. Both films feature a strong female character, whose emotions regarding being a vampire serve as the catalyst for the action of each film. Diametrically opposite ends of the spectrum are explored, as one protagonist wishes to be a vampire; while the other wishes to be cured of her vampirism. Since their releases in 1926 and 1943, respectively, one has acquired quite a cult following, while the other remains (largely due to casting) a curiousity.

"Dracula's Daughter" finds a black-clad woman of mystery stealing the remains of the freshly spiked Dracula. With her oversized, creepy, very Russian cohort, she conducts a crematory ritual in the woods, sending the soul of the late Count back to the "dark gods." Thus this atmospheric, erotic foray into vampire lore takes off, and the next hour moves every bit as quickly.

Gloria Holden stars as Countess Marya Zaleska - - the title's daughter, though never implicitly stated whether by natural or unnatural causes - - a cultured, piano-playing, stunningly beautiful woman who is discontent in her vampiric state. Holden has to be one of the most beautiful femme fatales ever to grace the screen; she's dark, she's has a stare to die for and her thirst includes victims of both genders. (Somewhat surprising is the sexually frankness of "Dracula's Daughter," considering the year in which it was produced). In a scene dripping with eroticism, a young streetwalker has agreed to pose for Marya's painting. Vulnerably, the unfortunate sheds her chemise, and clad only in a skirt and camisole, becomes Marya's prey. Nan Grey is lovely, and captures the heart and soul of her character in a few short minutes. Marya seeks the cure for her "appetite" in the form of a charming psychologist (the long-in-the-tooth Otto Kruger) who already has his hands full preparing a sanity case in favor of Dr. Van Helsing (remember him? He's still played by "Dracula's" own Edward Van Sloan). The good doctor Grath's other hand is tied up, as her fiance, with his playful secretary (Marguerite Churchill in ditzy mode). Marya also has a creepy cohort, Sandor (played with panache by Irving Panchel) who wears as much, if not more, make-up than the Countess! But there's much more beneath the eyeliner, as Sandor yearns for an eternal life by the side of his Countess.

Though it may be heresy to say it out loud, I must. "Dracula's Daughter," the 1936 sequel to Tod Browning's "Dracula," is a far, far better film. While "Dracula" had Bela Lugosi re-creating his immortal stage role for posterity, that film slowly creaks along with a restraint bordering on reverence; whereas this distaff vampire tale virtually speeds through its tale.

"Dracula's Daughter" actually begins at the exact moment that "Dracula" left off, with the intrepid Doctor Van Helsing's destruction of Count Dracula; but like most of the Universal fodder of the era, there's no time for a true denouement, but a quick kidnaping, and a further flight into the hills of Transylvania where Castle Dracula still towers over the Borgo Pass, provides a suspenseful conclusion.

"Son of Dracula" provides veteran actor Lon Chaney (Junior) the opportunity to don the Count's cape, but the film really belongs to its female lead: Louise Allbritton. Allbritton portrays a certain Katherine Caldwell, who, in seeking to become a vampire, has sent for the elusive Count Alucard; as a man of the west might send for a mail order bride. "Son of Dracula" feels like a western, as its setting is somewhere in the Tex-Arkana region. The arrival by train of Count Alucard's baggage, but not the Count himself, starts the story, but when Katherine seeks out the crazy Cajun Queen Zimba things really begin to move. Queen Zimba's fortune-telling informs Katherine, "I see you marrying a corpse." Little wonder, with a fortune like that, Katherine elects to kill the poor woman. Well, Alucard arrrives, offs Katherine's father (who goes out in a blaze of glory), and begins his seduction of Katherine. Problem is, Katherine already has a fiance in the form of the stalwart Frank Stanley. Frank finds Katherine and Alucard together following a secretive marriage ceremony, and begins firing his gun. Obviously, Frank is not steeped in vampire lore, and both Katherine and the Count are assumed to be dead.

Both films offer interesting vampire variations, though not as Gothic as Ann Rice's, nor as Victorian as Bram Stoker's. My preference lies with "Dracula's Daughter," as it far more atmospheric and better acted. "Son of Dracula" suffers because of the casting of Lon Chaney in a role which requires him to be charming and ethereal, whereas Chaney has always been an actor with both feet planted firmly on the ground - - he's not suave, smooth or seductive. Gloria Holden is absolutely the opposite of Chaney with her characterization, and a stunning, memorable character it is! Those eyes, those jewels - - not to mention the latest in 1930's Goth haute couture! Fortunately for us, both films are presented together on one single platter.

The glorious black and white photography of both films is rather faithfully preserved, with solid blacks, and just the right contrast level. Considering the ages of these progeny, and Universal's recent track record, I would have expected to find many more problems than these prints present. Very little grain is apparent, and though neither film is actually pristine, there are very few spots and flecks associated with age.

Universal has elected to present only a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack on "Dracula's Daughter," while "Son of Dracula" rates an additional Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 track. it's a very tight centered mix with its share of snaps, crackles and pops; but these instances are very minor. The mono mixes offer no real dynamic range, however, this should not be a fault of the disc, but of the original sound recording's limitations.

Like the other featured Double Feature discs from Universal, the supplemental material is scant. Trailers for both films, both a little on the ragged side, but amusing in their own way are the essential bonus. Several pages of text documents devoted to "Production Notes" and "Cast and Filmmakers,"offer up tidy factoids, but no in depth analyses. Universal also includes a page of recommendations, featuring four of their double feature series titles, as well as information as to how to subscribe to the studio's online DVD newsletter.

Unlike the previous, bonus-laden Classic Monster series from Universal, these double feature discs are valuable for the films themselves, and though neither one is a true horror classic, their being featured together on one disc creates the value. With both films run under an hour and a half each, this Double Feature will be fine fare for film-lovers with an appetite for a double helping of vampire lore.

,(3/5 - Dracula's Daughter, 3.5/5 - Son Of Dracula. NOT included in final score)

(3.5/5 - both)

(3/5 - both)

(1/5)

(3.5/5, NOT an average)

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