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Click above to purchase "Dracula's Daughter/Son Of Dracula"
Dracula's Daughter/Son Of Dracula
review by Anthony D.
Starring Gloria Holden, Edward van Sloan, Lon
Running Times: 71 minutes, 82 minutes
Written by Garrett Ford; Eric Taylor
Directed by Lambert Hillyer; Robert Siodmak
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
,(3/5 - Dracula's Daughter, 3.5/5 - Son Of
Dracula. NOT included in final score)
(3.5/5 - both)
(3/5 - both)
(3.5/5, NOT an average)