DRACULA, DRACULA’S DAUGHTER and SON OF DRACULA: A TRIPLE BILL OF BLOODCURDLING UNIVERSAL HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
DRACULA. (1931) BASED ON THE 1897 BOOK BY BRAM STOKER AND THE 1924 PLAY BY HAMILTON DEANE AND JOHN L. BALDERSTON.
DIRECTED BY TOD BROWNING. PRODUCED BY TOD BROWNING AND CARL LAEMMLE JR.
STARRING BELA LUGOSI, DWIGHT FRYE, EDWARD VAN SLOAN AND HELEN CHANDLER.
DRACULA’S DAUGHTER. (1936) BASED ON THE 1897 BOOK BY BRAM STOKER. DIRECTED BY LAMBERT HILLYER.
STARRING GLORIA HOLDEN, OTTO KRUGER, MARGUERITE CHURCHILL, NAN GREY, HEDDA HOPPER AND EDWARD VAN SLOAN.
SON OF DRACULA. (1943) BASED ON THE 1897 BOOK BY BRAM STOKER. DIRECTED BY ROBERT SIODMAK. SCREENPLAY BASED ON AN ORIGINAL STORY BY CURT SIODMAK.
STARRING LON CHANEY JR., EVELYN ANKERS, ROBERT PAIGE, LOUISE ALLBRITTON AND ETTA MCDANIEL (SISTER OF ‘MAMMY’ FROM ‘GONE WITH THE WIND.’)
Sometimes I thank all of our lucky stars that these three films were made. Three of the biggest and most popular films in the UNIVERSAL PICTURES horror movies canon of the 1930s and 1940s, they’re all based on characters and situations created by fellow Irishman Bram Stoker in his 1897 gothic novel DRACULA. It’s one of the most filmed books ever written.
Arthur Conan Doyle pulled off a similar coup with his SHERLOCK HOLMES stories, and I suppose J.K. Rowling to a lesser extent with her HARRY POTTER series of books. Other than these three books, surely only the Bible itself (or E.L. James’s FIFTY SHADES OF GREY novels…!) have ever been more popular or more widely read or filmed.
DRACULA (1931) is the role that made handsome Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi famous. It’s a straightforward enough interpretation of Bram Stoker’s story, in which the mysterious and charismatic Count Dracula comes to London, England from his native Transylvania to widen his reign of terror and find new necks to bite and nice new juicy bodies to drain of their blood.
Once there, aided and abetted by his estate-agent-turned-abject-slave Renfield, brilliantly played by Dwight Frye, he sets his sights immediately on the beautiful Lucy Weston and Mina Seward. The only person standing between him and city-wide domination is the intellectual giant and astute expert in the occult, Professor Van Helsing. Which of the two men will turn out to have the stronger will…?
Bela Lugosi was the first actor to portray Count Dracula as a suave, sophisticated and charming nobleman, as opposed to the claw-fingered, white-haired monstrosity of Bram Stoker’s novel. His superb performance brought him worldwide acclaim but he was only to reprise the role once more, and in a spoof movie at that, which seems strange given how utterly masterful he is as the Transylvanian vampire.
DRACULA’S DAUGHTER (1936) is a film of stunning beauty. I actually think it’s as good as the original Bela Lugosi film, or at any rate I love it equally, haha. It’s certainly every bit as foggy, mistily atmospheric and darkly mysterious as the 1931 film, and Gloria Holden is absolutely out of this world as the fabulous Hungarian Countess Marya Zaleska, who in reality is the titular Dracula’s Daughter.
This film actually continues on where the 1931 movie left off. Dracula has just been killed with the obligatory stake through the heart by the marvellous Edward Van Sloan reprising his role as Dracula’s nemesis, Professor Van (or in this case, Von!) Helsing.
The opening scenes in the police station are just wonderfully comedic and spine-tinglingly chilling as well. Coppers in these old classic horror films always do a terrific job of lightening the mood and warming the cockles of the viewers’ hearts.
Anyway, the beautiful but almost icily disdainful Countess desperately wants to be free of the curse of her vampire father. She wants distinguished London psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Garth to help her, but once he works out that the Countess is actually a fully-paid up, card-carrying member of the evil Un-Dead, he’s going to need quite a bit of persuading to have anything at all to do with her…
This is the film with the famously lesbian overtones, by the way. The scene between the Countess with her hypnotic powers and the impoverished young Lili is a thing of beauty indeed, the best of the whole film.
The Countess’s sinister servant Sandor must come in for some praise as well. His look is straight out of a ‘Twenties silent horror film. He looks like he should be turning levers in a mad scientist’s laboratory during a thunderstorm with a manic grin on his face, he’s so evil-looking.
SON OF DRACULA (1943) is set on a New Orleans plantation, so it’s as far from the fog-wreathed streets of Victorian London as it’s possible to get. For this reason, it’s maybe not as spookily atmospheric as its two predecessors, but it’s still a great film and Lon Chaney Jr. is coldly aloof and masterful as Count Alucard/Dracula.
He marries the beautiful Katherine Caldwell, whose mind (and plantation) he has already taken over, after he murders her elderly father. Katherine’s ex-fiancé Frank and a family friend called Dr. Brewster are deeply suspicious of the Count and his obviously underhanded motives.
Can they bring the brainwashed Katherine to her senses, with the help of the Transylvanian intellectual Professor Laszlo, or is she doomed to spend eternity by Dracula’s side as his Un-Dead bride? It’s touch and go for a while there…
These wonderful old classic horror movies never fail to cheer me up when I’m feeling fed-up. I highly recommend them as, say, a triple dose of medicine for the modern-day blues. Don’t take ’em internally, obviously(!), but watched as a triple bill of classic horror they’ll be the perfect cure for whatever ails you, I promise you. Sure beats Smedler’s Powder or Old Doc Washbourne’s Tonic any day of the week…!
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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