Sunday, May 19, 2013

#1,007. Dracula's Daughter (1936)

Directed By: Lambert Hillyer

Starring: Otto Kruger, Gloria Holden, Marguerite Churchill

Tag line: "Look out, she'll get you!"

Trivia:  This was the last horror film produced under the supervision of Studio Chief Carl Laemmle

Sadly, Bela Lugosi, the star of Universal’s Dracula, is nowhere to be found in Dracula’s Daughter, a direct sequel to the 1931 classic. What the movie does feature, though, is an appropriately ominous atmosphere, as well as a strong performance by Gloria Holden in the title role, playing a vampire who longs to be human again.

Dracula’s Daughter picks up exactly where Dracula left off. Moments after driving a stake into Count Dracula’s heart, Dr. Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) is arrested by two of London’s finest and charged with murder. Unable to convince Scotland Yard he actually killed a monster, and not a man, Van Helsing asks to speak to an old asscoaite of his, psychologist Jeffrey Garth (Otto Kruger), believing Garth will vouch for his sanity. As this is happening, the mysterious Countess Marya Zaleski (Gloria Holden), who had been bitten by Dracula years earlier and is now a vampire herself, steals the Count’s body in order to destroy it, hoping that doing so will break the vampire’s spell and return her to normal. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, and the Countess must continue to feed on the unsuspecting citizens of London. But a chance meeting with Dr. Garth changes her outlook, giving her hope that, one day, she can rid herself of this terrible curse and rejoin the world of the living.

With Dracula’s Daughter, director Lambert Hillyer went to great lengths to duplicate the look and feel of the original film. After stealing Dracula’s body, the countess takes it to a secluded field and burns it. The surrounding fog sets an eerie tone as she performs a ritual designed to sever her connection to the vampire. Once the deed is done, the Countess returns home, convinced the vampire’s curse has been broken. But her servant, Sandor (Irving Pichel), knows better, and tells the Countess he sees "only death" in her eyes. Her hopes dashed, the Countess sets off into the night, hunting for fresh blood. Holden is very strong in this scene, conveying to perfection her character’s tortured existence, and her performance, combined with the spooky atmosphere, makes Dracula's Daughter a worthy successor to the original classic.

Despite the similarities between the two, Dracula’s Daughter is a much different movie than Dracula in that it delves more deeply into the tormented soul of its lead character. As a result, the film is a bit talky at times, yet, thanks to its director and lead actress, Dracula’s Daughter is, in the end, an impressive enough sequel.

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