Son of Dracula (1943)

“Ours will be a different life, without material needs — a life that will last for eternity!”

Synopsis:
Hungarian Count Alucard (Lon Chaney, Jr.) arrives in the deep south, where he promptly marries an occult-obsessed girl (Louise Allbritton) engaged to her childhood sweetheart (Robert Paige). Meanwhile, the town doctor (Frank Craven) and a psychologist well-versed in vampire lore (J. Edward Bromberg) begin to investigate Alucard’s true identity.

Genres:

Review:
Opinions vary widely on this third entry in Universal Studios’ Dracula franchise (directed by Robert Siodmak), with most critics lambasting it as the worst of the bunch — thanks primarily to the perceived miscasting of Lon Chaney, Jr. in the title role. As DVD Savant argues, he’s “lumbering and chubby”, and “just looks overfed, puffy, and in a bad temper. It doesn’t work for a moment.” With that said, the film remains of minor interest for: a) being the first to portray a Goth girl lusting after eternal life through vampirism (Allbritton is convincing in this pivotal role), and b) essentially turning a standard-issue Universal horror sequel into a film noir, complete with a femme fatale, atmospheric cinematography, plenty of unexpected plot twists, and a poor chump of a guy (Paige is equally convincing) who really doesn’t deserve the roller coaster ride of emotions he’s taken on.

Note: Regardless of how you feel about Chaney’s (mis)casting in this film, it’s interesting to know that (for better or for worse), he was the only actor to portray all four of Universal’s classic monsters.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Robert Paige as Frank
  • Louise Allbritton as Kay
  • Reasonably effective low-budget special effects
  • George Robinson’s atmospheric cinematography

Must See?
No, though fans of Universal horror films will surely want to check it out.

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One Response to “Son of Dracula (1943)”

  1. A must; an underrated sequel.

    From what I’ve read, ‘SOD’ is not held in particularly low regard – and, personally, I think it’s rather nifty. (~unlike some other Universal horror sequels which are unquestionably under-par; i.e., ‘Son of Frankenstein’, anyone?)

    Frankly, I don’t know what DVD Savant is talking about in reference to Chaney, Jr.; his observation is flat-out wrong. This is one of the actor’s strongest, most commanding performances. He’s been helped immeasurably – as has the entire cast – by Robert Siodmak’s strong directorial hand. (Siodmak was entering a particularly vibrant and memorable period in his career.)

    One has to admire the film for its unique angle and, yes, its film noir form. As well, ‘SOD’ has a kind of leisurely southern Gothic feel to it.

    There are a few interesting surprises along the way. When, in the beginning, we meet the couple in love, one can hardly imagine the bizarre path their relationship will follow. And one has to wonder late in the film (when she explains her ‘plan’) whether Allbritton’s Katherine is being straightforward with Paige or not. There is teasing ambiguity there.

    As well, there are plenty of captivating sequences. I especially like the scene in which Chaney, Jr. meets up with Allbritton for the first time: seeing her from across a small body of water, he floats (upright) on the water’s surface as he makes his way toward her. There’s a stunning bit when Lon’s Dracula is thwarted in his attempt to drink Paige’s blood (the bat on Paige’s chest is downright icky). Lon has one of his best scenes when he happens upon Craven in the mansion cellar and, in sinister fashion, calmly states that Craven is a trespasser. But perhaps my favorite sequence arrives when Allbritton visits Paige in jail – the entire exchange is deliciously, deliriously mad. (And it could just be me, but I find Paige sexy when he begins coming undone.)

    This is one I’ll return to from time to time. I watched it twice before writing about it here.

    Favorite line belongs to Allbritton (esp. with that ghostly white face when she says it): “I’m fond of Frank – but, of course, he must never come here again.”

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