|Gloria Holden as the title character.|
|The Countess stalks her next victim.|
Good ideas abound in Dracula's Daughter, though the final screenplay by Garrett Fort fails to flesh out most of them out. Part of the problem can be attributed to the script's erratic development. When Universal Pictures first decided to mount a sequel to Dracula (1931), it approached screenwriter John L. Balderston, whose credits included the original, The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and The Mummy (1932). Balderston's treatment featured an evil vampiress, the murder of a baby, and a man being devoured by a wolf. Universal rejected it.
The studio then turned to R.C. Sherriff (The Invisible Man, Goodbye Mr. Chips) and Finlay Peter Dunne to develop a new script that resurrected Dracula. Lugosi was even signed to reprise Count Dracula, with the other leads to have been played by a 25-year-old Jane Wyatt and Cesar Romero. Unfortunately, that project was shelved and Garrett Fort, one of the writers on Frankenstein (1931), was assigned to adapt Bram Stoker's short story "Dracula's Guest" (though the screenplay retains nothing from the story except for the presence of a female vampire).
|Holden and Otto Kruger.|
Countess Zaleska's need for blood provides the film's most notorious scene. Her henchman Sandor (Irving Pichel) picks up a poor young woman from the docks and convinces the girl to pose for his mistress. Playing the part of an artist, the Countess tries to resist her insatiable appetite for blood as the girl exposes her bare shoulders and neck. Ultimately, the vampire gives in to her addiction (though we never see the bite). Based mostly on this scene, some critics have suggested the presence of an underlying lesbian theme in Dracula's Daughter (reinforced perhaps by the Countess's later abduction of Garth's female assistant).
Personally, I think this is an example of critics to trying to add context that just isn't there. Countess Zaleska follows and kills a male victim earlier in the film, so she clearly show no gender preference in her choice of victims. Her abduction of Garth's assistant (Marguerite Churchill) is motivated solely by her desire to get Garth to follow her back to Dracula's castle and join her in eternal life. I do admit that that the aforementioned scene is visually stunning, with the dark-haired Countess cloaked in black while her blonde-haired victim wears white slip.
|There's a little bit of Caligari.|
Director Lambert Hillyer was a specialist in the Western genre, known best for helming William S. Hart silent films and "Wild Bill" Elliott "B" pictures. Surprisingly, he instills Dracula's Daughter with a genuinely chilling atmosphere. He also capitalizes on the fact that, unlike the Victorian-set Dracula, his sequel takes place in contemporary times. The (then) modern cars and traditionally foggy streets provide an effective visual contrast to one another.
Dracula's Daughter cost over $278,000, a hefty budget for Universal at the time. It failed to find an audience at the box office and faded into obscurity for several decades. By the 1970s, though, it had been revived by a small group of admirers; it was even shown in a film course I took at Indiana University. While Dracula's Daughter can't compare to the finest horrors of the 1930s, it's an interesting picture that's definitely worth 70 minutes of your time.
This post is part of the Classic Movie Blog Association's Fabulous Films of the 1930s Blogathon. Check out all the great posts by CMBA bloggers by clicking here.