After a successful resurrection of their key horror monsters through the early monsters with The Invisible Man, Kharis aka The Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster and the birth of the tragic Larry Talbot – The Wolfman, it would be inevitable that Universal would turn their attention to Count Dracula.
The trouble is the Count was destroyed in the climax of the 1931 movie by the hands of his foe Van Helsing.
In 1936 Universal stepped around this issue by introducing an offspring in the form of Dracula’s daughter, Countess Marya Zaleska, but with her demise also coming at the film’s conclusion.
The answer would be presented by the Siodmak brothers Curt and Robert, who produce another heir in the mysterious Count Alucard.
Part of the film’s appeal is choosing to set the story in New Orleans, not only because it brings the gothic tale Stateside, but as a location is itself rich in mysteries and folklore.
Set on a plantation owned by an elderly Colonel, where one of his two daughters, Katherine (Louise Allbritton) has a morbid fascination with the occult to the point where she has invited the afore-mentioned Alucard to stay with them.
When Alucard arrives (played by Universal’s A-Lister Lon Chaney Jr, which may have been a way to appease the star having been overlooked for the role of the phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, a role initially made famous by his father) it is soon apparent that he is of the ‘undead’ and after he pays a visit to the Colonel, the latter is found dead from a supposed heart attack.
The land and titles are left to the Colonel’s two daughters, but Katherine seems only interested in the estate “Dark Oaks” and not of the money which she happily relinquishes to her sister Claire (Evelyn Ankers).
Despite being betrothed to her long time boyfriend Frank, she supposedly jilts him for Alucard, who is not so cryptically revealed to be an ascendant of Count Dracula. Frank then in a fit of rage tries to shoot and kill Count Alucard, but the bullets simply pass through him and into Katherine, killing her instantly. The flip here though is that Katherine is already part of the ‘undead’ club having been transformed by Dracula and has claimed her wish for an immortal life.
Son of Dracula plays nicely with the mythology of Dracula and vampires, as we see numerous instances taking on the form of either the vampire bat or a cloud of mist providing him the ability to transform or travel at whim as long as he is granted an invitation of course.
Where the film adds its own flavour comes through the Katherine plot device which is revealed to be a plan to overthrow Dracula and entice Frank to join her in the afterlife.
This decision is a welcome inclusion to the franchise as it makes a more sinister approach to the central characters and this curious fascination that people have taken to the dark arts.
Possibly a logical step in the canon even if it does make Dracula secondary to the evil on screen and overshadowing his threat to a degree.
- Saul Muerte