Son of Dracula (1943)
Overview: Count Alucard comes to New Orleans and wreaks havoc in the deep south.
Chaney: Lon Chaney Jr, while better known for his portrayal of the Wolf Man, is a fantastic Dracula (the title says he’s the son of Dracula, movie posits that he actually is Dracula, so for the sake of ease we’ll just call him Dracula). Unlike Lugosi who is slight and almost mischievous in his playing of the character, Chaney looks like at any point he might beat the shit out of you. He is an imposing figure, full of loosely held together rage and disdain for humanity. He towers over other characters and dominates every scene he is in. Chaney’s Monster in Ghost of Frankenstein failed to improve upon Karloff’s take but his Dracula is an equal to the class Lugosi.
Threequel: This movie is an improvement upon Dracula’s Daughter but it doesn’t quite get going until twenty minutes before the end. There are some very interesting subversions of the vampire plot, they just happen too slowly. Katherine, the wealthy heiress who invites the vampire to New Orleans and is the object of his affections is not a Lucy or Mina character who is put under the vampire’s spell. She wants immortality and craves the darkness of marrying Dracula/Alucard and living forever. By the end of the movie she has become a femme fatale, approaching her spurned fiancée to have him kill Dracula/Alucard so they can live forever together like a Gothic Double Indemnity. These ideas are great and very refreshing in a vampire movie, especially one of this period. However, as I wrote at the top, these plot elements only come in near the end so that the first fifty minutes of the movie are all set-up and conversations about the nature of vampirism. However, the final twenty minutes give you a taste that there was a better movie hiding in plain sight, and the final scenes are masterful and tragic.
Setting: The change of setting from Eastern Europe or London to New Orleans is an interesting one and means most of the action takes places in Katherine’s plantation, Dark Oaks, or out on the swamps. It is interesting but technical constraints and budget mean that not much can be done with it. As always in these movies the action takes place indoors or in underground caverns. It make me wonder if this movie had influenced Anne Rice and her Vampire Chronicles with their initial New Orleans setting.
Overall: A big improvement upon Dracula’s Daughter even if it is only twenty minutes of good movie. Chaney manages to really make the character his own and it is a shame that this is his only go around with the character as I feel there are definitely legs to a brutish vampire terrorising America.
Featured Image: Universal Pictures