Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October Movie Reviews: Son of Dracula 1943

Dracula also had a son it seems. Fitting title (or was it contrived that way) for the son of the Man of Thousand Faces who also almost was Dracula.

With this movie I think we are getting into what most people think of as the Universal Monsters. Lon Chaney Jr., more modern settings and an American setting.  Plus we are getting into that Golden Age of Hollywood, with the stars and the glamor and, in the case of this film, some more special effects.
This is the third movie of Universal's "Dracula Trilogy" and it is also something of a transitional piece.

Son of Dracula (1943)
The setting for this film is New Orleans, a full 40 years before anyone else will associate it with vampires.  Hungarian Count "Alucard" arrives invited by one of the daughters of a plantation owner.  I am not 100%, but nearly so that is the very first time we see the Alucard alias.  Something that will be later used all over the place.   Alucard seduces Katherine Caldwell, the daughter, when they had met previously in Hungary.  Soon her father dies, leaving her the plantation Dark Oaks and her and Alucard are quickly married; much to the chagrin of her fiancée and sister.
Her distraught fiancée Frank confronts them and shoots Alucard, only for the bullets to pass through him and kill Kate instead.  He runs to Dr. Brewster's home, a family friend, and admits he killed Kate.  Dr. Brewster goes to Dark Oaks to see a seemingly alive, but very pale, Kate.  Alucard as the new "Master of Dark Oaks" warns the Dr. off  saying the he and his new wife wish to left alone.
Dr. Brewster, noticing the Dracula/Alucard parallels contacts Hungarian Professor Lazlo, who comes to Brewster with the suspicion of vampirism already formed in his mind.  The police head out to Dark Oaks during the day where they find Kate's dead body and lock up Frank.
Kate visits Frank in his cell and Alucard visits Brewster and Lazlo.  Kate convinces Frank that the only way they can be together is to destroy "Dracula".  She helps him escape, while the two men of science fight Alucard.
Frank  heads out to the Dark Oaks plantation ahead of Brewster, Lazlo and the police.  He manages to destroy Alucard's coffin and leaves Alucard to burn in the morning sun.  He then rushes to where Kate is.  When everyone else has caught up to him we see Kate's coffin ablaze as well.

Ok despite a somewhat simple story there is a lot going on here.
First this is Lon Chaney's first (and only) outing as the Count.  I was impressed with his ability to look very different here, he certainly had some of his own father's skills.  But I have so associated him with Larry Talbot and the Wolfman that it was hard to see him as Dracula.  He just didn't seem European enough.  Yes, I mentioned that in the book Dracula took great pains not to sound Transylvania, but here Dracula sounds like he was the Mid West.  It wasn't just the accent; he didn't seem royal, he didn't sound like Dracula.
And that is the other thing.  Was this supposed to be Dracula or his son Alucard.  The movie is a tad ambiguous, but I felt for certain that he was supposed to be the true Count.  I think the "Son of" appellation here was more due to Universal and due to the actor himself.  Lon Chaney Jr. after all was the son of the man that almost got the role of Dracula in the 1931 film.
We got more special effects this time than the last two films combined.  Lots of Dracula turning into and from a bat here, an effect that would be used to great effect (and profound impact on my young mind) in the later "Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein".  While that one is notable, there was the less dramatic, but no less cool, Dracula and Kate turning into and from mist or fog.
I mentioned above that this is a transitional movie for Universal. Transitional in that we are now moving farther away from the source materials (Dracula and Frankenstein novels) and more into modern re-tellings.  For the first time Dracula is setting foot on American soil (and is given good reasons for it in the plot).  It is also the last of the proper "Dracula" films before moving onto the "Monster Mash" films that Universal became known for.  "House of Dracula", the next Dracula film on my list, features Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein, and even a hunchback and mad scientist.

We are missing a Van Helsing in this one, mostly due to it begin modern (1940s) times, but we do have Dr. Brewster in the obiligator Seward role and Prof. Lazlo as our ersatz Van Helsing.  Prof. Lazlo was actually quite an interesting character and would make for a great vampire hunter on his own.

I can't recall if I have ever seen this one or not.  I am sure I must have, but that could have been 30+ years ago really.

Tomorrow. It's a monster mash.

1 comment:

BlUsKrEEm said...

since your on the Mash ups, have you considered the 2009 House of the Wolfman? I haven't seen it, but I've been meaning to. It's an attempt to create the canceled project of old.The reviews aren't great, but I love the idea behind it.

http://www.amazon.com/House-Wolf-Man-Ron-Chaney/dp/B003R9K0L0

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