Director: Robert Siodmak
Writer: Eric Taylor
Cast: Robert Paige, Louise Allbritton, Evelyn Ankers, Frank Craven, J. Edward Bromberg, Samuel S. Hinds, Adeline DeWalt Reynolds, Patrick Moriarity, Etta McDaniel, George Irving, and Lon Chaney
Composer: H.J. Salter
Release Date: 11/5/1943
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Operating under the title of Count Alucard, Dracula (Lon Chaney) relocates to the southernmost region of the United States and seduces Katherine Caldwell (Louise Allbritton), the daughter of plantation owner Colonel Caldwell (George Irving) and sister of Claire Caldwell (Evelyn Ankers). Infuriated, Katherine’s fiancé Frank Stanley (Robert Paige) attempts to kill Alucard; but ends up mortally wounding the woman he loves instead. When the supposedly dead Katherine later materializes in Frank’s jail cell, Doctor Brewster (Frank Craven) seeks advice from Hungarian scientist Professor Lazlo (J. Edward Bromberg) in order to make sense of the situation.
The final installment in Universal Studios’ trilogy of standalone Dracula films, Son of Dracula forgoes a delicate approach to suspense-building in favor of emphasizing then state-of-the-art special effects—many of which appear horribly dated by today’s standards. On a positive note, this film employs a more serious tone than did its immediate predecessor, Dracula’s Daughter, and will thus appeal to those who enjoy classic monster movies devoid of campy situations.
Similar to the decrepit Transylvanian castle and dimly illuminated city streets where the previous Dracula movies were established, a large area of Southern swampland offers the eponymous vampire a place of residence befitting his ominous nature. While a murky, wooded location might have better accentuated the likes of Frankenstein’s monster, the Gill-man, or even a good old-fashioned werewolf, this unique setting allows for a clear distinction between Son of Dracula and the Hungarian-based films with which the vampire legend is usually identified.
Though convincingly tormented in The Wolf Man, Lon Chaney struggled to exemplify the elegant charm typically associated with Count Dracula. “Alucard” is thus portrayed as a grumpy, overly terse imitation of his former self (or offspring of the original Dracula as the film’s title would suggest).
Also problematic is the fact that Frank lacks an engaging personality, a shortcoming that severely weakens his credibility as a sympathetic hero figure. Doctor Brewster and Professor Lazlo, on the other hand, make for an intriguing pair of supporting protagonists; however, in addition to resembling a cheap Van Helsing clone, the latter character never directly confronts Count Alucard and therefore has no relevance to the overall narrative (that is, aside from providing less knowledgeable viewers with a tedious amount of background information regarding the vampire mythos).
Son of Dracula—like all Dracula features produced by Universal Studios—contains a simple but powerful message of good triumphing over evil. Further interaction between Count Alucard and his opponents would likely have encouraged audiences to actively invest in the spiritual battle inherent to Curt Siodmak’s original story; nonetheless, Son of Dracula should be commended for adhering strongly to said themes of good versus evil while fleshing out its central conflict.
Son of Dracula benefits from an eerie combination of atmospheric devices. That being said, a poorly scripted protagonist may fail to resonate with Universal Monster fans and series newcomers alike.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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