Director: Lambert Hillyer
Writer: Garrett Fort
Cast: Otto Kruger, Gloria Holden, Marguerite Churchill, Edward Van Sloan, Gilbert Emery, Irving Pichel, Halliwell Hobbs, Billy Bevan, Nan Gray, Hedda Hopper, Claude Allister, Edgar Norton, and E.E. Clive
Composer: Heinz Roemheld (Uncredited)
Release Date: 5/11/1936
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
After Van Helsing is arrested for the murder of Count Dracula, the professor calls to his defense a psychiatrist and former pupil named Jeffrey Garth (Otto Kruger). Before prosecution can begin, the corpse of Dracula is stolen by his daughter, Countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden), who, against the wishes of her manservant Sandor (Irving Pichel), attempts to free herself from the family curse by seeking Jeffrey’s professional assistance.
Though marred by cringe-inducing humor, Dracula’s Daughter is a worthy sequel to the 1931 masterpiece directed by Tod Browning. Especially commendable is the film’s use of character development, which draws attention to a surprisingly sensitive side of the eponymous vampire.
Similar to Bela Lugosi, Gloria Holden embodied a certain mesmerizing charm that one would expect of a sophisticated yet malevolent creature of the night. In addition to her elegant presence, Marya exhibits a subtle feminine quality that contrasts with her evil inclinations and thereby lends credibility to the conflicted nature of her character.
When Marya and Sandor roam the streets of London in search of prey, a misty atmosphere exemplifies the predatory intentions of both individuals. A similar technique is likewise employed most effectively during the cremation sequence, wherein the surrounding woods combine with a thick layer of fog to highlight the mystery behind Marya’s connection with Count Dracula.
Throughout the initial scenes, an inordinate amount of time is wasted on the antics of two hopelessly inept police officers. Not only do the comedic attempts in Dracula’s Daughter fall embarrassingly flat, but such buffoonery also has no place in a serious horror film.
Whereas Dracula captivated audiences by presenting a battle between good and evil forces in its most unambiguous form, Dracula’s Daughter takes a slightly more nuanced approach to fleshing out its central character and her interactions with the protagonist(s). For perhaps the first time in cinematic history, the vampire elicits sympathy from viewers by conveying her desire to break free from her father’s curse and lead a noble life as a result—a concept executed remarkably enough that by the time Marya meets her demise at the hands of a vengeful servant, the countess establishes herself as a victim of circumstance not unlike Frankenstein’s creature, Larry Talbot/The Wolf Man, or any other so-called monster included in Universal Studios’ ensemble of misfits.
Despite being overshadowed by its predecessor, Dracula’s Daughter nearly parallels the magnificence of Browning’s film by combining atmospheric horror with gothic elements. Also noteworthy is the antagonist’s sense of anguish stemming from a trapped existence, which adds a compelling layer of conflict to Bram Stoker’s original premise.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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