Rewatching the Universal Monsters! The ones on the new Blu-ray box, at least. This time Dracula gets the sequel treatment, but Bela Lugosi is a no-show. Stories vary as to why Lugosi is out, but the good news is that we get Dracula’s Daughter in his place.
Here’s what happened: Immediately following the events of Dracula, Van Helsing has trouble explaining to police what happened down in Drac’s lair, so he calls on a former student, psychiatrist Jeffrey Garth, to help him. Then the mysterious Countess Zaleska shows up in London with a plot of her own.
Monster! Yes, Zaleska is Dracula’s daughter, though the movie skips over details like who mom was or what Zaleksa was doing during the first movie. Her deal is that she’s seeking a cure for her vampirism, but just can’t resist the thirst for blood.
Also a monster! Zaleska’s manservant is an otherworldly brute named Sandor. Unlike Zaleska, he’s perfectly fine with the vampire life, and seems to enjoy brooding and dwelling in darkness. When he feels rejected by Zaleska, he betrays her, which kicks off the movie’s climax.
Our hero: Having Jeffrey be a psychiatrist reestablishes the science vs. superstition themes of the first Dracula. In the end, he nearly gives in the superstition side, by volunteering to be turned into a vampire to save his love, Janet.
Hapless humans: While it’s of course great to have actor Edward Van Sloane back as Van Helsing, he doesn’t have as much to do, and the movie forgets about him for long stretches. A whole bunch of Scotland Yard cops fill out the supporting cast.
Thrills: The movie’s most talked-about scene occurs when Zaleska entraps (seduces?) and kills a young woman, in the guise of a painter wanting to paint the woman’s portrait. Volumes have been written by people much smarter than me about what this scene represents, etc., but let’s not overlook the basics of just how well-written and acted the scene is.
Laughs: Jeffrey and Janet do a lot of romantic comedy antics, with a running joke about her prank calling him with a bunch of funny voices.
Thoughts upon this viewing: This is a less flashy, more talky monster flick, but there’s still a lot to like about it. I wonder what might have been if the filmmakers had gone bigger, or if Lugosi had been involved, but this is pretty great for what it is.
Next: Walk this way.
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