Friday, 18 May 2012

Review : Son of Dracula (1943)


Robert Siodmak


Eric Taylor (screenplay), Curt Siodmak (story)
Count Alucard, (yep, you heard me...), is going on holiday! He's heading to the bayou to get hitched to an adventurous rich gal who has her sights set on immortality. Go Al..... 

Its pouring with rain here in the dark lands of Scotland, and there's no better time in my eyes to gaze back in wonder at the halcyon years of Hollywood and the great Universal Classic monster movies that shaped our wonderful genre in its infancy. My motto...when the night is dark and stormy, reach for the classics...

Everyone has enjoyed, or at least knows of, the truly vital works that sprang from that long ago era....DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, THE MUMMY, THE WOLFMAN and so on; yet there are many more wonderful cinematic treasures to be mined from the golden age of horror.

Its with one of these minor, less-loved gems that we concern ourselves this evening....SON OF DRACULA.

The third in the vampire series, preceded by the hugely underrated DRACULA'S DAUGHTER and, of course, Bela Lugosi's timeless turn as the count himself in DRACULA, boasts one of the strangest casting choices in all Universals history....

When we think of Dracula, (and his offspring), we imagine, lithe, sexual, elegant beings whose evil is matched only by their prowess in the art of seduction. What we don't think of, is the towering, sluggish form of Lon Cheney Jr. The accomplished star of such classics as OF MICE AND MEN, and THE WOLFMAN, really doesn't seem the vampyric type. I mean no disrespect here. In fact, I love the guy, but he's a pretty strange choice for an ageless bloodsucker and seducer of maidens.

While he may be something of a curio in this movie, he does his best in a role five sizes too pristine for a man of his demeanor and stature. If you can see past the casting, his Count Dracula, (he's never addressed as his son, can be a rather threatening figure. It helps a great deal that he's bolstered by a genuinely intriguing script, in which a well-to-do lady of the Bayou who's looking to get hitched for all eternity to the big man. No damsel in distress here, troops. Just a southern gal with a hard-on for eternal life.

Also of note, the good lady and her associates all own a number of slaves. Of course, all the slaves are black, and modern audiences may find this whole deal a little offensive; its indicative of the times though. And as awful as it may be, films then represented the ideas and views of 1940's America. Of note, if you think this is bad, check out GONE WITH THE WIND, which is frankly insulting to the black audience and is said to have raised the hackles of a young Martin Luther King, himself. It took many more years, and the genius of George Romero and his seminal NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD to sort that shit out, kids.

Really though, this sort of dated idiocy shouldn't upset modern folks any more than the old school representation of anything with a vagina as being a whining, screaming, helpless maid in need of a strong man to help her tie her shoelaces, (other than DRACULA'S DAUGHTER and the feisty lady herein). Its par for the course. Handle it or pass the past on by.

If you can cope with the dated ideologies, and big lug, Lon Chaney Jr, looking more out of place than a priest in a day care center, you'll find much to celebrate in SON OF DRACULA. All that priceless Universal atmosphere is here in spades. The soundtrack, the Gothic splendor, the hot ladies and the cold, dark shadows...all here.

It's a forgotten, roughly hewn gem, but its one worth seeking out for lovers of 'ye olde horror'. The atmosphere is palpable, the plot is unique and the strange change of setting from olde world England/Transylvania, to the deep south, is a refreshing one. Give SON OF DRACULA a little of your time, and you may be pleasantly surprised. And besides, if you don't watch it, Lon Chaney will eat you!

6 Bumbling Bloodsuckers out of 10

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