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There's blood on it again...
on 30 November 2008
A quickie sequel to Tod Browning's 1931 version of Dracula, Lambert Hillyer's Dracula's Daughter (1936) is an odd movie, weird enough to the hold the attention the first time you watch it, though it probably wouldn't stand up to repeated viewings.
This sequel starts at the exact point the earlier film ended, with Dr. Van Helsing (here re-christened `Von Helsing' for some reason, and again played by Edward Van Sloan) being arrested for the murder of Count Dracula (!) by the local police (and though the Hollywood movies of the period were hardly known for faithfully replicating British dialects and geography, I feel it is worth pointing out that residents of Whitby, North Yorkshire, generally don't have Cockney accents). Whilst `Von' awaits trial, Dracula's body is stolen by his vampiric daughter (Gloria Holden), who ritually burns it in an attempt to free herself of blood-lust. When this fails to have any effect, she consults a psychiatrist (Otto Kruger), who hopes that he can treat her instead; however, the psychiatrist is also contacted by the imprisoned vampire hunter, who wants his help to persuade Scotland Yard that he isn't barking mad...
The little-known Holden is a revelation in this cheap, short B-movie, which, unusually for a film of the period, treats vampirism as a curable medical condition rather than a supernatural `curse', and contains themes of lesbianism that must have raised a few eyebrows back in 1936 (Holden's wonderful scene with artist's model Nan Grey is the highlight of the film). But Kruger is a smug, uninterested lead (he's Leslie Howard without the warmth and wit), Van Sloan again makes for a dull vampire hunter, and the rouged Irving Pichel looks absolutely ridiculous as Holden's black-hearted manservant. Though featuring less static action than the 1931 original (and ending with a chase back to where the first film began, Dracula's castle in Transylvania), this is still a rather slow-moving, talky movie, blighted by lots of atrocious comic relief, and one that really endures only as a curiosity piece.