Universal Monsters: Son of Dracula (1943)

Written by Eric Taylor
Directed by Robert Siodmak
Starring Lon Chaney, Jr., Evelyn Ankers, Robert Paige, Louise Allbritton, Frank Craven
US Release Nov. 5, 1943
RT 80 min.
Home Video Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Classic Horrors rating = 4 (out of 10)

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If there’s anything worse than Lon Chaney Jr. as Frankenstein’s monster, it’s Lon Chaney Jr. as Dracula. With his pencil mustache and brunette hair, he’s as American as apple pie, yet in Son of Dracula (1943) he’s meant to portray a Hungarian count.  He’s as different from Bela Lugosi as an actor could be.  However, when he’s off screen, the movie is even worse without him.

I don’t know why the movie’s called “Son” of Dracula. There’s nothing in the story to indicate Chaney is anyone else, although he’s called “Count Alucard” (Dracula backwards).  It could as easily be called, “Gone with the Count,” as the vampire finds his food supply drying up overseas and settles on a plantation in the Deep South.  Here, he thinks he has an ally in Katherine Caldwell (Louise Allbritton).

She really wants to double-cross him, though, and steal eternal life for herself and her lifelong beau, Frank Stanley (Robert Paige). Her sister, Claire (Evelyn Ankers), Doctor Brewster (Frank Craven) and Professor Lazlo (J. Edward Bromberg) are their foils, although they’d rather sit around and rehash vampire lore than get out and do anything about it.

It had been seven years since the last Dracula movie, Dracula’s Daughter. That’s the only reason I can think for the remedial lessons about vampires in Son of Dracula.  There’s not really any revisionist history or new information.  However, Dracula can now hunch his shoulders, back toward the camera, and then transform into an animated bat that flies away from the camera.

He and Katherine can also both materialize out of mist, a trick that she takes advantage of in the movie’s one clever scene. She visits Frank in jail after he’s confessed to accidentally killing her, then disappears when the guard checks on him.  The guard then says that Frank is talking to himself in two different voices.  This reinforces the idea that he’s gone a little nuts.

I don’t have much more to say about Son of Dracula. I thought it was silly and boring.  It can easily be left out of the other Universal Monsters movies because it doesn’t purposely fit into their ongoing continuity.  I suppose it’s notable for Chaney, considering that he’d now portrayed all the heavy hitters:  the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Mummy.

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