Friday, October 6, 2017

Dracula Month Day 6: Dracula's Daughter

During my teenage years I read a number of books about horror films and I always took note of what they stated about the Universal pictures of the 30s & 40s. I don't recall any of them referencing Dracula's Daughter (1936); when I did learn of the film through various film guides those books gave no indication it was in any way memorable, nor did they mention it was a direct sequel to Bela Lugosi's Dracula (1931) - indeed, the film opens immediately after the conclusion of Dracula with Edward Van Sloan reprising his role as Van Helsing.

Dracula's Daughter is becoming better known thanks to the internet age and it's now easily available on DVD. The picture stars Gloria Holden as the titular daughter of Dracula, Marya Zaleska. She yearns to be rid of the curse of vampirism and with the death of her father believes she might have a chance, turning to a psychologist played by Otto Kruger in the hopes she could be hypnotically cured of her thirst for blood; complicating matters is Sandor, Zaleska's loyal henchman who keeps nudging his mistress into her bloodlust, hoping she'll turn him into a vampire.

One reason this film has obtained reexamination is a segment where Zaleska goes hunting for dinner and picks up a woman from the street, behaves nicely to her, then lunges in (off-camera) to feed on her. Some point to this as being an early entry in the surprisingly vast lesbian vampire subgenre, a cousin of sorts to Sheridan Le Fanu's story "Carmilla" (1871). Of course, Zaleska's affections are towards the doctor played by Kruger; her feeding upon a woman is no different than her father preferring to feed on women in the 1931 film (note that Dracula isn't seen biting Renfield). Whether they're male or female, there's something about vampires in these stories which draws their thirst to women. It's not necessarily a lesbian thing, but the subtext is there for anyone to dig up; it makes Dracula's Daughter a little more interesting than your typical mid-30s horror picture (horror was a struggling genre at the time). In fact, I'll gladly call Dracula's Daughter the best Dracula film Universal made and - aside from his corpse - Dracula ain't even present.

No comments: