Monday, October 18, 2010
31 Days of Halloween - Day 18 - Movie 1
Picking up right after the end of Dracula (1931), Dracula's Daughter (1936) begins with the arrest of Dr. Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) for the murder of Dracula. For some reason Van Helsing has been changed to Von Helsing in this movie. Meanwhile, Countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden) steals the body of her father, Dracula and cremates his corpse hoping to free herself from his curse of vampirism. The two stories collide when Von Helsing summons his friend, Jeffrey Garth (Otto Kruger), a psychiatrist, to help with his defense. Garth also meets the Countess who thinks he can help her find release from her father's terrible hold over her. It doesn't take long before a pair of strange deaths stemming from blood loss point to Countess Zaleska.
This is a really good sequel and is one of the best of Universal's second tier of horror movies. While Dracula only appears briefly as a corpse, his influence is felt throughout the movie. Gloria Holden makes for a haunted, yet sympathetic character who is also the monster in this piece. Irving Pichel as her human assistant, Sandor, is creepy and sinister. He clearly has no desire for her to shun her predatory lifestyle, and keeps steering her back to it. Edward Van Sloan reprises his Van Helsing character, regardless of the slight name change, though after the first few scenes there isn't much reason for him to be hear other than to offer exposition on vampires and to make sure that vampires are on everyone's mind so that the truth can be made known more quickly. Otto Kruger kept reminding me of Bing Crosby, and his character could have used some improved bedside manner. I wouldn't exactly call him warm and likeable but he made for a decent protagonist, and was at his finest when interacting with his gorgeous assistant, Janet Blake (Marguerite Churchill) with whom I become smitten every time I watch this movie. She's great in this and her jealousy of the Countess brings a nice bit of conflict to the movie.