Sunday, 11 February 2018

Son of Dracula

Yes, not only did Dracula have a daughter, but apparently a son too…  Disregarding any potential continuation of a story from Dracula’s Daughter this 1943 sequel introduces us to Count Alucard (please!) who appears on the scene somewhere in the deep south to sweep a young woman, hot Katherine, off her feet, one who also happens to be engaged to somebody else.  She’s immediately ensnared by the count’s mystical nature, a man who seems to have ulterior economic motivations for his infiltration of the family who owns a plantation - the father of said family becomes deceased almost immediately upon the Hungarian man’s arrival.  Katherine’s fiancée Frank wonders what activities are going on between the count and the woman he loves so he traces her to a house where the residing count reveals that they’ve just married each other.  In anger Frank attempts to shoot Alucard, but the bullets inexplicably seem to pass right through him killing Katherine instead, who was standing behind Alucard under the misconception that she would be shielded.  A distraught Frank breaks free of the house and makes a run for it but Alucard transforms into a bat to follow him with the intention of permanently resolving any issues between them, only to be thwarted by the silhouette of the cross cast by a gravestone as the chase ends in a cemetery.  Elsewhere a couple of scientists turned amateur sleuths begin to suspect that Alucard is a descendent of Dracula and set about destroying the undead man.
The plot kicks off in quite a feeble manner with little justification for Katherine’s initial fixation with the count and his arrival.  Generally what follows is what seems like simply an excuse to continue the series whilst taking advantage of Universal’s newfound star or terror, Lon Chaney’s son (this genre stardom arising primarily as a result of The Wolfman but his most acclaimed role overall was Of Mice and Men prior to that).  One of the most prominent problems is that, aside from a Hungarian with an American accent, Chaney Junior doesn’t make a particularly good count, though I did like the way he handled the sequence where he’s being shot at.  One scene where things get a little silly occurs when some woman brings in her blood-drained boy to the doctor: already aware of Alucard’s local vampiric threat the doctor immediately treats the neck bite by painting two small crosses over the wounds and promising that the boy will make a full recovery - first time I’ve seen that one!  The score is very typical of how a composer of the period would define genre music and is likable and corny in almost equal measure.  As far as special effects are concerned, the bouncing bat has improved marginally since the 1931 Dracula and there’s also a little animation helping Chaney transform from human to bat and back again.

Black levels on the now quite old DVD transfer are very good, as is detail and sharpness, however the image is sometimes plagued by flickering and contrast instability which slightly spoils what would otherwise have been an excellent picture.  Audio is fine.  Whilst not complete rubbish, Son of Dracula is not an exceptional film in any sense and its creation seems to have been derived almost purely from commercial decision-making.  Having said that, the film’s downbeat conclusion is quite surprising.

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