SON OF DRACULA
Son of Dracula is a dreary effort that is inferior in most regards. The majority of the problems can be laid at the door of its star Lon Chaney Jr and the script. The script comes from Curt (here billed as Curtis) Siodmak, a German immigrant who wrote a great many B horror movies during the 1940s, most famously The Wolf Man (1941), which brought Lon Chaney Jr to fame, and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), which started the spate of Universal monster team-ups. (See bottom of the page for Curt Siodmaks other films).
Curt Siodmaks work can at best be described as hackwork and Son of Dracula is frequently laughable in its preposterousness. What is most noticeable is that despite the title, the film does not feature Draculas son but Dracula himself it seems to only have been called Son of Dracula because they called the first sequel Draculas Daughter. At times, it seems like there is enough plot for two or three films. The script jumps from scene to scene with alarming speed Frank Cravens doctor prepares to commit Louise Albritton to an institution when she does no more than assert her right as owner of the plantation; in another scene, Louise Albritton and Lon Chaney Jrs Alucard are married and then in the very next she is killed.
There are times where Curt Siodmak seems to conjure something out of the setting, a sense that the South is a hotbed that Dracula has come to ravage in the same way that Dracula allegorically emerged to tear apart the propriety of Victorian society in the original Bram Stoker Dracula (1897). Siodmak repeatedly uses the image of Dracula arriving to plunder the vitality of the New World: I am here because this is a young and virile race, not dry and decaying like my own and Maybe thats why he left his own country and came here younger and more virile. That said, the idea is done in by the inanity of Siodmaks plot that reduces Dracula to only a support villain. Kays idea to lure Dracula to America and marry him in order to obtain immortality is amazingly silly, not to mention one that reduces Draculas threat to a cardboard menace. He is no longer a predator but a buffoonish patsy being taken advantage of for his supernatural powers.
Draculas weakness as a character is even further emphasised by the casting of Lon Chaney Jr. Lon Chaney Jr came to fame two years earlier in The Wolf Man and was immediately seen as a new horror star and cast in a host of films. Lon Chaney Jr was a terrible actor and an even worse Dracula even if he is the only actor to ever play all four of the Famous Monsters (The Wolf Man, the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula and the Mummy). In build, the 62 Chaney Jr looked bulky and flabby. Unlike other tall genre actors such as Christopher Lee or Bela Lugosi, Chaney lacks any ability to command with his height instead, he appears stodgy and weak, hesitant when it comes to the dialogue. His Dracula here appears more as a petty bookmaker than he does the incarnation of evil.
Son of Dracula is directed by Curt Siodmaks brother Robert who fared far better with film noirs like Phantom Lady (1944), The Dark Mirror (1946) and The Killers (1946), as well as the camp classic Cobra Woman (1944). Within genre material, Robert Siodmak also made the exceptional psycho-thriller The Spiral Staircase (1946) and the enjoyable deliberately anachronistic pirate fantasy The Crimson Pirate (1952). Here Robert Siodmak makes competent atmospheric use of the stagebound bayou sets but never more than that. Claims are made to the classic nature of some scenes like the one of Dracula drifting through the bayous on top of his coffin but the scene is barely remarkable.
Son of Dracula (1974) was a further film with the same title, although was not widely seen. This is not related to this Son of Dracula and is actually a rock musical monster bash that is played as a comedy, featuring singer Harry Nilsson as the Son of Dracula and Ringo Starr as Merlin the Magician.
Curt Siodmaks other genre scripts include:- F.P.1 Does Not Answer (1932), Trans-Atlantic Tunnel (1935), The Ape (1940), Black Friday (1940), The Invisible Man Returns (1940), The Invisible Woman (1940), The Wolf Man (1941), Invisible Agent (1942), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), I Walked with a Zombie (1943), The Climax (1944), House of Frankenstein (1944), The Beast with Five Fingers (1946), Tarzans Magic Fountain (1949), Riders to the Stars (1954), Creature with the Atom Brain (1955) and Earth Vs the Flying Saucers (1956). Siodmak also directed/wrote several films with Bride of the Gorilla (1951), The Magnetic Monster (1953), Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956) and Love Slaves of the Amazon (1957). Siodmak also wrote the classic novel Donovans Brain (1942) about a millionaires disembodied brain that ends up mentally controlling the scientist that removed it, which has been thrice filmed as The Lady and the Monster (1944), Donovans Brain (1953) and Vengeance/The Brain (1962). Siodmaks lesser known follow-up Hausers Memory (1968) about transplanted memories was also filmed as the tv movie Hausers Memory (1970).