Dracula’s Daughter (1936)

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*. How quickly Universal’s Dracula franchise fell apart. There’s almost nothing noteworthy about this belated follow-up, and yet what might have been! James Whale was originally tabbed to direct an “outrageous” script. One can only imagine.
*. There are lots of quotes from the 1931 version. The naming of Countess Zalenska followed by her appearance as though conjured, the re-use (badly timed) of the “I never drink — wine” line, and even the hand coming out of the coffin followed by a pan to the left and then a return to the Countess now standing outside of it. It’s nice for fans of the original, but I don’t think any of it is necessary or particularly effective.
*. It’s great to see Edward Van Sloan returning as Van Helsing (named Von Helsing here for some reason), though he seems somewhat extraneous to the plot.
*. Lesbian vampires. Let’s go there. I guess you get it or you don’t. The original Dracula story is often cited as having homoerotic overtones, but I’ve always had trouble seeing them. Nevertheless, apparently Carl Laemmle wanted to see Lugosi going after more women in the original because of what he perceived as possibly gay tendencies in the Count.

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*. Most critics find a strong lesbian angle here, especially in the scene between Zalenska and her “model” Lili, but also in what goes on between Zalenska and Janet at the end. The producers were worried enough about the scene with Lili that they asked chief censor Joseph Breen for his opinion in advance. His response: “The whole sequence will be treated in such a way as to avoid any suggestion of perverse sexual desire on the part of Marya or of an attempted sexual attack by her upon Lili.” So I guess it was obvious to everyone that something was going on.
*. I’d grant there’s a bit of this, but it doesn’t seem to me to be that important. Zalenska really does appear to be in love with Jeffrey, though perhaps she just thinks a heterosexual union will cure her of her “disease.”
*. Jeffrey Garth is hard to take at first. He seems a jerk, and treats his absolutely adorable assistant Janet (Marguerite Churchill) like trash. But by the end I was actually buying their relationship. Her prank call is one of the few attempts at humour that works, and you have to love an assistant with such an expensive sense of style.
*. Apparently Gloria Holden was not at all happy about playing the Countess, having seen what the role did to Lugosi. It has been suggested that her disdain for the part actually added to her performance.
*. Art and murder. Is there any reason why Zalenska is made into a painter who kills her models? I can’t think of any. But for some reason this is an idea that has found a lot of traction on film. Think House of Wax, A Bucket of Blood, or Color Me Blood Red. I wonder when the killer-artist, specifically the one who kills to create, first appeared on screen.

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*. Hell hath no fury like a flunky scorned. Sandor has every reason to be pissed about not getting his shot at eternal life with Zalenska. But what did he expect? Jeffrey is a doctor, while he’s just a middle-European peasant wearing thick make-up and a turtleneck blouse.
*. I wonder if there was any thought given to making Zalenska a normal woman who only thinks she’s suffering from a family curse? Maybe it’s just the hypnosis angle, but I get a strong scent of what we’d later get in Cat People in this film.

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