Son of Dracula (1943)

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*. Lon Chaney (Jr.) almost was the son of Dracula, as his dad was supposed to play the count in the 1931 movie. That said, his casting is a mistake here. He just doesn’t carry the necessary gravity. Appearing at the door of Dark Oaks he seems like a big kid out trick-or-treating in a magician’s cape. Chaney was a large man, but soft and moist. He’s putty in the hands of femme fatale Louise Allbritton.
*. Another mystifying movie title. Is Alucard Dracula’s son? There doesn’t seem to be any mention of his parentage. The doctor and the professor suggest the original Dracula may have been destroyed, but the idea is never pursued. “Alucard” is certainly not his “real” name, but there’s no reason Dracula’s son wouldn’t also be named Dracula.
*. I like the Southern Gothic flavour. Dark Oaks looks positively antebellum, right down to the hanging moss and submissive darkies (surely offensive by 1943). Note also how the elderly authority figures (doctor, lawyer, professor, even the Boss Hogg sheriff) have to close ranks to protect their town against the carpetbagging vampire. An alien who has, naturally, come to America in search of “a young and virile race, not dry and decadent [pronounced de-cay-dent] like ours.”

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*. The effects are simple but I think they look pretty darn good. The bats that hover in slow motion like hummingbirds the size of softballs are still ridiculous, but Dracula’s appearance out of a cloud of smoke works well and his levitating out of the swamp is impressive. Just why Dracula would want to sleep in a swamp is another question, but I guess Carfax Abbey was too far away.
*. This is also the first Dracula movie to actually show the count turning into a bat. That’s a less impressive effect, in my opinion, but not bad for the time.
*. What is that thing on Dr. Brewster’s desk? It looks like a bowling ball.

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*. “Nutty as a filbert”? A bit of help: a filbert is a species of hazelnut. I didn’t know that, but I looked it up. The expression “nutty as a filbert” thus doesn’t make a lot of sense, only meaning that someone is “as nutty as a type of nut.” It doesn’t seem to have been a popular expression either, and may have been first used in this movie.
*. I wonder how Katherine got Dracula to come and visit America. She was apparently possessed of a “morbid imagination,” but what sort of bait did she use?
*. You’ll note that Dracula still hasn’t any fangs. They would come later. They’re usually said to have first appeared in Horror of Dracula (starring Christopher Lee) or the Mexican film El vampiro. Max Schreck’s Count Orlok in Nosferatu clearly has pointed teeth, but they aren’t canines so I guess technically they don’t count. At least they’re never counted.
*. The shot of Dr. Brewster seeing the revived Katherine sitting up in her bed in all the glory of her fluffy nightdress is the one really creepy scene in the entire movie. But it’s badly lit. The shadow behind her head ruins it.
*. Robert Siodmak gives the proceedings a bit of style, but not enough to save this from being anything more than another forgettable B-movie of the period.

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