In which I watch a DVD I’ve owned for years, long after doing so could have any meaning. And in this edition, we resume Operation Mistake Binge: The Original Draculas…
Where’s this one fit in the Dracula franchise?
It’s the first sequel to Bela Lugosi’s Dracula. Last we saw Drac, he’d just been staked dead by Van Helsing. So, to get this one rolling, we simply fire up the handy mythology that says we pull out the stake and Lugosi pops back into action—
Did I Know Anything About This Movie Before Watching It?
No, I expected Bela Lugosi. The only thing I’d heard was circa 2004, when I read an internet comment expressing resentment that this movie is not more famous than the original, as it is better. He did not explain “better.” Therefore I knew nothing when I pressed play except that one dude, using a fake name, during the Bush Administration, was DTF this movie.
So! Is It a Worthwhile Addition to our Vampire Heritage?
Believe it or not, I watched Dracula’s Daughter a week after my first viewing of Dracula and Spanish Dracula (months ago), and I recommend you do the same. Why? Because it definitely benefits from the comparison.
By which I mean, if you were to watch this on its own, you would barely notice certain key achievements. For example, here’s you during the opening credits if you see Daughter on its own: “So? Credits.”
But here’s you if you just dragged yourself through Drac and Spanish Drac: “WHAT!? THERE’S MUSIC?! THIS IS LIKE A REAL MOVIE.” Yes, evidently in 1931 the idea of a soundtrack had not occurred to anyone—but by 1936, the orchestra is in full swing. And the camera moves. It pans! It zooms! There’re cuts to different angles! None of these achievements would stand out if you had not just whiled away hours of life watching them not happen like I did.
So, based on extensive research (I watched 3 vampire movies), we can conclude that in 1931-1936, Hollywood learned at an exponential rate.
Credits dispensed with, we open 30 seconds after the closing scene of the movie from five years ago.
Van Helsing wanders out of the crypt where he just staked Drac and meets two cops. They are puzzling over a dead body on the stairs. He explains that’s Renfield, a lunatic who ate flies, and that he himself has just killed Dracula. One cop peeks around the corner, sees Drac staked, and says “This is a case for Scotland Yard!”
Anyway, Van Helsing is under arrest. Which consists of him kicking back in the office of the President of the Scotland Yard. They really knew how to roll the White Privilege back then, because POTSY says, “You definitely drove a stake through a guy’s heart, but you have a good reputation, sooo… let’s figure out a way to avoid a trial and get you back on the street.” Thus does our plot get underway. Van Helsing uses his One Phone Call (who are we kidding, they didn’t limit his calls) to contact a famous psychiatrist named Jeffrey. Only Jeffrey can convince POTSY that Van Helsing isn’t crazy (and therefore is allowed to stake whoever he decides to).
Meanwhile, a mysterious cloaked woman steals Dracula’s body from the morgue. She takes it out to the woods and burns it. Screw you, Bela, this is what we do to actors who demand too much money. You can’t be in ANY sequels now!
Zandor tells Zeleska that even though she burned Dracula, it’s not gonna do spit; she can never be free of the Curse of the Draculas. She answers, basically, “You’re wrong! But also, maybe you’re right… for now. I’ll go out and kill just one more person.” It is a near-great moment, maybe even great. Zeleska and Zandor: “It’s complicated.”
The plot unfolds thusly: When Jeffrey gets back to London to help Van Helsing beat his murder rap, he also attends a party where he meets Countess Zeleska—who hires him because she hates being a vampire. She hopes Jeffrey’s powers of psychiatry can help her overcome her lust for blood, since (Zandor was right) torching her dad didn’t work.
In other words, the plot is Dracula’s daughter sees a psychiatrist.
And the psychiatrist’s other customer is the world’s chief vampire slayer.
Funnier still (unintentionally), respected top doc Jeffrey not only goes around telling people he wants to bang his lady patients, he also kills one through a daring treatment that totally fails and… it’s no big deal. No one ever looks at him like he is anything but a genius. “You’re a great doctor,” goes the actual dialog, “a doctor of minds! Of souls.”
I have a friend who’s a psychologist and I ran this alcoholism treatment by him. He laughed, “What?? This is the worst thing I can think of! I can’t think of a way anyone would ever have found it an effective approach!”
But crummy science has derailed very few of the 10 million movies it has starred in, and this movie is no exception. We’ve got murder, we’ve got a fog machine—we’re going to be fine.
There is one fantastic luring to doom of a down-on-her-luck young lady, and incidental characters get to be pretty funny (e.g., a delightful scene lets POTSY fuss over his stamp collection, which definitely breaks the rule of “things that happen should happen for some plot-related reason”). On the downside, Jeffrey is a hard pill to swallow, the end barely makes sense (and is predictable), and movie’s idea of flirty hero-heroine banter is a little, uh… glork. The actress who plays the Countess, Gloria Holden, is both a plus and a minus: Her Zeleska is reserved and cautious, which makes perfect sense, but… then you’ve got a title character who is reserved and cautious. And even given that starting point—and Jeffrey—movie never fully commits to her psychology. Like, exactly what kind of self-hate machine has she become after decades of existing as prisoner to her fatal lusts? Dracula was stuffed with alienation and did everything it could to weird you out. Tone-wise, with its faster pacing and comic relief, Dracula’s Daughter is more like a sequel to Spanish Dracula.
Gavel Bang! Rank It!
If fun is your thing, so far this can’t be beat in its category (“Outdated Dracula Movies”). There’s a lot to forgive, but it has me looking forward to the next sequel. Was Internet Guy right, should it be super famous? I don’t know, life is short, I’m not going to impose an obligation on you to watch Dracula’s Daughter. But now that we’ve exhumed it, I will give it Two clean fluffy coffin pillows, rebury it in One much nicer grave, and put it on the Ranked DVDs list at #239. That’s right after Airplane!, which is more fun, but above Breach, which is less fun but it’s a true story.