Wow the studios really exploited Dracula for every last story line. Going through hundreds of different story lines, a couple of actors and thousands of love interests, there is probably very few iterations you can still think of that involves such an iconic character. Of course the best is always going to be the original, but are there any others that stand the test of time? I can’t say because I haven’t seen all of them, but I can say that Son of Dracula does not.
When Bela Lugosi became the original Dracula, he became a sensation and created an iteration of the character that would be hard to outdo. However by the time 1943 came around, the studios were interested in other interpretation of the character. This is where Lon Chaney, Jr comes in. Having made his debut on the monster market with his wonderful performance as the Wolf Man, Universal was eager to him try his hand at other monsters (something that seems to be very common at the time. Bela as Frankenstein’s monster? Weird…). For Son of Dracula, Lon Chaney Jr becomes the vampire and travels to an old town in the South in order to marry a woman obsessed with the occult. He gets tricked by this beautiful dark-haired woman into making her immortal. She then decides she will kill him and turn her true love into an immortal himself so they can be together forever. Of course there are complications that involve her light-haired sister and her deceased father’s friends from the town. I think you can imagine what the complications are without me having to spell them out for you. In the end the good guys win and the bad guys are vanquished… or are they? dum dum DUM
The characters of this film are as thin as a piece of paper. In the original story, the character of Dracula would never have been defeated so easily and he wouldn’t have been taken in by a woman so obviously two-faced. It seems the good sister’s only characteristic is that she is a blonde and therefore must be good. In contrast her sister has black hair and sports dramatic clothing so she must be evil in some way. The plot is boring and the outcome rote. It seems like everyone is sleep walking through the film. Lon Chaney Jr brings none of the tortured characteristics he brings so naturally to the Wolf Man. He just sort of stands there looking menacing. Giving him the ability to have super strength by just putting his hand out did him no favors. Despite all of this, I did enjoy myself. Every time Dracula turned into a bat or I saw the smoke rise at an entrance, I got a little chill. The evil sister also vamped it up so hard that it was easy to overlook how flat her line delivery was. And of course the doctor was quite a charming curmudgeon. I think that if they put a little bit more effort, they would have had a great story here instead of a mediocre one.