(director: Lambert Hillyer; screenwriters: Garrett Ford/David O. Selznick/Charles Belden/John L. Balderston/R. C. Sherriff/Kurt Neumann/Finley Peter Dunne/based on a story by Bram Stoker; cinematographer: George Robinson; editor: Milton Carruth; music: Heinz Roemheld; cast: Gloria Holden (Countess Marya Zaleska), Irving Pichel (Sandor), Otto Kruger (Dr. Jeffrey Garth), Edward Van Sloan (Prof. Von Helsing), Janet Blake (Marguerite Churchill), Hedda Hopper (Party Hostess, Lady Esme Hammond), Gilbert Emery (Sir Basil Humphrey), Halliwell Hobbes (Hawkins), Billy Bevan (Albert), E. E. Clive (Sgt. Wilkes), Claud Allister (Sir Aubrey), Nan Grey (Lili), Edgar Norton (Hobbs), Fred Walton (Dr. Beemish); Runtime: 71; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: E. M. Asher/Harry Zehner; Universal Pictures; 1936)
“A worthy sequel to Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931).”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A worthy sequel to Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931). Underrated director of primarily B Westerns, Lambert Hillyer (“The Invisible Ray”/”Batman”/”The Cisco Kid”), does a fine job with a Bram Stoker story adapted by a group of writers into a period horror film: the first film to make vampires sympathetic.
In Whitby, England, Professor Von Helsing (Edward Van Sloan), noted vampire hunter, is arrested for putting a wooden stake through the heart of the visiting Transylvanian Count Dracula. Also dead at the crime scene is Renfield, Dracula’s assistant. The gentle elderly professor from Hungary tells the skeptical Scotland Yard superintendent, Sir Basil Humphrey (Gilbert Emery), that Dracula is a vampire and has been dead or undead for the last 500 hundred years, and can only be killed in this way. Sir Basil tells the Professor he must be charged with murder under British law, and the Professor requests the help of his former student, the English psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Garth (Otto Kruger).
While the Dracula corpse is guarded by a frightened constable, Dracula’s daughter, Countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden), appears and hypnotizes the constable and steals Dracula’s corpse. She gives dad, in his homeland, a proper vampire funeral, saying prayers to exorcise his spirit over a burning funeral pyre. The enslaved daughter hopes she can be free of the cursed vampire spell dad put over her and returns to London with her lovelorn manservant Sandor (Irving Pichel). But in London she finds she still acts like a vampire, and after performing hypnosis drains the blood of the starving impoverished suicidal model Lili (Nan Grey) who was brought to her by Sandor as a late night snack before she jumped off a bridge.
At an art party for swells attended by Lady Esme Hammond (Hedda Hopper), Garth attends with his playful secretary lover Janet Blake (Marguerite Churchill) and meets the artist Countess and after hearing he’s working for the defense of Von Helsing, she arranges an appointment with the shrink in her apartment for a private consultation about her vampire problem.
While consulting with the Countess, the chief of staff at the hospital (Fred Walton) calls Garth to look at the emergency case of amnesia victim Lili. Garth notes she has two tiny vampire puncture marks in the neck, her blood has been drained and she is suffering from post-hypnotic trance. Though the vic dies, Garth discovers she was murdered in the mirror-less apartment of the Countess.
To ensure that Garth will treat her favorably, the Countess has Sandor kidnap Janet. The shrink meets with the troubled vampire aristocrat to see if he can help with her vampire problem and get her to release his girlfriend. When the Countess vanishes, under the counsel of Von Helsing, the shrink flies to Transylvania and goes to the Dracula castle. The countess promises to do no harm to Janet if he joins her as an eternal vampire, but when the jealous Sandor gets wind of this he tries to kill Garth with a wooden bow and arrow but screws up and by mistake gets the Countess in the heart. A happy ending results when Sir Basil, Von Helsing and the police arrive in time to kill Sandor and Janet comes out of her trance to hug her heroic lover.
REVIEWED ON 12/5/2012 GRADE: B+