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SON OF DRACULA(director: Robert Siodmak; screenwriter: Eric Taylor/from a story by Curtis Siodmak; cinematographer: George Robinson; editor: Saul Goodkind; music: H.J. Salter; cast: Lon Chaney Jr. (Count Alucard), Louise Allbritton (Katherine Caldwell), Evelyn Ankers (Claire Caldwell), Robert Paige (Frank Stanley), Frank Craven (Dr. Harry Brewster), J. Edward Bromberg (Prof. Lazlo), Judge Simmons (Samuel S. Hinds), Adeline DeWalt Reynolds (Zimba), Patrick Moriarity (Sheriff), George Irving (Colonel Caldwell); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ford Beebe; Universal; 1943)
“Done in by a weak script.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Trying to get over as Dracula’s son when he’s really the old man himself is Count Alucard (Lon Chaney Jr.), with his name spelling Dracula when seen backward. The Count visits a Southern plantation on a swampland to marry a gullible and rather obnoxious socialite, Kay Caldwell (Louise Allbritton), seeking eternal life as a vampire. It’s stylishly but futilely directed by Robert Siodmak (“Phantom Lady”/”The Suspect”/”The Killers”), who is done in by a weak script overwhelming its adequate atmospheric setting (the low-budget film makes the best of its studio shots). It’s based on a story by the director’s brother Curtis Siodmak and written by Eric Taylor.

Count Alucard makes his grand entrance by his coffin rising from the misty depths of a lake and a bat appearing from a puff of smoke (the film’s most elegant moment). The Count has been invited as guest of honor to Kay Caldwell’s party. Kay is a student of the occult, and will not listen to those around her who are skeptics. The Count flies as a bat to the ball, only to stop off and kill Queen Zimba (Adeline DeWalt Reynolds), an Hungarian gypsy fortune teller who warns Kay against inviting the Count to her home and predicts disaster if she marries him. Later that evening, the same bat kills Kay’s elderly invalid father, Colonel Caldwell (George Irving). This means Kay inherits the plantation while her younger sister Claire (Evelyn Ankers), a non-believer in the occult, inherits all the cash and flees to another residence. Meanwhile Kay’s longtime lover from childhood, Frank Stanley (Robert Paige), is dumped in favor of the Hungarian Count Alucard. The rest of the film is about Frank getting clued in to the Dracula legend the hard way, and being helped out of his predicament by his friend Dr. Brewster (Frank Craven) and a vampire expert visiting from Memphis, Professor Lazlo (J. Edward Bromberg).

A miscast Chaney makes for a dull vampire, and speaks with an American accent even though he was supposed to be arriving from Hungary. The story is flat and doesn’t come to life until the final payoff, where Frank goes after Dracula in his hideout and gets the better of the old boy. There are on display all the usual movie lore things about the Dracula legend and the familiar props presented to keep things honest, for those who care about such nonsense. What makes this flick slightly different, is that it has Dracula searching for a soul mate and finding a willing customer.The wartime film also links Dracula’s racist attitude to impurity creeping into his homeland, as a fascist point of view.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”