Sunday, October 14, 2007

THE MOVIE FOR TODAY IS "SON OF DRACULA" from Universal Studios. You know, there was a time when I didn't particularly like this movie (and I wasn't alone). But since then, it's kinda grown on me. Sure Lon Chaney Jr. is a rather OVERFED-looking vampire. Sure, Universal dissed Bela Lugosi by not casting him in yet ANOTHER Dracula sequel (they had replaced Lugosi with a simple wax figure in a box in the first sequel to "Dracula" in 1935: "Dracula's Daughter"). Sure, Robert Paige is one of the most insipid "leading men" in a horror film.
But hey, the film's actually pretty good. There are a lot of things going for it. It's got quite a lot of moody photography and sets as only Universal could provide. The scene where Dracula (Chaney) rises up from the swamp and glides in on a floating, misty coffin is wonderful! Then, of course, we have probably the first instance where Drac masquerades using his name spelled backwards: Count Alucard. It also has Universal's reigning scream queen Evelyn Ankers; although in a smaller role than she's used to. But first and foremost is the amazing performance of Louise Allbritton as the morbidly obsessed Katherine who not only WANTS to become a vampire in the worst way but also manages to trick the Count and use him for her own devices. This doesn't happen very often in Dracula films; The Count ALWAYS has the upper hand and is like the spider at the center of a web of evil. However, Dracula in this movie is almost a pawn in Louise Allbritton's master plan: she first marries Dracula and becomes a vampire, then will have her boyfriend stake the Count and put him out of the picture -- THEN she will vampirize her boyfriend so they can both spend eternity together. Some plan. And Allbritton (with her jet black wig -- the actress was REALLY blonde) almost pulls it off. However, more importantly is the extremely creepy, morbid performace she gives as Katherine; nothing like it had previously been seen in movies and wouldn't for a couple more decades. Katherine genuinely WANTS to become a vampire; and that makes all the difference.
"SON OF DRACULA" is not really a classic Universal but it's somehow one of the most appropriate to watch while Halloween is flapping our way.

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