Halloween Horror Movies #7: Dracula’s Daughter (1936)

This 1936 sequel is just as good, if not better, than the 1931 original!

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In the days leading up to Halloween, I will be sharing many of my favorite horror movie reviews, looking at 100 years of this most remarkable genre.

Here’s 7 of 31. Enjoy!

Oh boy, the Universal Horror Monster movie sequels. One of the earliest forms in the film business of a studio making a quick buck. With the exception of The Bride of Frankenstein, most of these films are mostly without merit, except for some fleeting entertainment value.

Frankenstein. Dracula. The Wolf Man. The Invisible Man. The Mummy. The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The originals are always exceptional, and then they are typically followed by sub-par movies that consist of titles like The Ghost of Frankenstein, The Invisible Woman, and The Mummy’s Hand (not to mention The Mummy’s Tomb!). These is a cheesy quality to these sequels than can sometimes make for an entertaining movie, but they’re typically stupid and often boring.

Dracula’s Daughter surprised me in that it was actually a pretty worthy follow-up to the 1931 picture Dracula, an overrated movie that didn’t really hold up for me, and I at times found myself even more entertained in this sequel than in the original.

Just like Bride of Frankenstein, the 5-years-in-the-making Dracula’s Daughter picks up right after the original left off, with Van Helsing being discovered at the site of Dracula’s murder. He’s in danger of being brought to trial for his apparent crime, although he keeps telling the cops that “you can’t kill someone who has been dead for five hundred years.”

Dracula’s corpse, however, disappears and is actually cremated, by his daughter no less! The strikingly beautiful Gloria Holden plays the Countess, who wants nothing more than to rid her need and desire for the blood of the living.

While it’s not that much of a surprise, the technical qualities of this movie are far better and less distracting than in the 1931 original. Dracula’s Daughter seems to be edited by someone who actually knows what he’s doing. The story, while not spectacular, is pretty involving from the get-go and makes for an easy watch.

I especially admired how the story just continues from the last film, as opposed to picking events up years later in a different time and place, and with different characters. The narrative doesn’t strike the imagination like some other horror films from the era, but it makes for a solid watch, especially with the inviting gothic atmosphere, which is always welcome in films like this one.

Another interesting aspect to Dracula’s Daughter is the underlying of lesbianism hidden in the Countess character. I didn’t make this up–I saw a bit about it in the excellent documentary The Celluloid Closet–but it really does seem to be that the Countess has a thirst not just for the living, but for the females.

There is a spectacularly erotic scene in which the Countess corners a young woman, seemingly turned on to the blood in her veins. The way the scene is shot and edited, however, seems to suggest far more to the proceedings, especially in the end when the film cuts to a close-ups of the two characters. This makes for a pretty fascinating watch at times, since the Countess character definitely seems far more repressed than the other characters around her.

Dracula’s Daughter doesn’t have much of a high rank by many in the Universal Horror canon, but it’s in a far better league the majority of the studio’s classic horror sequels. It’s fun, quick, and satisfying. The film has a terrific tone and atmosphere, and it features a memorable performance by Gloria Holden. If you’re looking for an older horror movie you might never have seen before, this is definitely one I would recommend.

Brian Rowe is an author, teacher, book devotee, and film fanatic. He received his MFA in Creative Writing and MA in English from the University of Nevada, Reno, and his BA in Film Production from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He writes young adult and middle grade suspense novels, and is represented by Kortney Price of the Corvisiero Agency. You can read more of his work at his website, brianrowebooks.com.

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