|Son of Dracula|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Siodmak|
|Screenplay by||Eric Taylor|
|Story by||Curt Siodmak|
|Music by||Hans J. Salter|
|Edited by||Saul A. Goodkind|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
Son of Dracula is a 1943 American horror film directed by Robert Siodmak - his first film for Universal Pictures - with a screenplay based on an original story by his brother Curt. The film stars Lon Chaney, Jr. and his frequent co-star Evelyn Ankers. Notably it is the first film where a vampire is actually shown physically transforming into a bat on screen. It is the third Dracula film from Universal's Classic Monster series, preceded by Dracula and Dracula's Daughter, though Count Dracula himself does not return to the series until the fourth installment, 1944's House of Frankenstein.
Hungarian Count Alucard (Lon Chaney Jr.), a mysterious stranger, arrives in the U.S. invited by Katherine Caldwell (Louise Allbritton), one of the daughters of New Orleans plantation owner Colonel Caldwell (George Irving). Shortly after his arrival, the Colonel dies of apparent heart failure and leaves his wealth to his two daughters, with Claire receiving all the money and Katherine his estate "Dark Oaks." Katherine, a woman with a taste for the morbid, has been secretly dating Alucard and eventually marries him, shunning her long-time boyfriend Frank Stanley. Frank confronts the couple and tries to shoot Alucard, but the bullets pass through the Count's body and hit Katherine, seemingly killing her.
A shocked Frank runs off to Dr. Brewster, who visits Dark Oaks and is welcomed by Alucard and a living Katherine. The couple instruct him that henceforth they will be devoting their days to scientific research and only welcome visitors at night. Frank goes on to the police and confesses to the murder of Katherine. Brewster tries to convince the Sheriff that he saw Katherine alive and that she would be away all day, but the Sheriff insists on searching Dark Oaks. He finds Katherine's dead body and has her transferred to the morgue. Dr. Brewster is shown reading the novel Dracula.
Meanwhile, Hungarian Professor Lazlo arrives at Brewster's house. Brewster has noticed that Alucard is Dracula spelled backwards and Lazlo suspects vampirism. A local boy brought to Brewster's house confirms this suspicion--there are bite marks on his neck. Later, the Count appears to Brewster and Lazlo but is driven away by a cross.
Vampiric Katherine enters Frank's cell as a bat and starts his transformation. After he awakens, she tells him she still loves him. She explains that she only married Alucard (who is really Dracula himself) to obtain immortality and wants to share that immortality with Frank. He is initially repulsed by her idea, but then yields to her. After she explains that she has already drunk some of his blood, she advises him on how to destroy Alucard. He breaks out of prison, seeks out Alucard's hiding place and burns his coffin. Without his daytime sanctuary, Alucard is destroyed when the sun rises. Brewster, Lazlo, and the Sheriff arrive at the scene to find Alucard's remains.
Meanwhile, Frank stumbles into the playroom where Katherine said she would be. He finds her coffin and gazes down at her lifeless body. Knowing he must kill the love of his life, Frank takes off his ring and puts it on Katherine's left ring finger. Once Brewster and the others reach the room, they see Frank appear at the door. He steps back allowing them to follow. As they enter the room, they see Katherine's burning coffin. They all stare, speechlessly, while Frank mourns the loss of his love.
Lon Chaney, Jr. plays the part of Count Alucard, the son of Dracula, a part that had previously been portrayed by Bela Lugosi in Universal's 1931 film Dracula. Chaney was previously known for his role as Larry Talbot / The Wolf Man in The Wolf Man.
Son of Dracula dates the original Count Dracula as being destroyed in the 19th century, when the original novel was set.
The following year, the Dracula-related series continued with House of Frankenstein in 1944, and House of Dracula in 1945, both of which starred John Carradine as the original Count Dracula. The famous arrival of Dracula's coffin by train was reprised in the Abbott and Costello film Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).
While Brewster and Lazlo speculate that he might be a descendant of the original Dracula, congruent with the film's title, Katherine tells Frank that "he is Dracula". The film never clarifies if this means he is indeed the original Dracula who survived his supposed end, or if he is a descendant by the same family name that also happens to be a vampire. However, he is described as his descendant in the 1943 press kit.
This is the first Universal Dracula film to take the Count out of Europe and bring him to America.
Robert Siodmak, then on $150 a week contract, says he was reluctant to take the film calling the script "terrible - it had been knocked together in a few days". He says he was persuaded to take the job by his wife who said if he showed he was "a little bit better" than Universal's other directors, it would impress the studio. He says three days into shooting he was offered a seven year contract. "We did a lot of rewriting and the result wasn't bad," he said, "it wasn't good but some scenes have a certain quality."
The film was the first to show on-screen the bat-to-man transformation of a vampire, and the first (and only in the Universal series) to show vampires turning to mist and back again. The effects were the work of special-effects artist John P. Fulton. Fulton was Universal's chief special-effects artist, starting with 1933's The Invisible Man.
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