Director: Robert Siodmak
Writers: Curt Siodmak, Eric Taylor
Robert Paige... Frank Stanley
Louise Allbritton... Katherine 'Kay' Caldwell
Evelyn Ankers... Claire Caldwell
Frank Craven... Dr. Harry Brewster
J. Edward Bromberg... Prof. Laszlo
Samuel S. Hinds... Judge Simmons
Adeline De Walt Reynolds... Queen Zimba
Pat Moriarity... Sheriff Dawes
Etta McDanie ... Sarah
Lon Chaney, Jr.... Count Alucard/Dracula
Or is he the Son of Dracula? Some lines of dialogue suggest that Lon Chaney, Jr. plays the original Count Dracula in this film, and most reviewers make that assumption. The title and a key line of Professor Laszlo's, however, suggest that this is the vampire prince's descendant who, naturally, would inherit and use the title, "Count Dracula." That is, when he isn't using an obvious anagram of the name.
By 1943, the Universal Monster Cycle had wound down, the newer horror films pale creeping shadows of their predessors. Son of Dracula hardly matches the best 1930s efforts but, after a somewhat uninspiring beginning, it proves superior to most of the World War II-era monster movies. It concerns a morbid, proto-Goth heiress, Katherine "Kay" Caldwell, who has formed an unholy alliance with "Count Alucard," whom she met while in Romania. Exactly what an American heiress was doing in Europe at that time remains unclear, but she has safely returned, and welcomes the Count to her father's planation, Dark Oaks. Shortly after, both her hired gypsy sage and her daddy die under mysterious circumstances and she isolates herself from her friends, her sister, and her fiance, Frank.
Suspicion of foul deeds fall upon Alucard, especially after he and Kay marry suddenly. Frank begins acting very strangely, even for a jilted man, while the local doctor forms an alliance with Professor Laszlo, a Van Helsing-like Romanian. The story twists a few times. Frank tries to kill Alucard and accidentally murders Kay instead, and a plot and a counter-plot by two different vampires nicely complicate matters. These nosferatu prove both emotionally unpredictable and sociopathically ruthless, and they actually use their supernatural powers to advantage. The vampire slayers, meanwhile, display a languid southern style ill-suited to their task. They loiter in a swamp at one point, engaging in heavy exposition while at least one life is in jeopardy; they linger in a burning building staring at the flames.
The film presages New Orleans's future ascendancy over Transylvania as Vampire Central. The camera creeps through Hollywood's Louisiana and its shadow-laden settings. Some of the acting is stake-wooden, though Robert Paige gives a credible, if highly stylized, portrayal of a man plunging into madness.
The setting and era result in the presence of servile-acting Black servants. This fact can hardly be pleasant for certain viewers, but the film at least avoids treating these characters as Stepin Fetchit-style comic relief, and Brewster's maid, Sarah, displays something akin to a personality. The film also reveals an interesting racial bias when the hunters surmise, and Dracula confirms, that he has come to America to feed on its "young and virile race," having exhausted the energies of his European homeland.
We also receive an unexpected lesson in the political sensitivities of the fantasy realm. Universal's vampires, apparently, do not like to be called vampires. "Don't say that word," says one. "We don't like it. Say rather that we are... Undead."
Fitting this film into the continuity of the Universal Monster Cycle is problematic. If Alucard is a descendant of the original Dracula (as was Marya Zalesak in Dracula's Daughter, a definitive sequel to the 1931 film with Bela Lugosi), then we have no serious problem, although Laszlo claims the original Count was destroyed in the late nineteenth century, as depicted in Bram Stoker's novel, rather than in the 1930s, as shown in the Universal film. If he is Dracula himself, we have to deal with the fact that the character died in the original film, remained dead in the sequel, and is revived in Europe in House of Frankenstein after Dr. Lampini finds his bones in the Carpathian mountains. Of course, continuity never did provide a cornerstone for the series, and in any case this movie probably works best if viewed on its own merits. While not particularly scary by contemporary standards, Son of Dracula has some definite appeal for fans of the genre.
Apple also produced a very odd film by this title in 1974.