Son of Dracula

Movie Information

In Brief: Robert Siodmak’s Son of Dracula (1943) is a film that, but for one thing, would be one of the great horror pictures. Unfortunately, that one thing is a badly miscast lead, Lon Chaney Jr., as Dracula (or, if you prefer, his son) — and that’s a pretty big problem. (For kicks, you can always start a rip-roaring horror-fan fight by asking which one he is, the father or the son.) The fact is that, even at 61, Bela Lugosi would have pushed the film into greatness. Instead, we get uber-American, corn-fed Lon, who has trouble with the stylized (or stilted) dialogue (“I, too, thought I heard something in the cellar”), mispronounces words and generally has no presence. It’s obvious that Siodmak knew this, because he shoots him from the back whenever possible. Even so, this moody, atmospheric film — a morbid fairy tale, actually — is probably the best of all the second-wave Universal horrors. It’s all about a spooky, death-and-occult-fixated woman (Louise Allbritton) who brings Count Alucard (spell it backwards) to her plantation home in the Deep South for the express purpose of obtaining immortality, vampire style. Something her jilted fiance (Robert Paige) and practical-minded sister (Evelyn Ankers) find peculiar, to say the least. The supporting cast, the direction and the musical score help, but Chaney is a serious stumbling block.
Score:

Genre: Horror
Director: Robert Siodmak
Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Robert Paige, Louise Allbritton, Evelyn Ankers, J. Edward Bromberg, Frank Craven
Rated: NR

The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Son of Dracula Thursday, March 17, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville, hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Scott Douglas.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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8 thoughts on “Son of Dracula

  1. Bill

    You have to take the title literally. This is a next generation Drac. Americanized, brutal, with none of Dad’s fancy manners or speeches. Doesn’t play with his food, but rather goes right for the throat in more ways than one. Can’t see him at the opera. Physically threatening, thinks he’s smarter then mortals but isn’t. Perfect noir fall guy.

    Chaney fits this perfectly , whereas Lugosi/Carradine wouldn’t.

  2. Ken Hanke

    So you’re saying this is just the result of bad parenting? Actually, there’s not much convincing evidence to me that the character is Americanized — I mean apart from being played by Chaney who can’t play anything else. It even puts for the idea that he’s fresh of the boat coming to set up shop in better hunting grounds.

  3. But his intent is to fit in, and not come off as the outsider. No accent, if he’s mispronounces words, well, it’s his second language. Bela made no such attempt, in neither his speech nor Olde World manners. Jr here’s a modern day hepcat willing to go for the throat in more ways than one. And had no qualms about throwing his (considerable) weight around. He’s fully integrated in his dealings with the locals.

    • Ken Hanke

      If it pleases you to view it that way, fine, but I don’t see it.

    • Ken Hanke

      See my previous response. This just feels like trying to rationalize the things that don’t work — like Junior’s performance.

  4. Or my previous response that a posing Lugosi or an aesthetic Carradine woukd be poor casting. If you view this as proto-noir, Jr physically and dramatically fits. Used by a much smarter, and literal, femme fatale.

    • Ken Hanke

      Yes, I get your point. I’m just not in agreement with it, though I’d agree Carradine would be poor casting.

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