Dracula’s Daughter (1936) starring Gloria Holden, Otto Kruger, Edward Van Sloan, Marguerite Churchill
I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by Dracula’s Daughter–the first sequel to the classic 1931 Dracula starring Bela Lugosi. Unlike so many of the later Universal Dracula movies, Dracula’s Daughter does not attempt to revive Dracula. Rather it looks at the aftermath of his destruction, through the eyes of his daughter, Contessa Marya Zeleska. She is a very reluctant vampire, played wonderfully by Gloria Holden.
Although filmed 5 years after the original, Dracula’s Daughter takes place immediately after the ending of the first film, as police officers come upon the corpse of Dracula, and arrest Professor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan, repeating his role) for the murder. For his defense, Van Helsing plans to rely on the help of a former student, Jeffrey Garth (Otto Kruger) in hopes of convincing the jury that vampires are real. And, since Dracula died 500 years ago, Van Helsing can’t be charged with his murder.
Dracula’s daughter arrives
In the meantime, a lovely, yet forlorn, woman appears at the precinct where they are holding the bodies of the deceased Dracula and his assistant, Renfield. She uses her ring to hypnotize the officer on duty–and when the other police return, the found the body of Dracula gone. As an aside, the bumbling police officer, Albert, reminded me for all the world of Nigel Bruce, and it turns out that the actor playing the role was actually the silent comedy star Billy Bevan! But poor Albert’s not long for this world (or at least this film), as the beautiful woman leaves him unconscious as she departs with Dracula’s corpse.
The woman turns out to be the Contessa Marya Zeleska, daughter of Dracula, who has been sharing his curse of unliving existence and now hopes to finally be free. She destroys Dracula’s corpse in fire, praying to the Almighty to free his spirit–even holding a crude wooden cross (although with her eyes averted):
Be thou exorcised, oh Dracula, and thy body long undead find destruction throughout eternity in the name of thy dark unholy Master. In the name of the oh Holiest and through this cross be the evil spirit cast out until the end of time.
Hope and obsession
She has hope that, with Dracula’s passing, she has likewise been freed from her curse–but when she asks her servant, Sandor, what he sees in her eyes, he simply replies, “Death.” In a very real sense, Sandor is more the villain of the movie than Dracula’s Daughter. As she strives to put her blood lust behind her, he keeps trying to keep her bound to it for his own selfish reason. He seeks to be made a vampire and thus avoid death. At a party, she makes the acquaintance of Jeffrey Garth, who again gives her hope of being able to break her obsession. And in a very real sense, the movie deals with the subject of addiction and obsession, and the addict’s desire to be free competing with the overwhelming compulsion.
There is Janet, a “spunky girl sidekick/romantic interest” played by Marguerite Churchill, who provides much of the humor in the film, as well as much of the tension, as she is clearly jealous of the time that the handsome Dr. Garth is spending with Contessa Marya–and is foolish enough to let Dracula’s Daughter know about it …
Then there is also Lili, played by Nan Grey, a young woman who Sandor brings to Contessa Marya, who has decided to act on an unwitting suggestion of Dr. Garth’s that she faces her (unnamed) obsession head-on, and conquer it. She does, indeed, face temptation in the form of Lili, hiring the girl to pose as a model in the Contessa’s art studio. But rather than conquering her obsession, Marya gives into it instead, hypnotizing the helpless girl and feasting … And we see the girl, on the verge of death, being rushed in an ambulance to the hospital where Dr. Garth works.
Dr. Garth begins to put the pieces together and manages to extract some vital information from Lili, via hypnosis, before her death. And with the assistance of Professor Van Helsing and a Scotland Yard inspector begins to close in the bloody Contessa. She has kidnapped Janet, and escaped to her home in Transylvania, using Janet as living bait to lure Dr. Garth there, as she has fallen in love with him …
In all, Dracula’s Daughter is a very worthy sequel to Lugosi’s Dracula, and well worth watching. The only real negative I have about the film is the leading man. Dr. Garth doesn’t strike me as likable, much less lovable, and he seemed rather wooden in his performance. Gloria Holden’s performance, however, more than makes up for that. I rate Dracula’s Daughter 4 stars out of 5.
Editorial review of Dracula’s Daughter (1936), courtesy of Amazon.com
This cut-rate sequel to Dracula, sans Bela Lugosi, turns out to be an unexpectedly sleek and stylish movie. Gloria Holden, tall, dark, and continental, is the aristocratic title character fighting her nature and seeking a cure for her affliction. A sympathetic psychiatrist, Dr. Garth (Otto Kruger), encourages her to “face her fears,” but when she lures a pretty young streetwalker to her room to model for a painting, the temptation of her fleshy offering proves too much to overcome. Edward Van Sloan reprises his role as Van Helsing, held by the police for the murder of Count Dracula (the film opens on the final scene from Dracula) but released in the nick of time to help Garth, now at the mercy of the bitter and vindictive vampire.
Director Lambert Hillyer makes the most of his low budget, with austere, angular sets and an almost abstract sense of the foggy city night. Holden’s mysterious face and tall, willowy body make her an even more striking vampire than Lugosi, and Irving Pichel’s offbeat servant is like an American gangster with the breeding of a European aristocrat: thick and thuggish, but always proper. The script falls into the usual rut of Universal’s later horror films, losing the mood in the busy plot, but the smooth style and Holden’s dignified performance lift this above most Universal sequels. —Sean Axmaker
Movie quotes from Dracula’s Daughter
Hawkins: [comes out of Dracula’s castle] Some man is in there with a stake through his heart.
Hawkins: [looks at Van Helsing] You know anything about this?
Prof. Von Helsing: Yes, I did it.
Hawkins: Who is he in there?
Prof. Von Helsing: His name’s Count Dracula.
Hawkins: How long has he been dead?
Prof. Von Helsing: About 500 years.
Countess Marya Zaleska: Sandor, look at me. What do you see in my eyes?
Lady Esme Hammond: Sherry, Marya?
Countess Marya Zaleska: Thank you, I never drink … wine.
Countess Marya Zaleska: Possibly there are more things in heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in your psychiatry, Mr. Garth.
Dr. Garth: You know, this is the first woman’s flat I’ve been in that didn’t have at least 20 mirrors in it.
[on the phone]
Dr. Garth: Yes? Dr.Garth speaking. Well, who is this? What do you want?
[in a false German accent]
Janet Blake: Please come right away.This is the zoo speaking.
Dr. Garth: The what? The zoo?
Janet Blake: Ja! One of our elephants is seeing pink men!
Dr. Garth: All right.Now listen to me, Janet, this has gone far enough! Well, there’s nothing funny about it!I’m in the midst of a very serious”¦
[Janet hangs up and laughs]
Dr. Garth: HELLO?
Lili: Why are you looking at me that way? Will I do?
Countess Marya Zaleska: Yes, you’ll do very well indeed. Do you like jewels, Lily? It’s very old and very beautiful, I’ll show it to you.
Lili: I think I’ll pass tonight. I think I’ll go if you don’t mind … Please don’t come any closer! [Lili screams]
Dr. Garth: Where’s Janet?
Countess Marya Zaleska: Safe – so far.
Dr. Garth: If you’ve harmed her …
Countess Marya Zaleska: You’re not in London now Doctor Garth with your police. You’re in Transylvania in my castle.