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Saturday, April 05, 2014

Dracula Does Dixie


Dial "Alucard" Backwards and Get Son Of Dracula (1943)

Dracula, in guise of cleverly named Count Alucard, takes to US swamp setting like duck to water, as did Chaney's Mummy, who'd risen from a similar 1942 Tomb. Seems Alucard embraces our Deep South as respite from "dry and decadent" Transylvania, and for novelty value, the switch works, us, like him, sated on dry, if not decadent, castle sets from the first two Draculas. Alucard glides across marsh water in a deathless moment of 40's chilling, then climbs in passenger seat of Louise Allbritton's tank-like sedan (if not driver-licensed by a Louisiana DMV, he at least insists on riding shotgun). Much is made of Count Alucard as "Dracula" spelled backwards. I know locals now in 80's who vividly recall that aspect from seeing Son Of Dracula first-run at the Liberty back in '43. You assume from Chaney's robust appearance that US blood supply was horn of plenty that year (storage banks well supplied for wartime contingencies?), but what's he doing with chickens stored up in a basement, feathers strewn about his coffin bed? Maybe I need boning up on vampire lore.


Son Of Dracula drips with atmosphere, that credit due in main to director Robert Siodmak, whose show-off chance this was (more on that in previous Greenbriar posts on RS, Parts One and Two). Brother Curt Siodmak wrote the story for Son Of Dracula. I understand there was rivalry between Bob and Curt, but it was mostly on Bob's side ... said Curt. Wasn't there enough Universal glory to go around? Anyway, Bob was the one who'd have bigger mainstream success. Players doing otherwise utility work at Universal shine in Son, Allbritton a willing and spooky convert to vampirism, plus Robert Paige in believable crack-up following encounter with Alucard. One thing refreshing about SoD is jettison of comic relief, it being intense from a start with nary let-up to bleak finish (this vampire really lays waste to his Dixie hosts). Did Faulkner or maybe Tennessee Williams take a peek at Son Of Dracula and come away with ideas?

4 Comments:

Blogger Reg Hartt said...

This was one of the first Universal Horror Classics I saw on SHOCK THEATer as a kid in New Brunswick, Canada. I loved it, especially the gliding across the swamp and DRACULA emerging from a mist.

It is still a favorite.

11:33 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson speaks to specialness of Lon Chaney's Count Alucard:


I'd read pans and wisecracks about Chaney's turn as Dracula, so I was surprised at how effective he was. This Dracula was frankly a brute beneath the costume, quite at home in a naturally savage setting like a swamp. He bullied and seduced with cool efficiency; he had no need for charm. Doubt that would have worked nearly as well with Carradine or even Lugosi.


Was the film in fact written or rewritten to Chaney's strengths? Was there an earlier version where the count was more the condescending aristocrat?

5:39 PM  
Blogger Bill O said...

This is, as has been noted, a proto noir, with Dracula as a fall guy from frame one. Carradine or Lugosi's Dracula would be more worldly wise. This is a next generation Drac,more likely to go right for the throat in more ways than one.He's just not as smart as Dad. I can see this as being written specifically for Chaney, who may have had Daddy issues of his own.

7:32 AM  
Blogger MDG14450 said...

This has become almost my favorite of the Universals--certainly of the 40s. Much more adult in theme and character than what came before and (definitely) after, something I attribute to both Siodmaks (whose respective works I've been trying to watch).

3:26 PM  

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