11 August 2006 | dr_foreman
"Put it out!"
I thought "Son of Dracula" was the pits when I was a kid. I simply found it slow and tedious and lacking in the kind of mesmeric atmosphere that makes the best vampire entertainment really tick. But, reviewing the film recently, I found myself enjoying it thoroughly. Go figure...
It's still no masterpiece, of course. Shoehorning Count Alucard/Dracula into a Louisiana swamp-and-plantation setting has always struck me as a weird and arbitrary move. (Though Dracula does get some interesting dialog about how he's attracted to America because it's a youthful and vigorous land.) And the human protagonists are too drippy for my tastes. The supposed hero is Frank Stanley, but his character is too thinly developed to be truly sympathetic. In fact, in an early scene he expresses a sort of jerky glee when the local voodoo woman drops dead of a heart attack, so I suppose you could say he's aggressively unsympathetic!
As usual, the vampires stand head and shoulders above the boring humans. Some people are critical of Chaney's performance, but I think he's pretty good. He's definitely a different sort of vampire from Lugosi - he's less ethereal, and more aggressively powerful. You could say he foreshadows Christopher Lee's forceful portrayal of Dracula in the 1950s-70s films from England's Hammer Studios. Louise Allbritton is even more effective in her role as the female vampire, and, in an interesting twist, she's allowed to have a set of motivations and ambitions that are totally different from Dracula's. In fact, in many ways she's the main character.
In the end, then, I think this movie stacks up pretty well to other films in the Universal series. It's not as eerie as "Dracula" or "Dracula's Daughter," probably because it's a more modern and technologically advanced film. (The primitiveness of the early entries in the series actually makes them scarier!) But it's certainly easier to watch than its predecessors, thanks to its more glossy look, full music score and occasional nifty special effects. You gotta love that mist stuff...
On a side note, I do think that Cheney is playing Dracula's son, and not the original Dracula himself. I'm surprised to see so much controversy about that point on this site. The film is called "Son of Dracula," after all, and J. Edward Bromberg identifies Alucard as a "descendant" of Dracula. Sure, Alucard admits to being a "Dracula" at one point, but not necessarily THE Dracula. As father and son, they would have the same surname - right? Oh, never mind, this is giving me a headache!
One more odd matter of continuity. Bromberg's character says at one point that Dracula was destroyed "in the 19th century." But, since the Universal films had a contemporary setting, wasn't he destroyed in the 20th century in this particular universe? Just thought I'd mention that.