Today’s movie is Son of Dracula (1943). This movie was directed by Robert Siodmak. It is rated 6.2 on iMDB.com and is rated 60 percent on the Tomatometer and 33 percent audience approval on rottentomatoes.com.
This movie had a couple of firsts. This was the first time a man’s transformation into a bat was filmed. Earlier versions did not show the transformation. Chaney Jr.’s was the first vampire to show great physical strength. Also, of note, there were no fangs shown in vampire films until the Mexican film El vampiro (1957).
Nate Yapp on Classic-horror.com says:
Some irreparable mistake was made at an early stage of production and the film will be forever marred by the poor judgment of some myopic decision-maker. Such is the case with Lon Chaney, Jr. as Count Dracula in Universal’s misleadingly titled Son of Dracula. Chaney’s inability to pull off the Old World nobility required of the part has dogged the film’s reputation since its release. This is a shame, really, since the rest of this mature, atmospheric chiller works quite well. 
A.H. Weiler of the New York Times said:
Despite all the accepted props, from the lonely Southern plantation set in a miasmic bog to the squeaking bats and creaking coffins, this thriller is a pretty pallid offering.
It really is a beautiful, well lite, and shot movie. If we could only digitize Lon Chaney Jr. out and replace him with someone else. All of the other actors, especially, Louise Allbritton, did a pretty outstanding job. I like the plot of the movie and especially the ending.
Evelyn Ankers was cast as Claire Caldwell. Ankers was Lon Chaney Jr. old wolfing buddy as she was first covered in Episode 6 – The Wolf Man (1941).
For a change, Lon Chaney Jr. played the role of Count Dracula. Chaney was covered in Episode 5 – Of Mice and Men (1939). This was the only time Chaney Jr. played a vampire. Thank god.
Robert Paige played the role of Frank Stanley. Paige was born in Indiana in 1910. He attended West Point before deciding to become an actor. He first got into radio and then began doing shorts in 1931. He was a contract player for a number of studios and was a solid B list actor. His first big film was Cain and Mabel (1936), and it was followed by Smart Blonde (1937), and Meet the Boyfriend (1937).
He did a little better in the late 1930s and early 1940s with films such as Highway Patrol (1938), The Main Event (1938), Flying G-Men (1939), Emergency Squad (1940), Women Without Names (1940), Golden Gloves (1940), Dancing on a Dime (1940), and The Monster and the Girl (1941). For a time, it seemed he was going to make it as a crooner with movies like Can’t Help Singing (1944), Hellzapoppin’ (1941), Pardon My Sarong (1942), What’s Cookin’ (1942), and How’s About It (1943). However, he fared better in movies like Son of Dracula (1943) and Fired Wife (1943).
By the 1950s Paige had moved to television and then back to radio. By 1970, he was working a political job. He died in 1987.
The stunning Louise Allbritton played Katherine or Kay Caldwell. Allbritton was born in Oklahoma in 1920. The family moved to Texas, but Allbritton attended the University of Oklahoma for two years before leaving to study at the Pasadena Playhouse. She was often told she was too tall for movie work, but she continued to study and act in plays. Just when she was thinking about giving up, a Columbia scout offered her a role in a film. She was in a bad film Not a Ladies’ Man (1942) with Fay Wray and then another stinker Parachute Nurse (1942). Finally, she switched to Universal. She made a total of 24 films of which 23 were released. In 1946, she married CBS reporter Charles Collingwood. Several years later she left movies altogether. She died in 1979.
Edward Bromberg played Hungarian Professor Lazlo, a noted vampire expert. Bromberg was born in 1903 in the Austria-Hungary Empire in what is now Romania. How convenient. Bromberg was a founding member of the New York Group Theatre.
Bromberg has a good career as a character actor. Some of his films include Stowaway (1936), The Mark of Zorro (1940), Tennessee Johnson (1942), Phantom of the Opera (1943), Lady of Burlesque (1943), maybe the worst Film Noir film title ever Pillow of Death (1945), Salome Where She Danced (1945), and Queen of the Amazons (1947). However, what is more, amazing is his downfall.
He was accused of being a Communist in 1950. He appeared before the un-American House Un-American Activities committee and used the 5th amendment. Edward Dmytryk named him as a Communist, and he was blacklisted. He went to England where he could work but died the next year of a heart attack at the age of 47.
Actress Lee Grant was a close friend of Bromberg and spoke at his memorial service. Her speech got her placed on the blacklist. She was not able to resurrect her career until In the Heat of the Night (1967).
Adeline De Walt Reynolds played Hungarian Madame or Queen Zimba. Reynolds was born in Iowa in 1862. She married her husband who was a vaudeville juggler. She was offered a performing role at the age of 30 but declined to raise her children. In 1905, her husband died. In 1906, she lived through the San Francisco earthquake. In 1926, when she was 64, she entered the University of California. Six years later she graduated. She went to Hollywood in 1940, at the age of 78 to begin her acting career. She had a total of 38 credits with her best-known films being Street of Chance (1942), The Human Comedy (1943), Son of Dracula (1943), Come Live with Me (1941), and Witness to Murder (1954).
Jimmy, the Crow, was uncredited as Queen Zimba’s Crow.
Two men are waiting at the trains station to pick up a mysterious visitor. The men are Frank Stanley (Robert Paige) and Doctor Brewster (Frank Craven). They tell the conductor that the man is a friend of the Caldwell’s named Count Alucard. The conductor says there was no one like that on the train, but there is some baggage they can look at. Doc Brewster sees that Alucard is really Dracula by reading the name on the coffin-sized trunks backward.
That night, the coffin-sized boxes are delivered to the appropriately named Dark Oaks plantation, which I assume by the swamps it is in Louisiana. A strikingly beautiful raven-haired woman, Kay Caldwell (Louise Allbritton), comes out of the house and is sad that Count Alucard is not accompanying his coffin-shaped baggage. She asks Mathew to put the coffin size boxes in the guest house.
Kay’s sister, Claire (Evelyn Ankers), comes outside. Kay says she knows the Count is coming that night, even without direct communication. Claire rains on her a little. Kay goes out into the dark, creepy swamp until she reaches the house of a conjure woman, Madame Zimba (Adeline DeWalt Reynolds). Kay is beckoned into the house of Zimba and Jimmy the Crow. Zimba says she willed Kay to her house to warn her of the danger of death hanging over her house and the ruin that it will become. Kay calls the lady Queen Zimba. Zimba says she sees Kay marrying a corpse and living in a grave.
A bat swoops in and scares the life out of Queen Zimba. Kays sees it all clearly. Al things considered, Kay takes it well. She runs back to the big house. That night they have a big party in honor of the expected guest, Count Alucard. Frank is there with Kay and Claire.
With the party in full swing, Count Alucard (Lon Chaney, Jr), stands in the yard. When he turns, he really looks the part. Inside, the party, Colonel Caldwell (George Irving) gets tired and is taken to his bedroom by his manservant. In the yard, Alucard turns into a bat and flies to the Colonel’s second-floor bedroom. The bat cruises down the main hall and turns into Alucard. Alucard enters the Colonel’s room.
Downstairs, Frank is talking to Kay and asks her about Queen Zimba, and he refers to her as an old Hungarian gypsy that she brought back with her. Frank lectures her on the obsession she has had with the dark arts since she met Alucard and returned from Budapest. He says she has changed and will take her away on a 6-month to 1-year honeymoon. Kays says she has loved Frank since they were kids. She asks him to trust and believe in her no matter what and it is for them both. Frank misses the message and just thinks about the other man. He then says he contacted the Hungarian embassy and there is no Count Alucard.
Steven comes running out of the house and hollers for Kay. A puff of smoke leaves the second-floor window. Doc Brewster, Frank, Kay, and Claire go to the Colonel’s room. There is a fire from where he dropped his cigar. The men put out the fire and Doc says that the Colonel may have just died in his sleep. Frank says he looks like he was frightened to death. Frank also notices two holes on the Colonel’s neck.
The partygoers leave, and Alucard shows up at the front door demanding to be announced. Stephen says the Colonel died and the family is not receiving guests. Alucard demands to be announced. Alucard enters the house, so, I guess he was already invited by Kay.
Doc Brewster places a phone call to Professor Lazlo (J. Edward Bromberg) at Muirfield University. Lazlo is a Hungarian and an expert on Dracula. Doc asks if Alucard is a Hungarian name and is told it is not. Lazlo also says that the last Count Dracula became a vampire. Lazlo advises the Doc to be careful with Alucard.
Some days later, family and friends are gathered for the reading of the Colonel’s will. The will says he divides his estate equally between his two daughters, Claire and Kay. Kay stands up and says there is a more recent will. This will gives Dark Oaks to Kay and Claire gets all of the loot. Kay says she doesn’t want to see the plantation sold. When the judge says she will have to have money, Frank says he will take care of it. The Doc says that all of the servants have run away.
Outside of the room, Claire says she does not think Kay will ever marry Frank. She says she has seen Kay and Alucard talking in the house. The Doc wants to check the guesthouse to see if Alucard is living there. He and Claire go to the guesthouse. They find some of Alucard’s trunks but not the coffin-sized one. All his trunks are empty. The Doc asks Claire to go and stay in town. The Doc is going to talk to Kay about leaving. He then brings ups swearing out an insanity report on Kay to save her.
That night, Kay dashes out of the house and drives away. Frank is spying on her from behind a tree. She drives out to the local swamp, and Alucard’s coffin slowly rises from beneath the water. He exits the box and a puff of smoke and floats across the water to the waiting Kay. He does some fancy hand kissing but no biting. Frank pulls up in his car as Kay and Alucard drive away. They travel to the local Justice of the Peace, where back in the day you could get married at anytime day or night. The Justice of the Peace is a little suspicious, but hey two bucks is two bucks. I think Alucard makes a storm, but it is not clear.
Alucard carries his new bride of the threshold at the plantation. Kay says everything has worked out as planned and that they have sole ownership of the plantation. Alucard comments on how he likes the land around these parts. Now, I am going to go off script for a bit here. Do you remember in Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire (1994) why Lestat (Tom Cruise) hooked up with Louis (Brad Pitt)? It was for the plantation. Same plot as this movie. I sure it will work out better for these guys.
Back in this movie, Alucard is offering eternal life to Kay. He is about to bite Kay when Frank knocks on the door. Frank is shocked when Kay says that she has married Alucard. Frank tries to throw Alucard out of town. Alucard grabs Frank by the neck and throws him across the floor. Frank pulls out a revolver. Kay hides behind Alucard. Frank shoots Alucard, and the bullet goes through him killing Kay. Alucard gives Frank stink eyes but lets him leave. Frank runs across the land with Alucard following in bat form, but not attacking. Frank falls down in a cemetery, and Alucard changes from bat to human form. The moon shines through a cross protecting the body of Frank and Alucard is driven away.
Doc Brewster is at home reading up on Dracula, I believe from the Bram Stoker’s novel. Frank weakly knocks on the door. Frank tells the Doc that he killed Kay by shooting through Alucard.
Alucard fixes a nice bed of earth inside of Kay’s coffin. The Doc goes to Dark Oaks and enters the big house. Alucard sees him go in and is upset. The Doc creeps around and finally goes to the basement. He finds a pen with live chickens. Inside of Alucard’s box are chicken feathers. Dang, that’s as bad as being a rat eating vampire.
Alucard comes in behind Doc and asks what he is doing there. The Doc almost drops dead. Alucard confirms that he and Kay were married and he is now master of the plantation. Alucard takes the Doc up to the bedroom, and Kay is sitting there and appears to be alive. However, she is much whiter in the face. The pair tell the Doc that they want to be left alone to do research.
In the morning, Sarah (Etta McDaniel), tells the Doc that Frank has already left. The judge comes in and is waiting on Claire about the insanity complaint against Kay. The judge is called to the phone and is told that Frank confessed to killing Kay. The Doc and the Judge head to the courthouse. The Doc tells Sarah that Lazlo is on the way.
The sheriff leads the group along with Frank to Dark Oaks. The door to the house is open. Doc goes to the basement, but the coffins are gone. Frank leads them back to the cemetery. The sheriff sees two coffins in a mausoleum. They open the lid and find the dead Kay inside. It seems like they didn’t check the other. Frank is taken back to jail.
When the Doc gets home, Lazlo is waiting there. The Doc is under investigation as an accessory after the fact. Lazlo educates the Doc and explains how a vampire survives by feeding on the blood of others. As a scientist, Lazlo says he struggles with believing in vampires. Lazlo explains that Alucard has soil in his coffin from his home country. Lazlo tells the forms a vampire can take and includes werewolf in the list. Odd! Smoke appears under the door, and Alucard appears. Alucard grabs Doc by the neck, but Lazlo whips a cross on him, driving him away. As the Doc vows to destroy Alucard, a lady brings in a small boy. Lazlo and the Doc find the puncture wounds on his neck. The Doc paints crosses on the wounds. They talk, and Lazlo explains that the boy will not become a vampire because he was no drained dry. However, they make a case for Kay becoming a vampire after she was killed, by saying she was willing. A little hole. Lazlo says that Kay had a fear of death. They will ask Claire to order the cremation of Kay.
Lazlo and Doc go to get Claire and take her to see Frank at the jail. At the morgue, Kay turns to smoke and leaves her coffin. Kay turns into a bat before traveling to the jail where she feeds on Frank. She then takes human form and wakes him. She then says that she loves him and she did all of this so they can live forever as immortals after Frank kills Alucard. Kay says Alucard is Count Dracula. She won’t let him say, vampire. He has to use the word undead. Politically correct vampires. Kay tells Frank he has no choice.
Claire shows up, and the jailer says he has been talking to himself in two different voice. Frank tells Claire that Kay has been there to visit him. Claire says she is going to have Kay cremated. Frank goes nuts and starts screaming that Kay is alive and immortal. Kay was hiding in the cell and knows about the cremation. Kay says they may have to kill Claire and the Doc. Kay tells Frank where Alucard’s coffin is located. Kay tells where she will be as well. Kay turns to smoke, unlocks the cell, and gets a gun for Frank.
Lazlo suspects Kay’s plan. Frank escapes the jail and takes a car. The Doc and Lazlo learn from the guard about killing or destroying Alucard. He tells that Alucard is by the swamp drainage channel. Doc, Lazlo, and the sheriff go to the morgue. Kay and the coffin are missing.
Frank makes it to the swamp just before Sun up. He begins stuffing Alucard’s coffin with straw for a fire. Alucard comes in by bat and turns to human form. He is about to kill Frank when he sees that his coffin is on fire. Alucard screams for Frank to put out the fire before knocking him to the ground. When he sees he can’t save the coffin, Alucard begins chocking Frank. However, the Sun comes up. Alucard falls into the water and is changed to bones by the Sunlight.
Frank arrives at Dark Oaks just ahead Doc, Lazlo, and the sheriff. Frank goes to the childhood playhouse of Claire and Kay. He opens Kay’s coffin, and she is laying there as beautiful as ever. He takes a ring from his finger and places it on her wedding finger. When the other three men show up, Frank has sat Kay’s coffin on fire. He watches the flames. Dark ending.
World-Famous Short Summary – Stick to werewolfing
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Beware the moors