Halloween Endurance Test: Dracula’s Daughter (1936)

The 1936 sequel to Universal’s first foray into horror Dracula’s Daughter, is utterly brilliant in a reductionist sort of way. Examining every supernatural thread left hanging from Dracula, while also establishing the silver screen’s first reluctant blood-sucker.

Dealing, as it does, with the realistic consequences of what would happen if you were a man (Von Helsing) found alone in an estate with two corpses. One, with a broken neck at the bottom of a stairwell, and the other lying in a coffin with a stake through his heart. (“How long has that man been dead? Oh, around five hundred years!” Zing! This film is quick with the one-liners too.) The man would be arrested, of course!

(This was decades before “dusting” became Hollywood’s easy answer to cleaning up vampire corpses.)

What Von Helsing does next is the one indication that the studio might not have been pleased with the direction the production had been moving. Talking to the constable, Von Helsing decides to take one of his ex-students, a psychiatrist, Jeffrey Garth, instead of the more acceptable choice of a lawyer.

(One can only guess the studio wasn’t too happy to find themselves pay-rolling The Further Adventures of Von Helsing instead of a suitable sequel to Dracula.)

A psychiatrist who is simultaneously employed by Dracula’s daughter, who seeks a cure for her affliction. Cremating her father’s corpse did nothing to stave her thirst for blood; thus becoming a question of will-power. (In a amusing twist, all her skills have become tied to evil. She can’t even play happy tunes on the piano, or paint pleasant portraits. Shocking but true!)

Naturally, the doctor is unable to cure the Countess. Who then kidnaps his ignored love interest and moves back to Transylvania in an attempt to force his hand in vampiric matrimony. This, of course, angers her butler/helper who was expecting immortality in exchange for his services. Who, forgoing modern (circa the ’30s) weaponry shoots her in the side with a giant (i.e. stake-sized) arrow. Oops! Though I guess that really is the only proper way to repay a lying boss.

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