Thursday 18 May 2017

On Blu-ray - David Hare discovers the 30s Universal horror masterpieces DRACULA'S DAUGHTER and SON OF DRACULA

Gloria Holden
Countess Marya Zaleska (Dracula's daughter) is played by the indelibly Sapphic Gloria Holden, here remonstrating with her devoted manservant, Sandor, played by Irving Pichel (pronounced "Peee-Kel") who looks like he's been dabbling far too long in Madame's makeup drawer, in the fantastic Dracula/Lesbian crossover masterpiece, Universal's great 1931 Drac sequel, Dracula's Daughter from 1936.
Irving Pichel

The director, a deeply underrated Lambert Hillyer gives this picture an entirely "insider" sympathy for the central character, one of the screen's first and possibly most moving gay characters in peril of giving up her identity to "normality" in this great, barely emblematic breakthrough picture. God knows a very young Otto Kruger playing "Garth" the potential male love interest and agent of cure for Marya's "problem" is no match for the tender flesh of so many beautiful young women, including the luscious Marguerite Churchill upon whom Marya preys for blood and sustenance and everything else that remains more explicit than implicit in this amazing, beautiful work of 1936 Universal expressionism.

A few production cues don't begin to give weight to the sheer visual spectacle of these great horror series, including Dracula, Frankenstein, and the most melancholy of all, Wolf Man: DP George Robinson, Art/Production Design Albert D'Agostino and other unnamed craftsmen and artisans of light and shadow. The new 4K scan is literally jaw dropping revealing every nail and beam crack, every shadow and mist, every bit of arch and fog in one of the great celebrations of expressionism in Hollywood.

Hillyer is another underrated if not ignored figure. In at least one other movie from 1936, The Invisible Ray he directs genre stalwarts Lugosi, Karloff and Frances Drake through another picture with a profoundly touching sub-theme of filial devotion involving Boris Karloff in the usually predictable Mad Scientist part with Drake as the daughter whom he loses to his obsession.

The new BD50 disc from the Universal Horror Legacy Series released last year and this year also hosts a spectacular new 4K scan of Siodmak's great Son of Dracula from 1943 with the sublime Lon Chaney as "Alucard" and his human soulmate and a comparably higher being, Louise Allbritton. Two cursed souls given over to the dark side with a brilliant fascist themed sub-textual screenplay from Curt Siodmak. Director and bro Robert delivers the picture with more than enough recognizably fluid mise-en-scene to stamp his personality all over the film: a ravishing reverse track and dolly from the plantation mansion door to a pullback of the first image in human form other than bat or cloud or fog of Alucard/Lon. In other shots Siodmak films Alucard appearing as mist to literally glide across a Universal studio lake in one of the most memorably romantic surreal images in cinema to take uninterrupted human form via lab process work from the cloud as a man to take his equal as woman, Allbritton into his arms.

These films are forever, and anyone who cannot or does not love Universal Horror does not or cannot love cinema.

1 comment:

  1. My favourite scenes in "Son of Dracula" is the one in which Alucard's(Dracula's) coffin/casket slowly emerges from the depths of the Louisiana bayou, a white mist oozes from within and reforms into the Count's physical body and he glides suggestively towards his waiting paramour Kay Caldwell and the other one is where Kay(by now a vampire) enters her former lover Frank's cell in bat form, ingests some of his blood, then awakens him, reiterates her love for him and reveals her plan for him to kill her"husband" Alucard before turning into mist and floating through the bars of the cell!


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.