John Landis Monsters in the Movies, available from DK Canada, keeps the fangs coming with this next title from the Vampire section of his book.
This 1936 film is supposed to pick up shortly after the close of 1931’s Dracula (despite the fact that it was set in the 19th century, and this film is set in the 30s). Professor Von (not Van in this incarnation) Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) is taken into custody by Scotland Yard for murder, and the bodies of Dracula and Renfield are spirited away for safe-keeping as evidence.
Unfortunately a cloaked figure is tracking events, and steals the Count’s body. The figure, Maya Zaleska (Gloria Holden) hopes that by burning the corpse she will be free of the blood lust that haunts her.
She is Dracula’s daughter. Though, the more I think about it, I’m not sure how that would work. Did he turn his daughter at some point? Did he father a child after he was undead, and how does that happen? All of that seems a little in flux.
Both Von Helsing, and Zelska turn to a young doctor, Jeffrey Garth (Otto Kruger) for help. He works in psychiatry and has thoughts and ideas about the human condition, addiction, and control. He suggests there may be a way to release Maya from her dark impulses even if he doesn’t know what they are.
Of course, things can’t work out that easily, and somethings are far older than man’s knowledge of science… like vampires.
Realising she may have to accept who and what she is, Maya takes a hostage, Garth’s assistant, Janet (Marguerite Churchill) and flees to the family castle in Transylvania, where a final showdown is orchestrated.
It’s been a couple of years since I had seen the original Dracula, with Lugosi, but this film feels decidedly more gothic than its precursor. My real issue with it, as it was with the first film, is that they are both way too short, just over an hour in runtime.
There isn’t much in the way of blood or actual fangs, most of the imagery is implied, and the film plays in a more dreamlike way than the first film, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting.
With sliding English accents, and a spooky story, this one entertains well enough, even if you take issues with Maya’s family tree. There is also the Maya’s manipulative and truly sinister manservant, Sandor (Irving Pichel) who has motivations of his own as the plot unfurls.
Holden’s eyes seem to be as captivating as Bela Lugosi’s and she definitely has a presence onscreen as she brings her version of a vampire to life.
It seems everyone has their take on a vampire, and how they should look and how they should move, act and behave, and there are so many more to discover, not to mention all the other monsters lurking in the dark pages of John Landis’ tome, available now from DK Books.
So turn off the lights, and scare yourself a little.