Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 20, 2018)
In 1936, we learned the Count had a daughter. Seven years later, we found more supernatural offspring via 1943’s Son of Dracula.
In this feature, we find that a sexy southern belle named Katherine (Louise Allbritton) invited Count Alucard (Lon Chaney, Jr.) to the US. She does this with an ulterior motive: she realizes that Alucard is a vampire, and she wants him to make her into one of the undead as well.
However, there’s yet another subtext to this cause. After she weds Alucard and becomes a vampire, she plans to have her fiancé Frank (Robert Paige) kill the Count. Then she’ll make Frank a vamp too and the two will live (?) happily together through eternity. Frank isn’t so sure about this, so he battles Alucard while he tries to rescue Katherine from an eternity of damnation.
Despite the title, the movie never makes it clear if Alucard actually is the progeny of the big man, or if he’s Drac himself. Many of the horror sequels of the Forties suffered from this kind of muddled tone and lack of consistency, and attached to some weak acting, that becomes the fatal flaw of Son.
On the surface, Son could have been a good movie, as not many of these flicks explore the concept of a person who actually wants to become a vampire. Usually the curse is thrust upon them, but Katherine actively seeks this status. Her reasons created an intriguing twist as well, and the story appears more complex and compelling than most.
Aided by some very good special effects for the era and some moody staging, Son has potential. Unfortunately, poor acting brings it down from its possible highs.
None of the cast seems very good, as they appear excessively broad and melodramatic. However, the real problem occurred when they cast Chaney as the lead.
Chaney tried to cultivate a career as the ultimate movie monster and he played all of the big ones in various films, from the Wolf Man to Frankenstein to the Mummy. He seemed most successful in the one role he originated, that of the Wolf Man. Yes, there had been other werewolf features prior to 1941’s The Wolf Man, but at least he made Larry Talbot his own.
Otherwise, Chaney dealt with characters started by others, but he couldn’t live up to the originals, and as Alucard, he came across worse than ever. The role should be mysterious and intriguing, but Chaney remains ham-fisted and goofy.
Really, Lenny in Of Mice and Men seemed like the perfect role for Chaney. I didn’t especially like him in that film, but he still seemed appropriately moronic in the part. Chaney lacked the charm and charisma to play a master vampire, and Son suffers accordingly.
By the way, shouldn’t a smart guy like the Count think of an alias more difficult to decipher than “Alucard”? That’s “Dracula” spelled backwards, and it seems like a stupidly obvious and pointless pseudonym.
Ultimately, Son of Dracula has some moments, but the movie as a whole seems too flawed to be a success. It’s an up and down experience.