Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dracula's Daughter (1936)

Dracula's Daughter is a 1936 vampire horror film produced
by Universal Studios, a sequel to the 1931 film Dracula.

Directed by Lambert Hillyer from a screenplay by Garrett Fort,
the film stars Otto Kruger, Gloria Holden, Marguerite Churchill
and, as the only cast member to return from the original,
Edward Van Sloan. Dracula's Daughter tells the story of
Countess Marya Zaleska, the daughter of Count Dracula and
herself a vampire. Following Dracula's death, she believes
that by destroying his body she will be free of his influence
and can live as a human. When this fails, she turns to
psychiatry and Dr. Jeffrey Garth. When his efforts fail, she
kidnaps Janet, the woman Jeffrey loves, and flees with her to
Transylvania in an attempt to bind Jeffrey to her. She is foiled
and destroyed when her jealous manservant shoots her with
an arrow.

Ostensibly based on a short story titled "Dracula's Guest" by
Bram Stoker, the film bears little or no resemblance to the
original source material. David O. Selznick initially purchased
the rights to the story for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Selznick,
probably knowing he could not legally make the film because
of Universal's copyright on the original film, sold the rights to
Universal. After first assigning the picture to James Whale,
Universal production head Carl Laemmle, Jr. finally put Hillyer
in the director's chair.

Upon its release, Dracula's Daughter was not as successful as
the original, although it was generally well-reviewed. In the
intervening decades, criticism has been deeply divided.
Modern critics and scholars have noted the strong lesbian
overtones of the film, overtones that Universal acknowledged
from the start of filming and which they exploited in some
early advertising.


Dracula's Daughter begins a few moments after Dracula ends.
Count Dracula has just been destroyed by Professor Von Helsing
(Edward Van Sloan). Von Helsing is taken by police to Scotland
Yard, where he explains that he indeed did destroy Count
Dracula, but because he had already been dead for over 500 years,
it cannot be considered murder. Instead of hiring a lawyer, he
enlists the aid of a psychiatrist, Dr. Jeffrey Garth (Otto Kruger),
who was once one of his star students. Meanwhile, Dracula's
daughter, Countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden), with the aid
of her manservant, Sandor (Irving Pichel), steals Dracula’s body
from Scotland Yard and ritualistically burns it, hoping to break her
curse of vampirism. However, Sandor soon makes her realize that
her thirst for blood has not been quenched and that all that is in
her eyes is "Death". The Countess resumes her hunting,
mesmerizing her victims with her exotic jeweled ring. After a
chance meeting with Dr. Garth at a society party, the Countess
asks him to help her overcome the influence she feels from
beyond the grave. The doctor advises her to defeat her cravings
by confronting them and the Countess becomes hopeful that her
will plus Dr. Garth's science will be strong enough to overcome
Dracula's malevolence.

The Countess sends Sandor to fetch her a model to paint; he
returns with Lili (Nan Grey). Countess Zaleska initially resists her
urges but succumbs and attacks Lili. Although the girl survives
the attack, when Dr. Garth tries to hypnotize her to learn what
happened, she suffers heart failure and dies. As the Countess
comes to accept that a cure is not possible — and the doctor
discovers the truth about her condition — she lures him to
Transylvania by kidnapping Janet (Marguerite Churchill), the
woman he loves. She intends to transform him into a vampire to
be her eternal companion; Dr. Garth agrees to exchange his life
for Janet's. Before he can be transformed, Countess Zaleska is
destroyed when Sandor shoots her through the heart with an
arrow as revenge for her breaking her promise to make him
immortal. He takes aim at Dr. Garth but is shot dead by a


-Otto Kruger as Dr. Jeffrey Garth
-Gloria Holden as Countess Marya Zaleska - Dracula's Daughter
-Marguerite Churchill as Janet
-Edward Van Sloan as Professor Von Helsing
-Gilbert Emery as Sir Basil Humphrey, Scotland Yard
-Irving Pichel as Sandor
-Halliwell Hobbes as Hawkins
-Billy Bevan as Albert
-Nan Grey as Lili
-Hedda Hopper as Lady Esme Hammond
-Claud Allister as Sir Aubrey
-Edgar Norton as Hobbs
-E. E. Clive as Sergeant Wilkes


Universal originally did not hold the rights to "Dracula's Guest",
a chapter supposedly excised from Bram Stoker's original novel
and the purported source material for the film. The story includes
an encounter between a man (presumed by some to be Jonathan
Harker although the character is not identified as such) and a
female vampire. The story does not establish a filial relationship
between the female vampire and Dracula. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
executive David O. Selznick negotiated a contract in 1933 with
Stoker's widow, Florence, to buy the rights to the chapter for an
advance of $500 against a purchase price of $5,000. M-G-M's
lawyers and executives were worried about the use of the word
"Dracula" in the film's title, fearing that Universal would take legal
action, although Selzick's contract with Stoker explicitly listed
"Dracula's Daughter" as a possible alternate title. The project was
code-named "Tarantula" in correspondence.

Selznick hired John L. Balderston, who had previously worked on
the 1931 Dracula and Frankenstein, to write the screenplay.
Balderston's screenplay involved tying up loose ends from the
original film. In it, Von Helsing returns to Transylvania to destroy
the three vampire brides seen in Dracula but overlooks a fourth
tomb concealing Dracula's daughter. She follows him back to
London and operates under the name "Countess Szekelsky".

She attacks a young aristocrat and Von Helsing and the aristocrat's
fiancée track her back to Transylvania and destroy her. The script
included scenes that implied that Dracula's daughter enjoyed
torturing her male victims and that while under her control the men
liked it too. Also included were shots of the Countess's chambers
being stocked with whips and straps, which she would never use
on-screen but whose uses the audience could imagine. Regardless
of any objections that the Production Code Administration (PCA)
would have raised to many aspects of the scenario, Balderston's
script could never have been filmed because Selznick's contract
with Stoker expressly barred him from using any Bram Stoker
characters that did not appear in "Dracula's Guest".

Selznick re-sold the rights to "Dracula's Guest" to Universal in
September 1935 for $12,500, which included the rights to
Balderston's scenario. Horror film scholar David J. Skal theorizes
that this was Selznick's actual motivation in buying the rights in
the first place, to profit from Universal's desire for a sequel by
tying up the only obvious source material.


Carl Laemmle, Jr.

Universal studio head Carl Laemmle, Jr. (nicknamed "Junior")
wanted James Whale, fresh from his great success with Bride
of Frankenstein, to direct Dracula's Daughter. Whale was idle,
waiting for Irene Dunne to finish work on Magnificent
Obsession so she could begin work on Whale's Show Boat.
Wary of directing two horror films in a row, Whale instead
convinced Laemmle to buy the rights to a mystery novel called
The Hangover Murders. Laemmle agreed only after extracting a
promise from Whale that he would direct Dracula's Daughter

James Whale

Whale completed work on the film, titled Remember Last Night? for
release, on September 14, 1935. Magnificent Obsession completed
filming on October 29. With Dunne freed up, Whale went to work on
Show Boat. Laemmle replaced him with A. Edward Sutherland, who
was best known for his work on comedies. Sutherland had as little
interest in Dracula's Daughter as Whale and soon left the studio,
and Hillyer came on to direct.

>>Reception and influence:

The New York Times gave Dracula's Daughter a solid, albeit
somewhat tongue-in-cheek, review upon its release, citing the
film's "blood-curdling events" and noting that "Gloria Holden is a
remarkably convincing bat-woman" in concluding that the film is
both "quite terrifying" and "a cute little horror picture." Variety also
praised the production and Holden's performance in particular.
Despite critical approval, Dracula's Daughter was unable to
duplicate the box office success of the original.

Recent reviews of Dracula's Daughter are sharply split.
Entertainment Weekly, reviewing the film following its video
release, called it "one of the most satisfying vampire pictures
ever made". Describing director Hillyer's visuals as "lush,
evocative, and suffused with just the right gothic chiaroscuro"
and noting that "Gloria Holden, as the reluctant vampire
protagonist, absolutely drips patrician eroticism", EW
concludes that this film is better than Lugosi's original

Ryan Cracknell of Apollo Movie Guide, while echoing the praise
for Holden's performance, nonetheless found that the film
"doesn't hold up so well today". Citing what he sees as slow
pacing and "long bouts of over-the-top dialogue", Cracknell
compares the film to "reading a textbook – not the most exciting
thing in the world, but it does provide insights into and
perspectives on the foundation of early horror movies and how
many similarities carry over into movies half a century and more
later." Michael W. Phillips, Jr. concurs, calling the film "a marked
improvement on the original film [but] still a bit of a snooze,
relying too much on forced comedy and not enough on suspense
or fright."Phillips again praises Holden's performance and also
Pichel's portrayal of Sandor, but finds the rest of the cast weak.

Horror author Anne Rice has named Dracula's Daughter as a direct
inspiration for her own homoerotic vampire fiction. She named a bar
in her novel Queen of the Damned "Dracula's Daughter" in honor of
the film. Author Ramsey Campbell, under the pseudonym "Carl
Dreadstone", wrote a novelization of the film also entitled Dracula's
Daughter that was published in 1977. A juvenile fiction version,
written by Carl R. Green, William R. Sanford and Howard Schroeder,
was published in 1985. Some observers have suggested that the film
served as an inspiration for Sunset Blvd., noting similarities between
the outlines of each film. Michael Almereyda's 1994 film Nadja has
been described as an "unofficial remake" of Dracula's Daughter.

>>Lesbian implications:

The lesbian vampire has been a trope in literature dating back
to Joseph Sheridan le Fanu's 1872 novella "Carmilla". Dracula's
Daughter, however, marked the first time that the trope was
incorporated into a film. The lesbian implications of Dracula's
Daughter were obvious from the start and were of great concern
to the Production Code Administration. PCA head Breen took
special notice of the scene between the Countess and her model,
Lili, writing, "This will need very careful handling to avoid any
questionable flavor." The day before the scene was to be shot,
Universal's Harry Zehner asked Breen to read a draft of
the scene. In response, Breen wrote:

"The present suggestion that...Lili poses in the nude will be
changed. She will be posing her neck and shoulders, and there
will be no suggestion that she undresses, and there will be no
exposure of her person. It was also stated that the present
incomplete sequence will be followed by a scene in which Lili
is taken to a hospital and there it will be definitely established
that she has been attacked by a vampire.

"Save the women of London from Dracula's Daughter!"
Countess Zaleska seduces Lili.

The whole sequence will be treated in such a way as to avoid
any suggestion of perverse sexual desire on the part of Marya
or of an attempted sexual attack by her upon Lili."

Gay film historian Vito Russo noted in his book The Celluloid
Closet that Universal highlighted Countess Zaleska's attraction
to women in some of its original advertising for the film, using
the tag line "Save the women of London from Dracula's Daughter!"
He further cited Countess Zaleska as an example of the
presentation of the "essence of homosexuality as a predatory
weakness". Some reviewers of the day picked up on and
condemned the lesbian content, including the New York World-
Telegram which noted the Countess's tendency to wander around
"giving the eye to sweet young girls".

Other reviews missed it entirely, including the aforementioned
New York Times which advised "Be sure to bring the kiddies."
Entertainment Weekly describes the encounter between the
Countess and Lili as "so hot it's impossible to imagine how it
ever got past '30s censors" whereas Time Out London finds
only a "subtle suggestion" of lesbianism. Horror scholar Skal
notes that the scene has come to be seen as a "classic 'lesbian'
sequence, although of a decidedly negative stripe". The scene
between Countess Zaleska and Lili was included in the 1995
documentary film adaptation of Russo's book.

Another lesbian-tinged scene which has received less critical
attention comes when the Countess is holding Janet captive.
Described as "the longest kiss never filmed", Countess Zaleska
"hovers lovingly over Janet...hovers...and hovers...slowly
descending to kiss the recumbent Janet..." until interrupted
by the arrival of Dr. Garth.

Bright Lights Film Journal, after noting that "Gloria Holden in the
title role almost singlehandedly redefined the '20s movie vamp as
an impressive Euro-butch dyke bloodsucker", draws an implicit
comparison between Countess Zaleska's seeking to cure her
vampirism through psychiatry and the former position of
mainstream psychiatry of homosexuality as a mental illness
(a view still held by a minority in the profession).

Zaleska's cruising the streets of London is seen as parallel to
cruising for sex (although that tends to be a gay male activity)
and as suggesting "society's image of the lesbian as soulless
predator" but the conclusion is that "Holden's striking, masklike
face and haunting, luminous eyes [are] the intoxicating essence
of transgressive lesbian power."

Fonts: Wikipedia

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