Dir.: Lambert Hilyer
Starring: Gloria Holden, Otto Kruger, Edward Van Sloan and Irving Pritchell
Loosely (very, verrrry loosely) based on Bram Stoker’s novella Dracula’s Guest, Dracula’s Daughter is a surprisingly effective and compelling tale about Countess Marya Zaleska, the daughter of Dracula, looking to liberate herself from her blasphemous bloodline, but as expected, the affairs are never so easy. The most rewarding element of this film is indeed Holden as the Countess, with her narcotic gaze, her mask-like face, regal, almost supernatural bearing and her steady delivery. She blurs the lines between propriety and transgression thanks to her captivating performance that inspires both sympathy for her plight as well as fear of her bestial nature.
The supporting cast do admirably and what is especially surprising is the fact they are more than able to hold their own against Holden’s domineering designs. The film manages to tie up some of the loose ends at the end of Browning’s film as well as offer some brand new ideas thanks to interesting story telling, focused performances and competent direction thanks to Hilyer. While by no means the first portrayal of bisexuality on Western screens, it’s most talked about sequence involving the seduction of an unwitting female victim at the hands of Marya. Although incredibly tame by today’s excessive standards (nary a shred of actual nudity), a lot of the sexuality derives from Holden’s unflinching, virile presence that simultaneously reminds one of a domineering seducer as well as a tarantula, paralyzing a victim with its venom before the inevitable devouring. Dracula’s Daughter manages to not only stand firmly as a worthy successor to its predecessor, but also as its own individual feature that had surprisingly stood the test of time and may even eventually be considered another classic in the Universal horror pantheon. Give it a watch.