23 April 2014

Son of Dracula (1943)
80 min.
Directed by Robert Siodmak.
With Lon Chaney Jr., Louise Allbritton, Robert Paige, Evelyn Ankers, Frank Craven, J. Edward Bromberg, Samuel S. Hinds, Adeline De Walt Reynolds, Pat Moriarty, Etta McDaniel, George Irving.
Son of Dracula is a competent entry in Universal's cycle of 1940s horrors.

It's got a few stylish touches from director Robert Siodmak (brother of Curt Siodmak, the studio's preeminent screenwriter of '40s horror), some moody set designs, and solid plotting.

But it doesn't have Bela Lugosi.

Instead, it's got a terribly wooden performance from wannabe Chaney, which only serves to remind us this could've been so much better.

The story: a devotee of the occult, Katherine Caldwell (Allbritton) invites the mysterious Hungarian aristocrat Count Alucard (Chaney) for a visit to her southern plantation, Dark Oaks.

Alucard arrives, but soon reveals he has other plans than just being your average European tourist.

Seems he wants to set up a new vampire coven, with Katherine at his side, and begin feeding on the whole Deep South! (Frankly, we have no problem with that.)

At any rate, Katherine's fiance Frank (Paige) and a local university professor (Bromberg) join forces in the hopes of stopping the evil Alucard (that's 'Dracula' spelled backwards).

Our verdict? Son of Dracula is decent enough, but it simply screams for Lugosi.

Chaney is horribly miscast; his performance is stiff, uncomfortable, and devoid of any menace. Allbritton is adequate, but it's a shame that genre regular Ankers (The Wolf Man) is so underused here.

Kudos only to supporting lead Paige, who is used to good effect as the everyman caught up in the supernatural hubbub.

But at the end of the day, unfortunately Son leaves us with a promising horror film that never attains any measure of suspense or terror, due to the woeful absence of a strong central villain.

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