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Film / Dracula's Daughter

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Marya: Sandor, look at me. What do you see in my eyes?
Sandor: Death.

Dracula's Daughter is a Universal Horror film from 1936, directed by Lambert Hillyer. It was the first sequel to the Bela Lugosi vehicle Dracula. Lugosi also appeared on some promotional stills, but he isn't featured in the actual film.

The film starts where the last one left off. Two constables stumble upon the corpses of Renfield and Count Dracula in Carfax Abbey's cellar. There they also meet Professor Von Helsing (Edward Van Sloan), who tells them what has happened. Baffled by his crazy story, they call Scotland Yard for help. Threatened with either execution or the madhouse, Von Helsing sends for an former student of his, psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Garth (Otto Kruger), to help him clear himself.

At the same time, Countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden), the title character, steals Dracula's body and burns it on a funeral pyre, hoping to be freed from his vampiric influences so that she can begin life as a normal woman. After this fails, she turns her attention to Dr. Garth, hoping that psychology is the way, despite the warnings of her servant Sandor (Irving Pichel). When this too fails, the Countess abducts Garth's fiancée Janet (Marguerite Churchill) and takes her to Transylvania, hoping to lure the psychiatrist there and turn him into her vampire companion.

The producers did their best to tone it down, but the film still has some Les Yayness evident.

Was followed by Son of Dracula in 1943.

It received a retooled remake in Abigail (2024), though the story is very different.

This film provides the examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Von/Van Helsing's arrest and trial are forgotten by the end of the movie when he follows Garth to Transylvania. It's likely that with Dracula's body missing and the Inspector having seen evidence he was telling the truth the charges against him were dropped off-screen.
  • Adaptation Name Change: A minor one, but Van Helsing becomes "Von Helsing" here for some reason.
  • Answer Cut: Jeffrey wonders what could have made the puncture wounds in a victim's neck, and the film cuts to a maid answering "Countess Zaleska!" See Inadvertent Entrance Cue, below.
  • Arrested for Heroism: The film opens with Van/Von Helsing being arrested for Dracula's murder.
  • Burn Baby Burn: Marya burns the count's corpse on a funeral pyre.
  • Call-Back: Marya's "I Do Not Drink Wine" line evokes Count Dracula's famous statement in the first film.
  • Can't Tie His Tie: It's obviously flirtatious each time Janet ties Jeffrey's tie.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: No mention is made of what became of Dr Seward, Mina and Jonathan Harker. Likewise Dracula's brides are nowhere to be seen at the castle.
  • Cobwebs of Disuse: Like any proper vampire castle, Dracula's is festooned with cobwebs. Giant cobwebs that must be eight feet in diameter.
  • Composite Character: Dr. Jeffery Garth borrows elements of Dr. John Seward's book role as a young doctor who is a former student of Van Helsing—pardon, Von Helsing.
  • Damsel in Distress: Janet during the final third of the film. Countess Marya kidnaps her and Jeffrey goes to Transylvania to rescue her.
  • Demoted to Extra: Van/Von Helsing, thanks to being in police custody for most of the movie and thus limited to providing information on vampires.
  • Dhampyr: In the movie's novelization, Von Helsing implied strongly that Marya is one of them.
  • Flanderization: In the first film, Van/Von Helsing only told everyone that Dracula was a vampire when the circumstances left no other explanation, and acknowledged that the things he knew about the supernatural were things the world was better off not knowing. In this movie, he apparently just expects everyone to believe him about vampires.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Shown when the police begin searching for the Countess after she kidnaps Janet.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: When the Head of Scotland Yard tells his manservant that he's going out to hunt "vampires", the latter replies: "But I always understood you went after them with chequebooks, sir."
  • He's Dead, Jim: Three doctors around poor Lili and no one makes any effort to do anything when she croaks. All that happens is that Dr. Garth checks her pulse and says "She's dead."
  • Honor Before Reason: Von Helsing insists telling the truth about Dracula's death, even risking being sentenced to execution or an asylum.
  • I Do Not Drink Wine: Countess Marya also never drinks wine, giving the same line as in the 1931 film. But tea is no problem.
  • Immortality Immorality: Sandor works for Marya for the promise of immortality as a vampire.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Jeffrey sees a painting and wonders who the artist was. Cut to a butler, who announces the arrival of "Countess Maria Zaleska!"
  • Impersonating an Officer: Dr. Garth poses as a Scotland Yard operative to get into the bookstroe below Countess Zaleska's flat.
  • Interrupted Suicide: It's implied that this was Lili's intention on the bridge, as Sandor lures her away partly by pointing out how cold the river will be.
  • Jerkass: Sandor. Poor Marya was only trying to cure her vampirism or at least fight it so she could start over, but Sandor kept manipulating her to embrace it. And all so he could have immortality.
  • Lecture as Exposition: Von Helsing gets arrested, which gives him a chance to tell a Scotland Yard detective about the whole idea of vampires.
  • Lesbian Vampire: Probably the original cinematic example, but in a more subtextual sense. There's an obvious sexual subtext to the scene where Marya is telling Lili to take her blouse off and pull the slip off her shoulders; Gloria Holden's lustful expression is what really sells it. This is again hinted at when Marya lowers herself over an unconscious Janet near the end, with a hungry look on her face again.
  • Lonely Funeral: Well, when you're burning the body of your dad Dracula, don't be surprised if your minion Sandor is the only person there with you.
  • Love Triangle: Among Janet, Dr. Garth, and Marya. Janet and Jeffrey are flirtatious throughout, while Marya is attracted to Jeffrey and he obviously is at least intrigued by her.
    Marya: We might talk fo Dr. Garth. He's interested in both of us.
  • Mind-Control Device: Marya's ring. She gets a policeman to look at it, and that's all it takes to mind-control him into letting her steal away with Dracula's body.
  • Model Scam: Marya invites a pretty young girl to model for a portrait and then attacks her.
  • Mysterious Veil: Countess Zaleka initially appears wearing one of these as she visits the police station to recover Dracula's body.
  • Novelization: A very good one, by "Carl Dreadstone". It have more implications from Zaleska's story, as legends about "Dracula and the woman he created", or another origin as Dracula attacked a pregnant woman, and the baby, a girl born half vampire, half human. Also about the lesbic scene, a interesting analysis by Garth about Countess Zaleska's paintings, revealing a psychological trauma with a man in her past, probably her father and the characters in general got more development. Are an expand moments at the climax, as Scotland Yard using proves that help to track the Countess, a conflict of her with villagers (showing her vampire powers). At the climax, in Janet's POV in Castle Dracula, after being captive by Marya, there are a nightmarish and disturbing visions, as a stench of rancid blood and earth, the Countess herself awakening from earth, and describing her more like a corpse, full of earth, with the falling jaw and a lifeless expression of hunger, in contrast with the beautiful human-like face she showed in London. At the ending, after Zaleska's death, Von Helsing tells that "all souls are beautiful to God's eyes". However, it's more ambiguous, as Janet has psychological sequels and trauma with the Countess.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Marya seems to think that vampirism is a habit that she can kick, as opposed to needing blood to survive like a classic vampire. Also, while she doesn't drink wine she can have tea, no problem.
  • Pretty in Mink: Janet wears a white fox fur cape in one scene.
  • Purple Prose: Marya's speech as she is burning her "father's" body:
    Unto Adoni and Aseroth, into the keeping of the lords of the flame and lower pits, I consign this body, to be for evermore consumed in this purging fire. Let all baleful spirits that threaten the souls of men be banished by the sprinkling of this salt. Be thou exorcized, O Dracula, and thy body long undead, find destruction throughout eternity in the name of thy dark, unholy master. In the name of the all holiest, and through this cross, be the evil spirit cast out until the end of time.
  • The Renfield: Trope played with and ultimately subverted, in the character of Sandor. While he occupies the traditional role of a Renfield, as the mortal daytime-capable servant to the titular vampire, he is a far cry from the "poor, harmless imbecile" who was his predecessor, being sane (or at least calculating), ruthless, and cunning. Also, far from being a slave of the vampire's influence, he actually and ironically exerts a terrible moral influence on the vampire, undermining Marya's efforts at reform and enabling all her worst, addictive impulses. Small wonder that she is less than keen to reward him for such "services" (leading to the final irony: the Renfield actually becomes the vampire slayer, albeit for totally selfish and petty reasons).
  • Sassy Secretary: Janet, who does stuff like go to Scotland to fetch Jeffrey to come back and help Von Helsing. When he balks she says "I'm in no mood for an argument!" In another scene she prank calls him. He points out that she takes "liberties" that a regular secretary wouldn't because she's a baroness's daughter.
  • Scream Discretion Shot: Lili screams as Marya closes in, the camera pans up, and the film cuts away.
  • Servile Snarker: Hobbs, the Scotland Yard director's servant, snarks at his master when told he's going vampire hunting (and is snapped back at).
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The opening minutes and subsequent trial of Von Helsing, with regards to the events of the previous movie. His story sounds insane, there's no actual evidence to back it up (and Marya destroys what evidence there might've been anyway), and the police were never involved in the preceding events. To an outside observer, it looks less like Von Helsing rid the world of a force of evil and more like he broke in and murdered two men. Naturally, he's arrested and put on trial for it.
  • The Shrink: The protagonist is a famous psychiatrist and former student of Von Helsing.
  • Those Two Guys: Cowardly constable Albert and his superior, Sgt. Hawkins, who provide some comic relief early in the film.
  • Title Drop
    Marya: Yes. I am Dracula's daughter.
  • Tragic Monster: Unlike her father, Marya seeks to get rid of her vampirism and return to the world of the living.
  • Überwald: The film's version of Transylvania, seen in the denouement, is this as per usual.
  • Vampire Vannabe: Sandor is only with Marya because he wishes to become a vampire himself, and isn't happy when she wants to escape the shackles of undeath or choose another man instead.
  • Villain Has a Point: When Marya tries to savor what she believes to be her first moments "cured" of her vampire heritage by playing piano, Sandor keeps telling her throughout the piece that she's still a vampire. It's a hard pill to swallow for Marya, but ultimately, vampirism isn't always something you can cure, and Sandor knows it.
  • The Von Trope Family: As you can tell by now, Van Helsing's name is inexplicably turned into Von Helsing.
  • Wolves Always Howl at the Moon: How do you make the scene where Marya burns Dracula's body even spookier? Have howling wolves, of course. Another howling wolf marks the countess's return to the castle towards the end of the film.
  • You're Insane!: Dr. Garth says this to Marya when she says that she has kidnapped Janet to enlist his aid.