Did you know that Count Dracula had a son?
Well, maybe he did or maybe he didn’t. It all depends on how you interpret the 1943 film, Son of Dracula. In Son of Dracula, Lon Chaney, Jr. plays a vampire named Count Alucard. I get the feeling that it’s supposed to be a shocking moment when it’s pointed out that Alucard is Dracula spelled backwards but, since the movie is called Son of Dracula, I would think that most people would have already figured out the connection.
That said, when Alucard reveals that his true name is Dracula, he seems to be suggesting that he is the original Count Dracula. And yet the name of the film is Son of Dracula. At one point, two characters speculate that Alucard is a descendant of the original, just to be corrected by his bride. “He is Dracula!” she announces. Then again, she could just be bragging. If you’re going to marry a Dracula, wouldn’t you rather marry the original than a descendant?
If he is the original Dracula, you do have to wonder why he’s still alive. Since the film is a part of the Universal Dracula series, you have to wonder how he managed to survive being both staked by Van Helsing and having his body cremated by his daughter in Dracula’s Daughter. You also can’t help but notice that Alucard doesn’t bear much of a resemblance to Bela Lugosi. nor does he have a European accent. Instead, Alucard looks a lot like Lon Chaney, Jr. Chaney does not make for the most convincing vampire. As an actor, Chaney tended to project a certain “likable but dumb lug” quality that worked well for The Wolf Man and as Lenny in Of Mice and Men but it doesn’t quite work when he’s cast as a suave, Hungarian vampire.
Anyway, Son of Dracula finds Count Alucard in New Orleans at the turn of the century. He has specifically moved to the Deep South so that he can be with Katherine Caldwell (Louise Allbritton), a young woman who is obsessed with the occult. Katherine secretly marries Alucard. When her former boyfriend, Frank (Robert Paige), finds out about the marriage he decides that the best way to handle way things would be to get drunk and shoot the count. Unfortunately, since the Count is a vampire, the bullet passes through him and kills Katherine instead.
Or does it!?
Probably the most interesting thing about Son of Dracula is that it presents Alucard as being manipulated by a mortal. Usually, Dracula is the one doing the manipulating but in Son of Dracula, it’s suggested that a clever mortal can manipulate the undead jut as easily. GO KATHERINE!
Anyway, Son of Dracula is okay. It has some steamy deep south atmosphere and it’s fun in a campy, Universal sort of way. It has some historical significance because it was apparently the first film to actually feature a vampire transforming into a bat onscreen. For the most part, though, it’s a film that will best be appreciated by Universal horror completists.
That said, I kind of like the fact that nobody in the film could figure out that Alucard is Dracula spelled backwards. That was cute.