“Save the women of London from Dracula’s Daughter!” ran an original advertising line for Lambert Hillyer’s neglected horror sequel from 1936. Dracula’s Daughter is something rather different from the usual horror fare, and it’s worth de-staking this particular vampire, a gal-pal version somewhat ahead of it’s time by a good eighty years.
In a startlingly direct into, we go back to the end of the film (and novel) to find Van Helsing, now Von Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) arrested on the scene of Dracula’s staking, the vampire’s form is seen prostrate in the background. Whitby’s finest allow Von Helsing to talk his way out of jail-time, and they come to an agreement to say no more about this unsavoury matter. That is, until the intervention of Countess Marya Zaleska, Dracula’s daughter, who steals her father’s body and sets it ablaze on a pyre. You see, the Countess does not want to follow in her dad’s career-path, and seeks to purify herself of all vampire instincts. That’s not easy, however, since the Countess kicks off a hot streak with actress-turned model Lili (Nan Grey), getting her to pose nude for her before sinking her teeth into her neck…
Yup, Dracula’s Daughter is LGBTQ audience-friendly, and that’s something of a surprise in 1936. The Hays Code had previously created strict rules about content, and it’s rather surprising that this film came out so stridently against the grain. Unfortunately, The Countess is played in a rather off-hand fashion by Gloria Holden, who reputedly did not care for the role or the genre. That makes this female vampire rather remote, and dampens down the fun in a second half that pretty much replays the race to Transylvania that most films on this subject end with.
Based on the story Dracula’s Guest by Bram Stoker, Dracula’s Daughter is a little staid by today’s standards, and has become something of a rarity, not currently streaming in the UK. For legal reasons, various aspects of the production had to be carefully measured for censorship and copyright issues, and the result is more of a success for lawyers that viewers. But with surprising emphasis on hypnosis, this is a personable film that strains at the leash in terms of full-blooded sexuality. Attitudes have changed since 1936, although it’s hard to accept the advice of the New York Times, which concluded ‘Be sure to bring the kiddies!’.