Son of Dracula is a 1943 American horror film directed by Robert Siodmak – his first film for Universal studios – with a screenplay based on an original story by his brother Curt. The film stars Lon Chaney, Jr. and his frequent co-star Evelyn Ankers. Notably it is the first film where a vampire is actually shown physically transforming into a bat on screen. It is the third in Universal Studios' Dracula trilogy, beginning with Dracula and Dracula's Daughter.
Hungarian Count Alucard (Lon Chaney Jr.), a mysterious stranger, arrives in the U.S. invited by Katherine Caldwell (Louise Allbritton), one of the daughters of New Orleans plantation owner Colonel Caldwell (George Irving). Shortly after his arrival, the Colonel dies of apparent heart failure and leaves his wealth to his two daughters, with Claire receiving all the money and Katherine his estate "Dark Oaks." Katherine, a woman with a taste for the morbid, has been secretly dating Alucard and eventually marries him, shunning her long-time boyfriend Frank Stanley. Frank confronts the couple and tries to shoot Alucard but the bullets pass through the Count's body and hit Katherine, seemingly killing her.
A shocked Frank runs off to Dr. Brewster, who visits Dark Oaks and is welcomed by Alucard and a living Katherine. The couple instruct him that henceforth they will be devoting their days to scientific research and only welcome visitors at night. Frank goes on to the police and confesses to the murder of Katherine. Brewster tries to convince the Sheriff that he saw Katherine alive and that she would be away all day, but the Sheriff insists on searching Dark Oaks. He finds Katherine's dead body and has her transferred to the morgue.
Meanwhile, Hungarian Professor Lazlo arrives at Brewster's house. Brewster has noticed that Alucard is Dracula spelled backwards and Lazlo suspects vampirism. A local boy brought to Brewster's house confirms this suspicion—there are bite marks on his neck. Later, the Count appears to Brewster and Lazlo but is driven away by a cross.
Vampiric Katherine enters Frank's cell as a bat and starts his transformation. After he awakens, she explains that she still loves him—she married Alucard (whom she knows is really Dracula) only to attain immortality and wants to share said immortality with Frank. He is initially repulsed but then yields to her. As she explains that she has already drunk some of his blood, she advises him on how to destroy Alucard. He breaks out of prison, seeks out Alucard's hiding place and burns his coffin; with no daytime sanctuary, Alucard is destroyed. Brewster, Lazlo, and the Sheriff arrive at the scene, only finding Alucard's remains. They then go to Dark Oaks, where they find out that Frank has also set Katherine's coffin on fire, destroying her.
Lon Chaney, Jr. plays the part of Count Alucard / Dracula, a part that had previously been portrayed by Bela Lugosi in Universal's 1931 film Dracula. Chaney was previously known for his role as the in the 1941 movie.
- Lon Chaney, Jr. as Count Alucard (Dracula)
- Robert Paige as Frank Stanley
- Louise Allbritton as Katherine 'Kay' Caldwell
- Evelyn Ankers as Claire Caldwell
- Frank Craven as Dr. Harry Brewster
- J. Edward Bromberg as Professor Lazlo
- Adeline De Walt Reynolds as Madame Queen Zimba
- Patrick Moriarity as Sheriff Dawes
- Etta McDaniel as Sarah, Brewster's Maid
- George Irving as Colonel Caldwell
Son of Dracula dates the original Count Dracula as being destroyed in the 19th century, when the original novel was set.
The following year, the Dracula-related series continued with House of Frankenstein, which starred John Carradine as the original Count Dracula. The famous arrival of Dracula's coffin by train was reprised in the Abbott and Costello film Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).
This is the first Universal Dracula film to take the Count out of Europe and bring him to America.
The film was the first to show on-screen the bat-to-man transformation of a vampire. The effect was the work of special-effects wizard, John P. Fulton, A.S.C. Fulton was Universal's chief special-effects artist starting with 1933's The Invisible Man. He won an Academy Award in 1957 for his work on The Ten Commandments, most notably for his work on the parting of the Red Sea.
- This film features the first man-into-bat transformation ever seen on camera. In the original Dracula no transformations were shown on screen. Both John Carradine and Bela Lugosi would get similar treatment over the next five years.
- Lon Chaney Jr. was the only Dracula prior to Christopher Lee to display great physical strength on screen.
- In the film, the vampires never display any fangs. Mexico's German Robles became the first actor to show fangs as a vampire, in 1957 (Hammer's first Dracula appeared in 1958).
- Part of the original "Shock Theater" package of 52 Universal titles released to television in 1957, followed a year later with "Son of Shock", which added 21 more features.
- When Prof. Brewster is reading a book on Count Dracula, the first four lines - beginning with "What manner of man is this Dracula?" and ending with "I am encompassed with terrors I dark not think of. - are paraphrased excerpts from Chapter 3 of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula.
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