Son of Dracula (Robert Siodmak / U.S., 1943):

The Siodmak bros -- Robert at the camera, Curt on the page -- set the joke up very swiftly: Count Alucard comes from Budapest to the Deep South, local doctor Frank Craven spots the name tag on the luggage and casually reads it out loud, backwards ("D-R-A-C..."). The plantation still has colonels and black servants, the dark-haired belle (Louise Allbritton) feels the pull of the macabre; the mandatory Maria Ouspenskaya gypsy is here a Cajun shaman (Adeline DeWalt Reynolds) who tells the heroine "I see you... marrying a corpse" before keeling over from a bat attack. The reverse tracking shot that frames a society ball through a mansion window introduces the heir to the Dracula bloodline (Lon Chaney, Jr.), and was reused by Sirk in Written on the Wind. Líamour et la mort in the marsh -- "morbid" Allbritton in silk gown awaits her rendezvous as the Countís coffin emerges from the waters, she yearns for immortality and weds the Hungarian ghoul. Chaney is the least magnetic actor to don the Universal cape and fangs (just his pronunciation of the word "decadent" gives the game away), though Siodmak rolls with it and surveys the studio's vampiristic paraphernalia with humorous verve (reborn as a Venus flytrap bloodsucker, Allbritton dismisses the term "vampire" in favor of "undead" or, better yet, "immortal"). Still, the film intrigues most as a template for the Siodmak film noir, and in the triangle of alluring femme fatale, lethal villain, and hapless patsy (Robert Paige) one at once recognizes Criss Cross and The File on Thelma Jordan, not to mention the genre-bending studies of Billy the Kid vs. Dracula, Vampire Circus, et al. With Evelyn Ankers, J. Edward Bromberg. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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