More Horror Classics—Dracula’s Daughter, The Raven, and Werewolf of London

Dracula’s Daughter – 1936, US, 71m. Director: Lambert Hillyer. Streaming: Peacock

The Raven – 1935, US, 61m. Director: Lew Landers. Streaming: Peacock

Werewolf of London – 1935, US, 75m. Director: Stuart Walker. Streaming: Peacock

DRACULA’S DAUGHTER (1936) In the aftermath of Dracula’s demise at the end of Dracula (1931), Prof. Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) is arrested for the murders of both the Count and Renfield. That same night, a mysterious woman by the name of Countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden) steals Dracula’s corpse from Scotland Yard and burns the body. All this seems strange until we find out the Countess is a vampire—presumably Dracula’s flesh and blood daughter—and destroying the Count’s body by fire has extinguished her own vampirism. The trick doesn’t seem to work, as Zaleska chows down on a nearby drunkard before retreating to her coffin by the break of dawn. Meanwhile, the disappearance of Dracula’s body results in Van Helsing’s release from police custody (the script never bothers to explain the absence of Mina Seward and John Harker, both of whom were witness to Dracula’s reign of terror in the previous film). Dracula’s Daughter lays on the metaphors thick and fast, with its lesbian subtext being a particularly favorite topic among film scholars, although thematically Zaleska’s sexuality is less important than her need for blood, which the movie back-burners quite substantially. The film never feels like part of the Dracula canon—until the final ten minutes when Zaleska abducts the girlfriend of a shrink (Otto Kruger), taking her back to Dracula’s castle in Transylvania. In the end, Zaleska is betrayed by her manservant (Irving Pichel) and succumbs to her inevitable (at least within the context of these films) departure from the world of the living. Lugosi’s absence is a large detractor. C+

THE RAVEN (1935) Revered surgeon Dr. Richard Vollin (Bela Lugosi) is brought out of retirement to do emergency surgery on the daughter (Irene Ware) of prominent Judge Thatcher (Samuel S. Hinds). Vollin ultimately falls in love with the young woman—to the distaste of her father, who expresses his concerns and reminds Vollin of his daughter’s engagement to another man. Unfortunately for Judge Thatcher, Vollin is a madman who keeps homemade torture devices inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe in his underground dungeon. Vollin’s favorite torture method is the infamous pit and pendulum device, to which he straps Thatcher with the aid of his hapless “henchman” (Boris Karloff), an escaped convict Vollin has blackmailed into servitude. Lugosi and Karloff work well together, and the Torture Museum finale is quite the hoot. Coming in at just over an hour, The Raven is an enjoyable bit of B&W horror. B

WEREWOLF OF LONDON (1935) While searching for a rare flower which only grows in the wilds of Tibet, botanist Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull) is bitten by a werewolf. The scientist returns home with flower in hand in order to study the plant’s mysterious properties. Wilfred’s work proves fruitless when he’s transformed into a wolf and goes about terrorizing London’s upper crust (after one high society heiress witnesses the werewolf climbing in through her bedroom window, she’s dismissed as being drunk). The sight of Wilfred-as-werewolf running around the streets at night should be exciting, but a lack of truly likable characters creates a roadblock for the viewer, leaving us unable to care much about what happens to anybody; unlike The Wolf Man‘s Lawrence Talbot, Wilfred Glendon is cold and unsympathetic. But the film is skillfully directed and nicely paced, building to a genuinely fun climax. In the annals of werewolf movies, Werewolf of London isn’t the best—but it’s nowhere near the worst. B

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