Thursday, October 30, 2008


Though made five years after the Bela Lugosi DRACULA, this sequel begins in the immediate aftermath of the 1931 film, as Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) has a bit of explaining to do to Scotland Yard when he admits to killing Count Dracula by staking him through the heart. His friend at the yard, Sir Basil, allows Van Helsing to get psychiatrist Jeffrey Garth (Otto Kruger) to defend him, but when Dracula’s body vanishes from the morgue, there is no corpus delecti. We know that the Countess Zeleska (Gloria Holden), a vampire herself, has stolen the body and burned it, hoping to break vampirism's hold on her, but it doesn't work. When Zeleska meets Garth at a party, she asks for his help in breaking the "influence" from beyond the grave, something he thinks can be done through will power, but of course, it's not that easy and, with the help of her manservant Sandor (Irving Pichel), Zaleska continues hunting down victims and putting the bite on them. The film climaxes in Transylvania with a kind of love "rectangle" after Zaleska kidnaps Garth's secretary (Marguerite Churchill), hoping to get Garth to sacrifice himself and spend eternity with her, although the jealous Sandor may have something to say about that.

This sequel can't compare to the original; it is more smoothly made and has better acting, but it tends to bog down in talky scenes and has nothing like the wonderfully creepy opening sequence of the 1931 version to compensate for the overall blandness of the movie. Holden has the right look for an icy vampire countess but is rather one-note in performance, and she can't hold a candle to Lugosi. Kruger is fine, but Churchill has to shoulder the burden of some silly comic relief. The best scene is Holden's seduction of the lovely but homeless Lili (Nan Grey); because of this brief scene, the film is often written about for its homoerotic aspect, and it remains a striking moment. After the first 15 minutes, Van Sloan has little to do. Familiar supporting faces include Hedda Hopper, Halliwell Hobbes, and the ever-effeminate Claud Alister. A must-see for fans of classic horror, but not really essential for those just delving into the genre. [DVD]

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