For the Halloween month of October, PeacockTV.com is making a number of classic Universal horror movies free to watch online. I am showcasing a “double-feature” of films each week. This week, I have selected Dracula (1931) and Dracula’s Daughter (1936). I thought it would be interesting for you to see them back to back as the second film picks up a little bit where the first one left off.
Starring Bela Lugosi, Dracula (1931) is one of the most famous and influential horror movies in history. It was also produced in Spanish (with a different cast) and in a silent version, as not all movie theaters had been wired for sound in 1931. Bela Lugosi had appeared in previous films and on Broadway, including as Dracula, and the role typecast him for horror roles. The movie has been selected by the Library of Congress for being culturally significant. It is a splendid movie and one of my very great favorites.
Dracula is a pre-Code movie but in 1934, the Production Code Administration was established and it censored scripts and films. Dracula’s Daughter went through many iterations before it was finally approved by the PCA, who was particularly concerned about lesbian sexual overtones in the plot (not to mention suggestions of BDSM, which was also cut out).
Starring Gloria Holden, the 1936 movie is not considered to be as fine a movie as Dracula, but Dracula’s Daughter has some particular strengths that make it worth viewing, not the least of which is that a woman appears as the protagonist, which was unusual for horror films of the period. In that, there are some subtle explorations of power between the sexes. It has some almost poetic scenes, such as when she casts a spell or when she debates with her Sandor, her Hungarian drudge. Gloria Holden was a model and she used that grace of movement to appear sophisticated, beautiful and elegant…a sharp contrast to her monstrous appetites. Sandor is an interesting foil ot her character. The sexual rivalry between the two women for the doctor’s attentions is an intriguing plot element, as is the early portrayal of psychiatric treatment. And the lesbian overtones were not completely wiped out by the censors. But what is most fascinating to me about this film is the great conflict she experiences between her vampiric urges and her wish to live a normal life as a human, and how that struggle plays out.
I hope you enjoy these movies as much as I have.