Having just driven a stake through Count Dracula’s heart, Professor Van Helsing (Von Helsing in this movie for whatever reason) is arrested and charged with murder. Von Helsing rebuffs the authorities and defends his actions: Dracula has been dead for five centuries, so how could he kill a dead man? True, he was dead/undead, but still….
Instead of a lawyer, Von Helsing requests help from his former student, the noted psychiatrist Jeffrey Garth. Garth is summoned from his holiday activities in the country by his secretary, Janet. Once he arrives and meets with Von Helsing, Dr. Garth doesn’t know which is worse, that his mentor may be a murderer or that vampires may be real. Von Helsing isn’t the type of man to fabricate stories or to kill people (actual people, not supernatural beings).
While the police have Dracula’s body in storage, and the commanding officer departs to fetch Scotland Yard, a mysterious, robed woman arrives at the police station. She requests to see the body of the dead Count. When the policeman on duty refuses, the woman mesmerizes him with her eyes and her ring. When the commanding officer returns with a Scotland Yard inspector, they discover the guard in a trance and Dracula’s body to be missing.
The robed lady was Countess Marya Zaleska, Dracula’s daughter. With the assistance of her henchman, Sandor, she cremates her father’s body. It’s Zaleska’s hope that since her father is truly dead, she will be liberated from the curse of vampirism. Sadly, it’s not so. She still has the craving for blood and the urge to kill. Also, she still has the severe aversion to sunlight which goes hand-in-hand with being a vampire.
Feeling at the end of her proverbial rope, Countess Zaleska finds hope in Dr. Garth, whom she meets at a dinner party. She taps him to help with her problem, although she’s reluctant to explain to him what her problem is exactly. Her reluctance to be honest and upfront troubles Garth, as does the lack of mirrors at her place– which only bothers him after Von Helsing mentions that a vampire wouldn’t have mirrors as they cast no reflection. This exchange of dialogue comes about after a series of murders occur, the victims of which bear all the hallmarks of the nosferatu.
Until I was given the Universal Monsters boxed collection, I had not seen too many of the sequels to the original films. Most are pleasing diversions, some are forgettable. It’s not perfect, but Dracula’s Daughter is the only sequel to surpass its original film, at least in technicality, not in importance. Yet, the matter of importance could be debated on some levels.
How is Gloria Holden not a household name like Bela Lugosi for this movie? How is this movie not talked about more? As Countess Marya Zaleska, she is everything and more Lugosi brought to the iconic Count. She’s elegant, seductive, exotic, entrancing. Much the same way it’s nearly impossible to imagine someone else having played the vampire other than Lugosi in Dracula, it’s difficult to picture another actress as the Count’s daughter. Gloria Holden really casts a spell.