Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gloria Holden- Dracula's Daughter (1936)

The Universal Monster films rank at the absolute top of the horror genre for me. There is nothing quite like sitting down with one of these classics and being transported to the early days of the film industry when horror was still heavily influenced by German Expressionism, and not ruled by the values of trashy films like Hostel (Roth, 2005). Today, the Ultimate Woman of Horror is Gloria Holden from the classic sequel Dracula's Daughter (Hillyer, 1936).

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With its subtle use of shadow, score, and suggestion, Dracula's Daughter tells the tale of Countess Marya Zaleska, a young Hungarian woman who steals the corpse of Dracula and cremates it. Afterwards, bodies turn up in London, and suspicion finally turns to Marya. The Countess is not, in fact, Dracula's daughter, but she is a vampire and goes on a bit of a rampage herself. Holden's performance is able to save a film that otherwise would be mediocre.

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In a time when monsters were always men, Dracula's Daughter breaks the mold and paves the way for films such as Cat People (Tourneur, 1942) where the narrative revolves around the female protagonist. Up to this point, women in Universal Monster films were reduced to the victim in the boudoir while Dracula or Frankenstein slowly approach. This particular film even goes so far as to push the envelope in regards to sexual representation, as the Countess is a sexually expressive woman.

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While Dracula's Daughter may not be the best film of the Universal canon, it still is incredibly entertaining and provides and interesting look at the woman of the early horror film industry.

Check back tomorrow for more exciting Women of Horror!

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