As before, I formally give anyone at all the right to use any of the ideas that follow. Go for it!
With the economy being what it is, and the huge competition from the internet and direct-to-dvd, small wonder Hollywood studios look to established stories for investing purposes. Here’s a suggestion for a remake: Dracula’s Daughter, the first sequel to the film starring Bela Lugosi. It went through numerous re-writes before production began, most running seriously afoul of the infamously puritanical (as well as racist) Hays Code. Philip K. Riley unearthed enough details of the proposed film he even published his efforts, part of his “alternate history of Universal Monsters.”
The finished product frankly comes across as a mish-mash. Like Dracula itself we find a blend of creepy melodrama with very strained humor involving the working class. Gloria Holden didn’t want to play the lead, and her distaste seems to have added a real melancholy air to this, the first “reluctant vampire” in cinema (Countess Zaleska remains the spiritual ancestor of Barnabas Collins. Louis de Lioncourt and of course Angel as well as Nick Knight). She hopes that with the final death of her father, the curse of undeath may pass from her. Of course it does not. Her faithful servant Sandor harbors no such hopes–indeed, desires eternal life for himself! But the Countess seeks the help from renowned psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Garth.
All this seems well and good. But think for a moment how a remake might approach these elements. Consider for a therapist might try and genuine cure a woman who (to his mind) suffers from the delusion she’s a centuries-old vampire! Here to me is a source of genuine drama untouched upon in the original. I can see Dr. Garth questioning the Countess, who in turn reveals all kinds of disturbing details. His fascination grows, both in terms of this case and the sheer charisma of a woman who seems more than a woman. One thing I found distasteful in the 1936 film was how Dr. Garth remained untempted by the Countess. His own–tempestuous–feelings aimed squarely at his secretary, Janet. Indeed their relationship seemed to come right out of a madcap comedy of the period! Fun! Certainly more real than the vanilla romance of Harker and Mina in the first movie! But for a triangle to really work, the “target” needs to feel something for both sides.
So think of all the possible facets of this situation to explore! If Dr. Garth begins to believe Countess Zaleska’s claims–how might that rock an Edwardian gentleman’s view of the world? Let us see him mourn the death of someone close, then see how he reacts to an offer of immortality! In the original Janet and the Countess barely met. What if they got to know each other, and the jaded Countess sought to tempt Janet as well? Another means to manipulate the doctor, but maybe more. One of the most powerful memes in vampire fiction that eventually emerged (and has ended up watered down, frankly) is that of loneliness. Decades must begin to feel like months after a time, spent with only other vampires for company. Easy to suppose that for the Countess, escape from undeath means lifting the weight of an empty heart. Life means the possibility of friends, family, loved ones. Or–as she becomes convinced the curse will not leave–to find companions for herself in the night.
Now toss Sandor into the mix, promised immortality but not yet given it. Eager, but bitter, and (Renfield-like) monomaniacal. He might have his own plans, his own schemes about achieving the same heart’s desire.
Amid all this heady brew of lust, temptation, betrayal and obsession let the vampiress hunt for her victims and Dr. Garth (who numbers among his friends some top officials at Scotland Yard) become increasingly aware of weird crimes. One can imagine the Countess seeking to control her thirst, until she loses control and drains someone dry. Then she preys on others, drinking less, making them last. But the bite of a vampire does not leave someone untouched. Even her living victims seem different somehow. One can imagine one or two of them brought to Dr. Garth for treatment.
I like to imagine Sandor somehow using modern equipment to draw out some of the Countess’ blood while she sleeps, then using it to become a vampire himself. An all-out battle between two vampires–one young but crazed and vicious, the other much older and more powerful hindered by the remnants of conscience–could well form the climax! With their powers–shape-shifting, super-strength, etc.–it could well satisfy movie goers want action with a capital A. Yet the potential remains for a compelling story of seduction and horror as well!
Somebody should do this!