Sunday, July 25, 2010

November 3, 2009: Psychobabble recommends ‘Dracula’s Daughter- An Alternate History for Classic Film Monsters'

When I posted a piece about the lost versions of Dracula’s Daughter just two weeks ago, I had no idea that a book was poised to be published that would be the final word on this fascinating nook of film history. At the risk of sounding melodramatic (or, at the very least, really geeky), I literally gasped when I learned about Philip J. Riley’s Dracula's Daughter - An Alternate History for Classic Film Monsters. Riley’s book gathers precious documents detailing what might have been regarding the first sequel to Tod Browning’s 1931 classic Dracula, such as John L. Balderston’s 10-page treatment, which was rejected by the suits at Universal Studio for being too shockingly perverse, and R.C. Sheriff’s entire script for the version that would have been filmed by Frankenstein director James Whale. The book also contains fascinating recollections from Carl Laemmle, Jr., the head producer at Universal when the company was turning out it’s greatest monster films; the full text of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula’s Guest”, the story that inspired Dracula’s Daughter; proposed poster art for the aborted versions of the film; and spare but priceless historical and biographical tidbits by Riley.

Without question, Dracula’s Daughter- An Alternate History for Classic Film Monsters contains the most important artifacts of classic horror film history to be made public this century. Finally, we get to read in specific detail just what so offended Laemmle and Co. about Balderston’s treatment and realize that his film could have been the greatest of all of Universal’s Dracula pictures, not to mention one of the most faithful to Stoker’s original text—Balderston includes many of the author’s details that did not make it into Browning’s film, including a character based on Quincey Morris. Sheriff’s script is equally jaw-dropping: Whale was far more interested in filming the musical Showboat than another monster picture, so he had Sheriff make his screenplay for Dracula’s Daughter so outrageous that Laemmle would never green light it. This included a flashback showing Dracula being transformed into a vampire by a Yoda-like creature and a pair of overtly gay heroes. Whale got his wish and Showboat was released in 1936.

I’ll not give away much more about this book, which is a trove of revelations and an utter thrill to read. Most exciting of all is the fact that it’s just the beginning. Riley’s “Alternate History for Classic Film Monsters” series will include future installments about scrapped versions of The Wolfman and The Invisible Man that would have starred Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney’s Dracula, Wolfman vs. Dracula, and more. Unfathomably essential.

Buy it here: Dracula's Daughter - An Alternate History for Classic Film Monsters
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