Count Alucard (Lon Chaney Jr.) is invited to Louisiana by Katherine Caldwell (Louise Allbriton), the daughter of a New Orleans plantation owner named Colonel Caldwell (George Irving), who dies of an apparent heart failure and leaves his estate to his daughters. Claire (Evelyn Ankers) receives his money and Katherine the plantation, called Dark Oaks. Count Alucard has swept her off her feet and they soon marry.
Her former boyfriend, Frank Stanley (Robert Paige) tries to shoot Alucard, but the bullets pass harmlessly through his body and hit Katherine. Frank thinks she is dead and rushes off to find Doctor Brewster (Frank Craven). When the doctor arrives, he finds her alive and well. She and Alucard tell him they will be doing research and will only be available to visitors at night. Frank confesses killing her to the police, but Doctor Brewster says he saw her alive. The Sheriff searches Dark Oaks and finds her body in a coffin full of dirt. Doctor Brewster reads the novel Dracula.
Professor Lazlo (J. Edward Bromberg) arrives from Hungary. Aside from Brewster, he is the only one who notices that Alucard is Dracula backwards. A local boy appears with bites on his neck. The Count appears to Doctor Brewster and the latter drives him away with a cross. Katherine sneaks into Frank’s cell and explains that she married Alucard for immortality and wants to share it with Frank. Eventually, he yields to her and she coaches him in how to kill Alucard. He breaks out of jail, finds Alucard’s coffin, and burns it. Alucard is destroyed when the sun rises. Frank enters the playroom, finds Katherine’s coffin, and places his ring on her finger. When the others enter the room, they find her coffin burning.
The film was directed by Robert Siodmak, based on a screenplay from a story by his brother Curt and finished by Eric Taylor. It took six months to be released to mixed reviews. It featured the first man-to-bat transformation in the movies, and Lon Chaney Jr. was the first Dracula to display great physical strength. That suited him, but I still had a hard time believing him as Dracula, who is an aristocrat. Chaney was distinguished looking with his pencil-thin moustache but, as a working-man type, he seems much more suited to playing the Wolf Man, which he did in five movies. Still, he was a fine actor and the look of terror in Alucard’s eyes when he sees the sun rising was just like that of Lawrence Talbot when he glimpses the full moon.
Louise Allbritton and Robert Paige were always playing jokes on other cast members. In one scene, where actors flipped open a coffin-lid, they found Louise naked inside. Etta McDaniel and Sam McDaniel, who appear as workers on the plantation, are brother and sister. Their sister was Hattie McDaniel, who received the supporting actor Oscar for Gone with the Wind. The coat of arms on Alucard’s luggage is that of Galicia and Lodomiria, part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire now divided between Poland and Ukraine. This is wrong, of course, because Dracula is from Transylvania, in the other half of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now Romania. Tsk, tsk.