Dracula's Daughter is a 1936 American vampire horror film produced by Universal Pictures as a sequel to the 1931 film Dracula. Directed by Lambert Hillyer from a screenplay by Garrett Fort, the film stars Otto Kruger, Gloria Holden in the title role, and Marguerite Churchill, and features, as the only cast member to return from the original, Edward Van Sloan – although his character's name was altered from "Van Helsing" to "Von Helsing".
Dracula's Daughter tells the story of Countess Marya Zaleska, the daughter of Count Dracula and herself a vampire. Following Dracula's death, she believes that by destroying his body, she will be free of his influence and live normally. When this fails, she turns to a psychiatrist, Dr. Jeffrey Garth (Kruger). The Countess kidnaps Dr. Garth's fiancée, Janet (Marguerite Churchill), and takes her to Transylvania, leading to a battle between Dr. Garth and the Countess in an attempt by him to save Janet.
Ostensibly based on a deleted chapter from Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula – published in 1914 as a short story under the name "Dracula's Guest" – the film bears no resemblance to the source material. Modern sources also say that the film was loosely based on Carmilla, an 1872 Gothic novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, which is often cited as the first published British work of fiction to deal with lesbian relationships.
David O. Selznick purchased the rights to the Stoker material for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, but Universal bought them in 1934, with the rights to revert to MGM if Universal did not begin production by October 1935, a date later extended to February 1936. Universal rushed the film into production in that month, with the script only partially completed, to meet this deadline. The film was first assigned to James Whale, but Universal production head Carl Laemmle, Jr. finally hired Hillyer as director.
While not as successful as the original upon its release, the film was generally well-reviewed. In the intervening decades, criticism has been deeply divided. Contemporary critics and scholars have noted the film's alleged lesbian overtones, which Universal exploited in some early advertising.
Having just destroyed Count Dracula, Professor Von Helsing is arrested by two Whitby policemen, Sergeant Wilkes and Constable Albert. He is taken to Scotland Yard, where he explains to Sir Basil Humphrey that he indeed did destroy Count Dracula, but because he had already been dead for over 500 years, it cannot be considered murder. Instead of hiring a lawyer, he enlists the aid of a psychiatrist, Dr. Jeffrey Garth, who was once one of his star students.
Sergeant Wilkes leaves the Whitby gaol to meet an officer from Scotland Yard at the train station. Meanwhile, Dracula's daughter, Countess Marya Zaleska, enters the gaol and mesmerises Albert with her jewelled ring and with the aid of her manservant, Sandor, steals Dracula's body from the Whitby gaol, and after tossing salt on the pyre, ritualistically burns Dracula's body, hoping to break her curse of vampirism. However, Sandor soon begins to discourage her, telling her that all that is in her eyes is "death". She soon gives in to her thirst for blood. The Countess resumes her hunting, mesmerising her victims with her exotic jewelled ring. After a chance meeting with Dr. Garth at a society party, the Countess asks him to help her overcome the influence she feels from beyond the grave. The doctor advises her to defeat her cravings by confronting them, and the Countess becomes hopeful that her will, plus Dr. Garth's science, will be strong enough to overcome Dracula's malevolence.
The Countess sends Sandor to fetch her a model to paint. He sees a pretty young woman, Lili, and follows her onto a bridge. The woman pauses at the railing looking despondent. Sandor promises her food, warmth, and money. She hesitates, but Sandor explains that he seeks her for his mistress. Lili returns with Sandor. Countess Zaleska initially resists her urges, but succumbs and attacks her. Lili survives the attack and is examined by Dr. Garth through hypnosis; she reveals enough information to let Dr. Garth know that Countess Zaleska was who attacked her, but she suffers heart failure and dies. The Countess gives up fighting her urges and accepts that a cure is not possible; she lures Dr. Garth to Transylvania by kidnapping Janet Blake, his secretary, with whom he has a playfully antagonistic relationship, but now realises that he cares for her. Zaleska intends to transform Dr. Garth into a vampire to be her eternal companion. Arriving at Castle Dracula in Transylvania, Dr. Garth agrees to exchange his life for Janet's. Before he can be transformed, Countess Zaleska is destroyed when Sandor shoots her through the heart with an arrow as revenge for her breaking her promise to make him immortal. He takes aim at Dr. Garth, but is shot dead by a Scotland Yard policeman, who along with Von Helsing, has followed Dr. Garth from London.