Is vampirism a lifestyle choice or a reflection of a fundamental difference of biochemistry? 1936's Dracula's Daughter presents us with this question, reminiscent of debates about whether or not homosexuality is genetically determined, perhaps appropriate since the film is deemed by many to feature lesbianism in thinly disguised metaphor. A nicely shot film, at its centre is a beautiful, tortured anti-heroine.
Gloria Holden plays Countess Marya Zaleska, Dracula's daughter, with cool, querulous elegance, seemingly lost in the world after the recent demise of her father, she is repulsed by her own desire to drink blood. In an effort to control herself, she begins talking to a psychiatrist named Garth (Otto Kruger) who, without being told too many of the particulars of Marya's problem, recommends confronting her addiction head on by intentionally placing herself in situations where she might be tempted.
So she has her henchman, Sandor (Irving Pichel, looking eerily like Paul Muni), hire a pretty young girl off the street to pose for her as an artist's model. It's this one scene where it would seem a woman is trying to seduce another woman.
Marya drinks men's blood, too, so maybe the movie's more a metaphor for bisexuality? One might also ask, since Dracula drinks from men and women, why is Dracula's Daughter more of a metaphor for same sex relationships? Well, it's more about social context than whether someone is literally ravishing someone of the same sex. Marya is tormented just for being what she can't at the end of the day help being. Murder as metaphor for non-heterosexual orientations may seem too harsh but one has to consider that normal and Christian culture regards homosexuality with similar moral contempt, if not more.
Comparing this movie to 1970's The Vampire Lovers, I find I prefer the newer film as far as vampirism for unsanctioned sexual orientation goes. Based on the novella Carmilla from 1871, the 1970 film is told more from the vampire's perspective than the original story, it more strongly implies vampirism is a metaphor for homosexuality, but unlike Dracula's Daughter, Ingrid Pitt's character isn't ashamed of what she is, just sort of heartbroken that the people around her don't seem to want to accept her.
Dracula's Daughter does have the incredible, 1930s Universal horror film atmosphere, though. It's intended to be a direct sequel to the Dracula starring Bela Lugosi but the only returning cast member is Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing, continuing in the mysterious, decades long trend in films to avoid using the first name, Abraham, established for Van Helsing in the book. Marguerite Churchill is in the film as the sometimes annoying, sometimes charming Lois Lane-ish assistant to Garth.