Welcome to the 2012 Halloween Season!

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The following is for information purposes only.   We are in no way affiliated with the creators of any product nor do we recommend you purchase any product described herein.  Any opinions expressed in the following article do not constitute an endorsement of any product.

Welcome, old friends and new, to The Big Scare, the site that prepares you for all of the tricks and treats in store this upcoming season.  We have a variety of terrifying topics to cover, so let’s waste no time.

First of all, let’s discuss the posting schedule.  Throughout August, we will be sharing updates every Wednesday, the day upon which Halloween falls this year.   Beginning September 3, we will be posting each weekday, providing you with decorating ideas,  haunted histories, as well as links to some of the most interesting (and eerie) items available to purchase this season in our Spook Spotter.  But why wait ’til then?  There’s already a number of finds that Spook the Cat is waiting to dig his claws into…

Let’s start with the biggies.  Many of you enjoy collecting life-sized animatronic figures and displaying them around your haunted homes and personal cemeteries.  This year, we have heard about some interesting ones, including an officially licensed Wicked Witch of the West and a limb-ripping werewolf.  Both will be available at Spirit Halloween Superstores.

For those of you who enjoy the more quaint – and smaller – Halloween fare, we suggest you take a look at the new figures and buildings available from Lemax.  Michael’s Arts and Crafts stores already are displaying their Spooky Town items.  If you haven’t had a chance to see the display in your local retailer, you can check out the offerings here.

Now let’s give you some updates on past Spook Spotter items.  We previously announced the release of a Bride of Frankenstein model from Moebius Models.  That item is now available, and you can order it here.   Secondly, we mentioned another series of  Dark Shadows action figures.  Those have been delayed until 2013, but it looks as if they are still being produced.  We will keep you updated.  In addition, all of the Universal Monster items from Diamond Select and Mezco are on schedule, and many of them will be released this fall.  We will let you know when they hit shelves.

Finally, you have probably noticed some changes around here, aesthetically speaking.  We are pleased to announce that we have a whole new cast of characters who will be helping dismember… disseminate, rather… all of the Haunted Headlines.  You’ve already met Spook the Cat.  Look forward to hearing from his friends Luna the Wolf, Eek the Owl, Swoop the Bat and a whole slew of others who are just dying to meet you!

Well, that does it for this week.  Check back next week when we share some insight on tracking down great Halloween items at low prices!

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Underrated Classics | Dracula’s Daughter

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It seems as if, in the world of Universal Studios Classic Horror, there is one sequel which gets all of the attention – The Bride of Frankenstein.  Granted, it deserves all of the admiration it receives – and more!  But, there are other follow-up films in the Universal canon that are wonderfully-made which also are owed a great deal of respect.  Perhaps the most under-appreciated is Dracula’s Daughter.

A direct sequel to Dracula, the movie begins just moments after the original ends.  Two bumbling policemen stumble upon the body of Renfield in the basement of Carfax Abbey, where they also meet a very much alive Professor Van Helsing (credited as “Von Helsing”).  Admitting to driving a stake through the heart of the evil Count, Van Helsing is arrested for murder and seeks the aid of a trusted friend, Jeffrey Garth.  Garth, a psychiatrist and former student of Van Helsing, must help the professor prove that Van Helsing did not murder anyone, that Dracula was indeed already dead for 500 years – a seemingly impossible task.  But, when the body goes missing and London is once again rife with bloodless corpses, proving Van Helsing’s innocence becomes a tad bit easier.

The film stars Gloria Holden in the title role.  Playing Countess Marya Zaleska, Holden definitely holds a candle to Bela Lugosi’s performance in the previous film, channeling his eerie presence in nearly every scene.  It’s hard to imagine any actress but Holden being able to utter, in such genuinely distant fashion, the famous line, “I never drink… wine.”  Like Lugosi, Holden commands the screen.  Everything about her is eerie, foreign, intriguing, seductive, and just plain creepy.  Her motivations are also the most complex of any early Horror character.  A reluctant vampire who loathes the control Dracula still exerts over her, even from the grave, Countess Zaleska seeks psychiatric “release” from the curse of the vampire, yet still embraces her father’s evil ways.

The film is very much in keeping with the style of the original, using the same sets for Dracula’s Castle, carrying over Edward Van Sloan as Professor Van Helsing, referring frequently to characters and situations in the original, and even lifting lines (and a camera shot) from the 1931 classic.  Dracula’s Daughter really is a terrific sequel.  The intended parallels between this film and the original work wonderfully.  The only thing that drags the film down is its uneven pacing and its tendency to dwell too much on the comedic relationship between Dr. Garth and his secretary.

But, for every fault in the film, there are ten positive things which work to its advantage.  In addition to the great performances by Holden and Van Sloan, the film’s music is atmospheric, moody, and chilling.  The theme, used in the opening and during the climax, is one of the best, if not the best, in the Universal Horror repertoire, rivaling the main theme of The Wolf Man as the most sweepingly tragic, dark and elaborate piece of music in the early history of Horror.

While the sequel could have taken any number of directions, and it almost took a very weird one with James Whale helming the first efforts, this film is very enjoyable for what it is.  It could have starred Bela Lugosi.  It could have had Van Helsing be the main hero.  It didn’t.  And, as such, it should be judged on its own merits – and it has plenty.  Perhaps, one day, fans of the genre will come to realize this and bolster Dracula’s Daughter to its rightful place in the Universal library – not being nearly as good as The Bride of Frankenstein, but deserving a lot more credit than some of the later Dracula and Frankenstein sequels.  Overall, the film earns a solid  4 out of 5 stars.