In scoring Son of Dracula, Hans Salter raides some of the choicest scores in Universal's music library, including a full-blooded passage from Frank Skinner's score for Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942), utilized for a weirdly beautiful sequence in which Dracula's coffin bubbles to the top of a swamp and the vampire (Lon Chaney Jr.) issues from within in a wisp of fog before gliding across the water to his attractive disciple waiting on the banks.
The finale alone shows how aware Salter was of Universal's expanding library of music cues. As the down-on-his-luck hero races to Dracula's hidden lair in the swamp to destroy his coffin before dawn, we hear Skinner's chase music from Saboteur. Dracula's arrival moments afterward is heralded by a nod to Salter's own work in Invisible Agent (1942). When the count discovers hs coffin is already afire, Skinner's aircraft factory inferno music from Saboteur suddenly comes to the forefront. When Dracula, in sheer frustration, turns his vengeance on his mortal enemy, we hear the fiery climax music from The Ghost of Frankenstein.
And when the morning sun finally falls upon the count and destroys him, Skinner's main title music from Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (and all the rest in the Holmes series) sounds. The hero's dash to then find the final resting place of the vampire bride is accompanied by music from The Wolf Man. And the film's conclusion, in which his childhood sweetheart's tainted remains are burned, is finished with a heartfelt arrangement of music from The Invisible Man Returns (1940). All of this is accomplished within a few minutes. Salter did, however, newly compose an alternately snarling and darkly romantic Main Title [mp3] for the Robert Siodmak film, briefly incorporating a four-note motif used the year before in Invisible Agent (and heard here primarily in the trombones). This motif was used to richly mysterious effect for Dracula's nighttime rendezvous in House of Frankenstein the following year.
While Salter was devoting more and more of his time to scoring Universal's horror films, Skinner was tapped for other assignments, including The House of the Seven Gables (1940 and including a bit of scoring reused, in far more effective form, in Horror Island and The Wolf Man the following year), Backstreet (1941) and the spy caper Saboteur (a sort of early version of Hitchcock's North by Northwest. However, some of his most memorable music was furnished for the new Sherlock Holmes series that Universal executives decided to mount starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. And while Skinner's score for the first installment, Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, was not even fifteen minutes in length, what music there was evoked an air of mystery, suspense and danger--which made Salter's decision to reuse some of it in Son of Dracula and Fairchild's decision to recycle some of it in House of Dracula understandable.
--BILL WHITAKER, from the liner notes
Classic Scores of Horror and Mystery.