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Saturday, January 18, 2014

THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE -- movie review by porfle



In THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE (1944), it's great to see Bela Lugosi playing Dracula again (his name,  technically, is Armand Tesla, but I choose to pretty much disregard that particular detail), and he obviously relishes the chance to don the old cape once more.

The wartime England setting is effective in this relatively fast-paced film, and there's a lot of spooky atmosphere. Frieda Inescort makes a strong impression as a female Van Helsing equivalent, doing her best to track down the vampire before he ruins the lives of her son and his fiancee, played by a cute young Nina Foch.  Matt Willis is Tesla's werewolf slave, Andreas, who gets a couple of cool Chaney-like transformation scenes.


[spoiler] It's a little strange to see Tesla knocked cold by a bomb blast in the final scenes, but when Andreas drags him out into the sunlight soon afterward he decomposes rather nicely. [/spoiler]

While Tesla no doubt lacks some of the class of the original Dracula character, I like to think of him as Dracula gone to seed, as though time and trevails have finally started wearing away his immortality and suave veneer, and made him a little more desperate -- not unlike the state of Lugosi's career at that point.

The story is dead serious (barring a strangely whimsical, fourth-wall-breaking ending) and filled with atmospheric sets (the cemetery is outstanding) and spooky situations.  A scene between Inescort and Lugosi's characters about midway through the film is one of the most startling and excitingly staged encounters in any classic vampire film.

THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE is also considered by many to be as close to a "Dracula vs. the Wolf Man" movie as we ever got except for the climax of "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" which briefly pits the two Universal monsters against each other.


Matt Willis' Andreas gains audience sympathy as the unwilling werewolf slave to Tesla, while the lovely Nina Foch is quite endearing as the object of the vampire's perverse lust.  A young Jeanne Bates is seen briefly as Tesla's first victim.

Although a comparatively minor production released by Columbia, THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE is a good companion to the Universal "Dracula" films and should prove to be a very satisfying viewing experience for any fan of classic horror.  What's more, it's really fun to see Lugosi hamming it up once again in a part that's as close to a genuine sequel to DRACULA as he was ever allowed to play.

Buy it at Amazon.com



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1 comment:

Daniel Stumpf said...

Enjoyed your thoughts!

I found another incisive review of this (tucked in with THE RAVEN)here:

http://mysteryfile.com/blog/?p=20168

Enjoy!