Wednesday, 29 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: The Return of the Vampire (1944)

The Return of the Vampire (1944)
Director: Lew Landers
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Frieda Inescort, and Nina Foch
Running Time: 81 min

 It looks like Bela Lugosi (Dracula, Island of Lost Souls) returns to familiar stomping grounds in this film but will he have the same impact and flare that he had the first time he donned the cape as the creature of the night?  I guess, we'll have to see.
 
  In a dark and foggy cemetery, a wolfman or man wolf returns to the crypt of his master.  Once inside the tomb, he opens up the coffin and awakens his evil master, a vampire and catches him up the whereabouts of their latest victim, which is at Dr. Ainsley's clinic/house.
  Meanwhile, at Dr. Ainsley's clinic/house, Lady Jane Ainsley has invited Professor Saunder's over to help her figure out the condition for her newest patient, who has a severe anemic condition and has left her baffled.  Before Lady Jane and Saunders can get into it though, their children burst in to say goodnight.  After a playful chat,   they say goodnight and send, their children Nikki and John to bed.
  Unfortunately that night, the vampire goes to the wrong room and while Professor Saunder's finds and devours a book about vampires by Armand Tesla, his granddaughter Nikki's blood is devoured by the vampire.  The next morning, Saunders presents his findings to Lady Jane and then find the anemic body of Nikki!  Quickly, they give her a blood transfusion right away to save her.  They then decide that they must stop this creature of the night before he can return to feed on Nikki or anyone else ever again.  So, the two of them go on a surprisingly easy search to find the vampires' crypt and they find it on the first try.  They open the coffin and put a nail in his chest, but as they start killing the vampire in the afternoon, the wolfman shows up and tries to stop them.  However, after the Saunders drives the stake into the vampire's heart, the wolfman is released from the evil power of the vampire and changes back into a normal guy.  Lady Jane and the Professor bury the vampire and that's it, the end. Or is it?
  Twenty three years later, The police may bring up charges of murder, that are twenty three years old, on Lady Jane for killing a man in a tomb because the police don't believe in vampires.  So, the detective and Lady Jane plan for a trip to the cemetery for the next day and then Lady Jane heads home, see her son John and his fiance Nikki.  World War Two has begun and the cemetery where they buried the body of  the vampire has been bombed by the Jerries and has brought the vampires' coffin above ground.  Two guys cleaning debris in the abandon cemetery find the body, remove the stake from the vampires' heart and are completely spooked by the body moaning, so they run away.  The vampire returns and now seeks to get revenge on Lady Jane and anyone connected with his impalement.   First, he gets his wolfman henchman back, who surprisingly hasn't aged in twenty three years, and concocts a plan to destroy them.  He will disguise himself as a Dr. Bruckner and steal the thing that Lady Jane loves the most, her son's bride, Nikki!  Can Lady Jane stop this vampire again or are her family and friends in terrible danger of the another neck-biting adventure?


 This movie is pretty hokey and really runs on a very thin line of being campy and just bad.  This is not the official sequel to Universal's Dracula but the people at Columbia would like you to think it is.  They brought in Bela Lugosi (White Zombie, Bride of the Monster) to play "Dracula" in all aspects except for the name.  Lugosi is great in this but he does have a rather bad script to work with.  The writers put the vampire into weird schemes, that seem a bit silly and beneath for such a powerful and noble creature of the night.  I also found it amusing that this character is the same person who wrote the book on vampire lore, Armand Tesla and who later fell prey to vampires.  If you look quick enough, the book even has a picture of Lugosi in it.
 Also, the wolfman character played by Matt Willis (So Dear To My Heart, The Burning Cross) is amusing at best, because he his wolfyness follows absolutely no werewolf logic.  As mentioned earlier, he can be a werewolf during the day and in the second half of the film, he seems to be able to change whenever he wants or feels the need to.


 However bad the script is, I was really surprised at how well director Lew Landers (The Raven, Terrified) was able to use the wind and smoke machines to create such a wonderful eerie effect of the vampire moving unseen or have that feeling of an evil presence in his scenes.  Also, his use of shadows in this are great in this as well.  Especially, when he first arrives in Nikki's room, you can't see Bela but only a large imposing shadow that hangs over Nikki. It;s quite creepy.
  Also, the sets are also fantastic.  The graveyard looks like it came from one of Ed Wood Jr's wet dreams. A huge set, with gnarled trees and billing with smoke, which give this film the right atmosphere.


  This has some really good elements but the film is so hokey that it's hard to take it seriously at times.  I think that the actors do the best job that they can with what they were given but at least  director knows enough about horror to make it lot convincing.  It's a fun watch but I don't think that it will scare your socks off.


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