Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On Screen -- Return of the Vampire (1943)

Foch and Lugosi
 "Return of the Vampire" is a rather anemic (sorry) retelling of the same basic vampire story.  This is a low budget Columbia Pictures B-movie and it shows.  The story starts in the early 1900s with an English family disposing of "Armand Tesla", a vampire who has been terrorizing them.  Flash forward to England during WWII when a stray bomb dropped by the Nazis lands in the cemetery where Tesla's body has been resting. 

Tesla is resurrected with the aid of a couple of clueless workers in the cemetery and then assumes the identity of Dr. Bruckner who has just escaped from a prison camp. The vampire with the aid of a werewolf servant seeks revenge against the woman, "Lady Jane Ainsley" who had previously done away with him, through her son "John" and his fiance "Nicki".

This film comes complete with everything you would expect in a story about vampires including a skeptical police inspector, timelapse human to werewolf transformation., a beautiful potential victim, and fog machines working on overdrive.   At times some of the actors seem to be struggling through their lines and the continuity of the film seems a bit off.  I'm not sure if it's Matt Willis' acting or the script, most likely a combination of the two, that brings to the screen the worst werewolf character I've ever seen in a horror film (is he actually carrying laundry in that bundle?). 

A great performance, as usual, by Bela Lugosi as "Armand Tesla/Dr. Bruckner" and Nina Foch as "Nicki Saunders" make the viewing more enjoyable.  The film also costars Frieda Inescort as "Lady Jane" and Roland Varno as "John", with veteran actor Miles Mander as "Sir Frederick".  I wouldn't go as far as to say only Bela Lugosi fans need apply, the movie does have it's moments, but I think only hardcore Lugosi fans will have their horror cravings truly satisfied.

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