Welcome, children of the night! This Blog is for fans of vintage horror films as well as those who are just beginning to discover the joy of these classic movies. I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Return of the Vampire (1944)

Blimey!  Just when you have a vampire staked and buried, two clueless gravediggers come along after a WWII bomb blast unearths his coffin, and remove the stake from his heart.  Such is the stuff of The Return of the Vampire which showcases Bela Lugosi in top form as Armand Tesla/Dr. Hugo Bruckner.  Director Lew Landers [The Raven, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin] gives us a wonderfully atmospheric film with great use of fog and shadows.  The outdoor shots, which were mostly done on the studio lot, remind me of those from earlier movies such as Frankenstein (1931).   They are lovely to look at.
Lugosi is definitely channeling his work from the original Dracua (1931) in this film.  His Hungarian accent serves him well and his presence is strong and commanding every time he appears on screen.  I love Lugosi in these kinds of roles and am sure you will enjoy his performance as well.  It's subtle but powerful nonetheless.
Lugosi's manservant, or should I say wolf-servant Andreas, is played by Matt Willis who gives us a Shakespearean wolf man instead of the tortured savagery of Lon Chaney Jr's The Wolfman (1941).  Personally, I prefer Lon Chaney's performance any day.  Willis' character just feels like a British actor in a wolf suit, instead of something more sinister.  
The other standout in this film is Frieda Inescort [Pride and Prejudice, The She Creature, The Alligator People] as Lady Jane Ainsley.  Her character is a strong, inquisitive woman with an impeccable British accent and a keen fashion sense.  Can you really ask for anything more of a 1940's woman?  A great character and a great performance.
There is so much to like about this film.  It is a perfect example of the best of 1940s horror.  It's enjoyable to watch from start to finish.  I rented this one through Netflix and while the currently available version is not flawless [it has little dots of light throughout the film], it is a decent print nonetheless.
RATING: Excellent.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

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