(director: Paul Landres; screenwriter: Pat Fielder/story by Pat Fielder; cinematographer: Jack MacKenzie; editor: Sherman A. Rose; music: Gerald Fried; cast: Francis Lederer (Belak Gordal, Vampire), Norma Eberhardt (Rachel Mayberry), Greta Granstedt (Cora Mayberry), Ray Stricklyn (Tim), John Wengraf (Meyerman), Virginia Vincent (Jennie Blake), Gage Clark (Reverend Whitfield), Jimmie Baird (Mickey Mayberry), John McNamara (Sheriff Bicknell), Robert Lynn (Dr. Paul Beecher), Norbert Schiller (Bellack Gordal, the real one), Charles Tannen (Mack Bryant, Dept. of Immigration); Runtime: 77; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Arthur Gardner/Jules V. Levy; United Artists; 1958)

“A satisfying low-budget schlock horror flick that has Dracula searching to rebuild his army of the undead in the New World.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A satisfying low-budget schlock horror flick that has Dracula searching to rebuild his army of the undead in the New World. Paul Landres (“The Vampire”/”Johnny Rocco “/”Grand Canyon”), who went on to direct TV’s “The Rifleman,” does a rather nice job holding this familiar tale together with some novel updates (immigration man uses his cigarette lighter to try to take a photo of the vampire), smart touches (the vampire’s victims hear his voice talking to them even when he’s not present) and keeping it subdued (avoids campy exploitation film excesses).

In Central Europe, Count Dracula escapes from police investigators, led by investigator Meyerman (John Wengraf), who were ready to put a wooden stake through his heart. Czech artist Belak Gordal is on his first leg of his journey to visit relatives in the mountain town of Carleton, California, when he’s killed by the vampire in his train compartment, his papers are stolen and his body is thrown from the train. The suave Count, played by Francis Lederer, takes the identity of Belak Gordal. He’s greeted in “middle-America” California by his widowed cousin Cora Mayberry (Greta Granstedt), teen daughter Rachel (Norma Eberhardt), and the adolescent youngest one named Mickey. Cora hasn’t seen her world traveler Iron Curtain cousin since childhood, and seems only slightly miffed at his strange reclusive habits that are countered by his Old European charms, aristocratic bearings and sophisticated attitude. Rachel takes pleasure in teasing her Thunderbird convertible driving boyfriend Tim for being so American-like in lacking Old World manners, as she laughingly compares him to her distinguished guest.

Rachel, who dreams of becoming a dress designer, does volunteer work as a caregiver at the parish house run by Reverend Whitfield (Gage Clark), and one of her patients is the blind girl Jenny (Virginia Vincent). On the night of the full moon, Belak enters through an open window the blind girl’s parish room and she becomes his first human vic in America as he makes her into a vampire. As strange deaths materialize in this serene town, European Police Authority agent Meyerman arrives and only through his efforts will the legendary Count Dracula be exposed.

It keeps intact all the usual Dracula film lore traits–from no reflection in the mirror for the vampire to his utmost need to sleep in a coffin during daylight–but modernizes it so that the legend can acceptably be transplanted onto American soil. Nothing great, but worth a look in the way Landres refreshingly keeps it straightforward and keeps the sunny California skies out of a film that has to be dark; it should especially be pleasing for devotees of the Dracula films.

The Return of Dracula Poster