(director: Lew Landers; screenwriters: Randall Faye/Griffin Jay; cinematographers: L.W. O’Connell/John Stumar; editor: Paul Borofsky; music: Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco; cast: Bela Lugosi (Armand Tesla/Dr. Hugo Bruckner), Frieda Inescort (Lady Jane Ainsley), Nina Foch (Nicki Saunders), Miles Mander (Sir Frederick Fleet), Roland Varno (John Ainsley), Matt Willis (Andreas Obry); Runtime: 69; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sam White; RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video; 1944)

“One of Bela Lugosi’s better later day roles since he played Dracula in the 1930s for Universal.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

One of Bela Lugosi’s better later day roles since he played Dracula in the 1930s, as he once again plays a vampire but this time with a different name (for legal reasons) for Columbia instead of Universal. It’s an old-fashioned vampire story (whose time has come and gone) that’s set in contemporary England during the London blitz, and plays out as your typical vampire movie (except for the modern setting). It’s visually satisfying and well-acted, but too verbose and without a sense of humor. Lifelessly directed by Lew Landers and unimaginatively written by Randall Faye and Griffin Jay, but what helps is Bela Lugosi playing what he does best–a vampire.

Armand Tesla (Bela Lugosi), an Hungarian vampire, is revived by a bomb during the German air raid that unearths his grave in 1941 and he thereby picks up his blood-sucking ways from before he had a stake driven through his heart in 1918 by Lady Jane (Frieda Inescort), after he bit her young daughter Nicki in the neck with two bites and Lady Jane found his grave during the day in one of the local cemeteries. Tesla was aided by werewolf Andreas Obry (Matt Willis), but when Tesla was put out of business Andreas returned to being a human and is now the loyal lab technician to Lady Jane at her sanitarium. But with the revival of the vampire, Andreas is once again a werewolf and servant of Tesla’s–who takes on the identity of Dr. Hugo Bruckner, a scientist who has been smuggled out of Germany by the London underground but is eliminated by Andreas who also takes his identity papers. Tesla then plots revenge on Lady Jane through her son John (Roland Varno), who is engaged to Nicki (Nina Foch). Tesla appears at the sanitarium as fellow scientist Bruckner, and Lady Jane offers him access to her lab. This enables Tesla that night to re-establish his power over Nicki, at her engagement bash. The next morning, Lady Jane discovers Nicki unconscious with two puncture marks on her neck. Suspecting Bruckner is Tesla, Lady Jane checks out the cemetery and discovers from the workers how they found a corpse with a spike through its heart. Lady Jane soon discovers that the body is now missing, and believes that the vampire has returned from the dead. She elicits the help of Sir Frederick Fleet (Miles Mander), the head of Scotland Yard, who remains skeptical if vampires really exist but nevertheless offers his help as he assigns two men to tail Andreas. It then becomes a matter if Nicki can be saved from the vampire and what happens to the two monsters.

It’s a predictable but, I guess, a satisfactory vampire and werewolf story. I think all filmgoers are likely see one of these horror stories at one time or another, and though this one is far from the best it nevertheless is representative of that old genre.

The Return of the Vampire Poster