The Return of the Vampire
The Return of the Vampire is a 1943 American horror film directed by Lew Landers and released by Columbia Pictures. The film stars Bela Lugosi as a vampire named Armand Tesla, who has two encounters with Englishwoman Lady Jane Ainsley, played by Frieda Inescort. The first encounter takes place during World War I, and the second during World War II. Alongside Lugosi and Inescort, the film's cast includes Nina Foch, Miles Mander, Roland Varno, and Matt Willis.
|The Return of the Vampire|
|Directed by||Lew Landers|
|Produced by||Sam White|
|Music by||Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco|
|Cinematography||L. William O'Connell|
|Edited by||Paul Borofsky|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
The Return of the Vampire is not an official sequel to the 1931 Universal Studios film Dracula (which starred Lugosi as the eponymous vampire), but the film has been interpreted by cultural historian David J. Skal as an unofficial follow-up, with Lugosi's character renamed only because the film was not produced by Universal.
During World War I, the vampire Armand Tesla stalks London. His latest victim is admitted to the clinic of Lady Jane Ainsley and her colleague, Professor Walter Saunders. They are baffled by what they regard as a severe case of anemia. The vampire infiltrates the clinic; unable to finish his previous victim, he preys on Prof. Saunders' granddaughter instead. Saunders comes to believe that both patients are victims of a vampire. He shows Lady Jane puncture marks on their necks. He and Lady Jane search a nearby cemetery for the vampire's crypt. A werewolf assisting the vampire tries to prevent their intervention. Once the vampire is staked, the werewolf, Andréas, is cured of his curse. He later becomes Lady Jane's assistant.
Twenty-four years later, Scotland Yard detective Sir Fredrick Fleet reads the deceased Saunders' account of these events. He informs Lady Jane that if the body they staked was alive at the time, she will be charged with murder. Lady Jane explains that the man they staked was a seventeenth century vampire expert named Armand Tesla. Lady Jane tells her son, John, about the investigation. She is certain that Sir Frederick will find that Tesla's body has not decomposed, proving he was a vampire. She and John agree to keep this information from John's fiancée, Saunders' granddaughter Nikki, to avoid reawakening the trauma of her previous attack.
After a bombing raid, cemetery workers find Tesla's corpse exposed, with the metal stake still in his chest. Believing the stake to be bomb shrapnel, they remove it and reinter the body. Thus freed from death, the vampire regains power over Andréas and prepares to avenge himself on Lady Jane. Helpless to resist, Andréas murders Hugo Bruckner, a scientist recently escaped from a concentration camp who had arrived in England to work with Lady Jane. Tesla intends to impersonate Bruckner. With Tesla's body missing, Sir Frederick closes his investigation for lack of evidence.
Lady Jane throws a party to celebrate John and Nikki's engagement. She discourages Sir Frederick from giving Saunders' manuscript to Nikki and locks it in a drawer. Tesla arrives as Bruckner and charms everyone except Sir Frederick. The manuscript is stolen and left in Nikki's room. She begins reading it and falls under Tesla's power. She is found the next morning unconscious with puncture marks on her neck.
Lady Jane questions the gravediggers, who tell her about the staked body. She relates the story to Sir Frederick, who dismisses vampire stories as fantasy. He assigns two plainclothes men to shadow Andréas. They report seeing him transform into a werewolf, and recover a bundle containing the effects of the real Bruckner. Sir Frederick's suspicions grow when a laboratory analysis of the rifled drawer finds a quantity of wolf hair.
Tesla preys on John and convinces Nikki that she did it. John is found the next morning unconscious with puncture wounds. Nikki believes she has become a vampire. Sir Frederick corners Andréas for questioning, but as he begins to transform, Andréas escapes. Sir Frederick assigns plainclothes men to follow Tesla, but the vampire eludes them. Tesla threatens to turn Nikki and John into vampires. Warning Tesla that the "power of goodness" can still destroy him, Lady Jane brandishes a cross. Tesla vanishes.
When Tesla commands Nikki to leave the house, Lady Jane convinces Sir Frederick that they must follow her. Nikki meets Tesla and Andréas at the cemetery during an air raid and faints. Andréas attempts to carry her to safety, but Sir Frederick shoots him. He and Lady Jane take shelter from the bombing. Tesla abandons Andréas and tells him to die; Andréas crawls into a corner and grasps a crucifix and is freed of the vampire's power. He attempts to destroy Tesla. A bomb strikes the cemetery and the rays of the rising sun reduce the vampire to bones. Andréas dies of his bullet wound. Nikki tells Sir Frederick and Lady Jane that Andréas saved her life. Lady Jane tries again to convince Sir Frederick that Tesla was a vampire, but without physical evidence he refuses to accept her version of events.
- Bela Lugosi as Armand Tesla/Dr. Hugo Bruckner
- Frieda Inescort as Lady Jane Ainsley
- Nina Foch as Nikki Saunders
- Roland Varno as John Ainsley
- Miles Mander as Sir Fredrick Fleet
- Matt Willis as Andreas Obry
- Ottola Nesmith as Elsa Walter
- Gilbert Emery as Dr. Walter Saunders
- Leslie Denison as Detective Lynch
- William Austin as Detective Gannett
- Sharliee Collier as Nicki as a child (uncredited)
- Donald Dewar as John as a child (uncredited)
- Olaf Hytten as Ben (uncredited)
- Nelson Leigh as Assistant (uncredited)
Bela Lugosi's scenes were filmed in August and September 1943, prior to his final two Monogram films. This was also the last time he would receive top billing by a major Hollywood studio.
In his book Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen, David J. Skal writes:
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, The Return of the Vampire has an approval rating of 75% based on eight reviews, with an average rating of 5.8/10. In 2006, Susan King of the Los Angeles Times called the film "underrated". In 2019, Stuart Galbraith IV of DVD Talk wrote that, "For all its faults, The Return of the Vampire is as close as audiences got to see Lugosi reprise [his role as Count Dracula] (in all but name) in a straight horror film. And, low-budget though it is, the picture is in some respects more ambitious than Universal's sausage factory horrors, at least story-wise, and notable for its imitation-Universal look, a remarkable achievement for such a cheap film."
- Skal, David J. (2004). Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen. Paperback ed. New York: Faber & Faber. ISBN 0-571-21158-5 - page 244
- "The Screen; Any Blood Donors?". The New York Times. January 29, 1944. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
- King, Susan (October 22, 2006). "One bite and you're hooked". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
- Galbraith IV, Stuart (February 19, 2019). "Return of the Vampire, The". DVD Talk. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
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