Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Return of Dracula/The Vampire|
Actors: John Beal, Coleen Gray, Kenneth Tobey, Lydia Reed, Dabbs Greer
Director: Paul Landres
Genres: Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
The Return of Dracula:Count Dracula (Lederer) assumes a false identity and heads for California on a chilling murder spree that a once quiet town will never forget.The Vampire:A scientist ingests some strange pills made by... more »
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A lost classic! And a lost....well, decent b-movie
A. Gammill | West Point, MS United States | 08/05/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Classic horror fans rejoice! Return of Dracula, though previously available on VHS, has been out-of-print for years. If you've never seen it, it's a suprisingly well-done black & white horror film from 1958.
In a plot that, oddly enough, echoes Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt, Count Dracula (a sublime Francis Lederer) relocates to California to live with supposed relatives. And although it's unrelated to the Hammer Films' Dracula films of the same period, it certainly holds its own against those more-polished efforts. The vampire's demise is somewhat graphic for the time.
The Vampire, while arguably the lesser film here, is by no means a waste of time. John Beal generates sympathy as a small-down doctor afflicted with the "disease" of vampirism. Fifties genre favorite Kenneth Tobey is on hand as the local sheriff. While both of these films are basically drive-in stuff, The Vampire's low-budget roots are more obvious, particularly in some laughably-bad make-up work.
If you've been through most or all of the films in the Hammer, AIP or similar catalogs, you're in for a real treat here. Highly recommended for Return of Dracula alone.
Classic Double Bill Now On DVD.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 08/28/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have waited for years to see these titles on DVD and at last they are finally here. Anyone who grew up watching late night horror shows on local TV probably saw these films at one time or another especially THE RETURN OF DRACULA. Both were made by Gramercy Productions a division of Levy-Gardner-Laven, an outfit that produced shows for television in the 50's and 60's (most notably THE RIFLEMAN and THE BIG VALLEY).
What sets these 2 films apart from other B-movie horrors of the era are the use of once major stars (Francis Lederer, John Beal) who were really good actors, maximum use of their minimum budgets (like Val Lewton in the 40's), and the fact that both screenplays were written by a woman (Pat Fielder who did Hitchcock's SHADOW OF A DOUBT) which gives a slightly different perspective to the proceedings where you wind up caring more about the characters most notably John Beal in THE VAMPIRE. Unlike Val Lewton's pictures these are 1950's films and both contain some truly graphic moments which are still effective today.
Of the two my personal favorite is THE VAMPIRE although THE RETURN OF DRACULA is overall the better film. Excellent black and white photography and effective background music contribute to the overall atmosphere. While the low budget shows through from time to time and John Beal's make-up is a mixed bag (although THE VAMPIRE is a Jekyll/Hyde story rather than a supernatural one), if you're a fan of low budget 50's horror films than these both deliver the goods.
Now if MIDNITE MOVIES (which says MGM but is owned by Fox) would just double up THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD and THE FLAME BARRIER (the other two Gramercy films made at the same time) then that would be a real cause for celebration. You could then compare them with the Richard Gordon English horror/sci-fi films (see my Listmania lists) made at the same time and boy would that be a trip."
"The flesh is only an illusion . . ." but these movies are t
John Salonia Jr. | New Jersey | 09/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"RETURN OF DRACULA is often known as CURSE OF DRACULA (at least in its TV showings on Creature Features when I was a kid). A terrific movie by any other name would smell as sweet -- and RETURN smells very sweet indeed.
Francis Lederer shines as the Count, giving a suavely sinister performance. His vampire always has something going on under the surface. Lederer marvelously plays the irony of a monster posing as a man, with cynical charm and mocking reasonableness. There isn't a single bad performance in the film; the entire cast is believable and sincere. Deserving special note are Norma Eberhardt as a repressed small-town girl who yearns for wider horizons (only to get them in the person of a vampiric pseudo-cousin, likew her counterpart in SHADOW OF A DOUBT, who yearns for her romanticized globe-treotting favorite uncle, who is a serial killer) and Virginia Vincent as the blind vampire girl, Dracula's first conquest in the New World. (Eberhardt is a tad old for the teenage part she's cast in, but her performance is so good that you won't care that she's really a twentysomething.)
Structurally, the film is quite similar to Hitchcock's SHADOW OF A DOUBT. What's particularly amazing is the deft manner in which screenwriter Pat Fielder keeps the core and essence of Stoker's novel intact while transposing it effortlessly into 1950's America. (With DRACULA the book over 100 years old, it's easy to view it as a period piece, forgetting that Stoker rooted it thoroughly in his present day for maximum effect.) The family destroyed from within by the masquerading alien is a good metaphor for the "a red under every bed" paranoia of the '50's. But don't let my maunderings about political subtext put you off; Fielder is a storyteller, and she keeps the pace taut with never a wasted moment.
Among the many imaginative touches which I relish are the truly eerie metaphysical lines Dracula is given (and of which Lederer takes full advantage; in the hands of a lesser actor they might sound hokey but spoken by Lederer, they become sublime and sinisterly poetic); the way that the Count's victims seem to hear him "calling" them just before he attacks, although he is absolutely silent; the vampires' mist-filled coffins, filmed in slight slow motion, giving them a nice other-worldly effect; how the blind girl achieves a sort of alternate or second sight as the vampire's victim; the vampire girl, clad in white, transforming into a white wolf to attack her master's hunters; and Gerald Fried's magificent score, which makes excellent use of the medieval "Dies Irae" theme.
I must note, regretfully, that the low budget is visible here and there. The day-for-night shooting is painfully unconvincing; a shot of the European graveyard from which Dracula escapes at the film's beginning also shows up in the California graveyard in which the blind vampire girl lairs; and the white "wolf" is obviously a white German shepherd. However, the movie is just so darn good that such quibbling is patently unfair. I mention these things only to raise the point that the film works remarkably well -- a tribute to the cast and crew who had little financial resources but made up for it with a lot of talent.
Paul Landres, who also directed THE VAMPIRE (see below) seems to be one of those unheralded but talented directors who could turn a good movie out of next to no budget -- sort of a European Roger Corman, I guess.
THE VAMPIRE was made by the same team as RETURN OF DRACULA, from writer Pat Fielder to director Paul Landres. Despite a low-budget makeup job on the title monster, this too is a smashing little jewel of a movie.
Like RETURN, the film is faultessly cast. The actors make the most of Fielder's intelligent and believable dialogue, and they get us on the characters' side right from the get-go. John Beal and Coleen Gray in particular are affecting as the doomed doctor and the nurse who seems to be carrying a secret torch for him (at least, that's how it plays to these eyes).
WARNING! SPOILER ALERT! SKIP THE NEXT TWO PARAGRAPHS IF YOU HAVEN'T YET SEEN THIS MOVIE!
More a tragic story of an inadvertent Jekyll/Hyde than a supernatural yarn, VAMPIRE is rooted in irony. Beal's character is accidentally dosed (with a "control serum" derived from vampire bats by a researcher interested in chemically-induced states of regression) by his own daughter. Horror and violence arise from an act of love and concern. In his sane moments, Beal agonizes over failing to save the victims that he himself has unknowingly ravaged. He does everything possible to help the police track down the mysterious killer, completely unaware that he's only tightening a noose around his own throat. And when he finally realizes that he's the killer and tries to end his own life (mythic irony here: suicides are traditionally believed to rise from the dead as vampires!), Gray stops him (another act of love and concern causing even more violence: the stress causes Beal's final transformation and attack on the woman who loves him).
By far the most outstanding sequence is the transformed Beal's initial stalking of Gray, which segues into the murder of one of Beal's elderly patients. The sequence is set up with almost Hitchcockian verve. We "see" the killing through the eyes of the victim's little dog, as it cowers in terror. It's brilliantly done.
All in all, a wonderful double feature which genre fans shouldn't miss.
Welcome back, Midnight Movies
Brucifer | Boston, MA | 08/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm really glad to see that MGM and Fox both have resurrected this excellent DVD series after a long hiatus (here's hoping that Lion's Gate will do the same with their Samuel Z. Arkoff Cult Classics series). This is probably the best of the bunch. As a previous reviewer noted, Return of Dracula is a minor classic and well worth seeing, and The Vampire, though not quite as good, makes for a perfect companion piece. Hopefully both MGM and Fox will keep this series going, as there is I'm sure plenty more in the vaults. Most wished for title: Burn Witch Burn, which came out on VHS only in this series, just prior to the introduction of DVD, so howzabout a DVD reissue?"