IN 1918, AN ENGLISH FAMILY IS TERRORIZED BY A VAMPIRE, UNTILTHEY LEARN HOW TO DEAL WITH IT. THEY THINK THEIR TROUBLES ARE OVER, BUT WWII GERMAN BOMBS FREE THE MONSTER. HE ASSUMES THEIDENTITY OF A SCIENTIST WHO HAS JUST ESC... more »APED FROM A CONCENTRATION CAMP & PLANS REVENGE ON THE FAMILY.« less
Robert S. Clay Jr. | St. Louis, MO., USA | 08/06/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The definitive movie vampire, Bela Lugosi, stars in this entertaining Columbia production. Although mired in a downward career spiral of poverty row clunkers, Bela, ahem, rises to the occasion. Among the familiar vampire cliches, we find a unique character in Andreas (Matt Willis), the wolf man familiar that serves the vampire. This guy looks like Lon Chaney, Jr. in full makeup, but he does not go around howling at the full moon. Instead, he shows great restraint and is quite articulate as he speaks rather than growls. His fiendish appearance tells of the soul's evil and the vampire's spell. After a prologue, that shows the vampire's 1918 horror and dispatch, Andreas escapes the dark side with help from a kindly lady scientist (Frieda Inescort). He falls back into dreadful habits after a WWII bombing raid unearths Bela. The scenes in the London cemetery inflicted with bomb damage are surreal images of foggy darkness and the children of the night. The script suffers from some B picture limitations, but not enough to matter. Lugosi's character, Armand Tesla, is merely Dracula, winking at legal copyright infringements. He catches Nina Foch in his alluring web of unholy desire. The climax in the bombed-out church is done well, and covers a multitude of unlikely plot developments. Character actor and former Mack Sennett star, Billy Bevan, plays Horace, the comic civil defense worker who utters the above immortal dialogue. Some viewers may recognize Bevan as the hapless Whitby policeman, Albert, in Universal's "Dracula's Daughter." Atmospheric sets and a veteran cast add to the enjoyment. Great fun for genre fans and collectors. ;-)"
N. A. Parry | 07/13/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a brilliant, underrated picture, featuring Bela Lugosi playing a real vampire for only the second time in his career. Here, he is aided by a talking werewolf who, although looks a little tatty, has rather more character to him than Lon Chaney's more famous lycanthrope. If you let yourself believe in such concepts, you will probably find this film enjoyable and even a little shocking. Lugosi plays Armand Tesla (basically Dracula under another name), who returns to claim the heroine (played by Nina Foch) after 'marking' her when she was a child. However, the werewolf with a heart eventually turns on him and drags him out into the sunlight, where he melts in spectacular fashion. Original touches, such as the inclusion of the very real (at the time) Second World War, the afore-mentioned werewolf and Miles Mander's final words to the camera, are mixed with traditional fog-bound graveyards, howling wolves and long-caped vampires, and are married together with startling effect. It is well played throughout, especially by Lugosi, who seems to relish the part, and urgently requires reappraisal from horror buffs. It was to have marked the start of a series of Lugosi-vampire films from Columbia, but Universal, worried by the similarities to it and their Dracula films, insisted against it."
SO IT AIN'T VAL LEWTON....
Mark Norvell | HOUSTON | 09/14/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I can't carp about this little 40's spooker with LUGOSI playing Dracula again (finally) even if it IS low-budget and has a funny-looking werewolf/assistant. It's still a curio and features a wartime setting as well as the lovely Nina Foch (in an early role) as a potential victim. It's goofy and weird and not all that bad, really. At least it was a major studio that released it and not one of those hideous poverty row junkfests that were churned out by the truckload around the same time. The class shows through with the acting,camera-work and story coherence. It could have been much worse but it's not and it sits proudly with my other DVDS as an old fashioned reminder of what going to the movies used to be about and how thankful I am that some of these old chestnuts are still around to be appreciated."
"Yes, alive, with the blood of his victims."
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 10/31/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After appearing in a slew of poverty row features throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s there's slight sense of renewal in seeing Bela Lugosi donning the role of a vampire in the film Return of the Vampire (1944). Oh sure, his character here isn't the same as the one he most famously portrayed in Tod Browning's Dracula (1931), but it might as well be...directed by Lew Landers (The Raven, Condemned Women), based on an idea from Kurt Neumann (Kronos, The Fly), the film stars, as I've mentioned, Bela Lugosi (Dracula, White Zombie). Also appearing is Frieda Inescort (The Alligator People), Nina Foch (Cry of the Werewolf), Roland Varno (Women in Bondage), Matt Willis (The Mark of the Whistler), Gilbert Emery (The House of the Seven Gables), and Miles Mander (Tower of London, The House of the Seven Gables), probably best remembered as his role of Cardinal Richelieu from the classic film The Three Musketeers (1939).
As the film begins we learn the year is 1918, and we're in the outskirts of London. Seems a woman, now a patient of a sanitarium run by a woman named Lady Jane Ainsley (Inescort), is suffering from a strange case of anemia, enough so to warrant Lady Jane to call in a colleague named Dr. Walter Saunders (Emery). After reviewing the works of a Romanian scientist named Armand Tesla, an authority on vampires, who's been dead for the past two hundred years, Saunders believes the woman's condition is tied to the supernatural. After Saunder's granddaughter Nicki is attacked, he and Lady Jane seek out the creature and stake it up good. Flash forward about twenty five years and we learn Lady Jane's son John Varno is engaged to Nicki (Foch). As the Jerries (i.e. the Germans) are aerial blitz bombing England (WWII was in full swing by this point), the vampire's grave is unearthed, and later a couple of comic relief types charged with graveyard detail cleanup remove the spike, which, as you can guess, brings the vampire back to life. Oh, by the way, the vampire is actually Armand Tesla (Lugosi) himself. Anyway, with his wolf man minion Andreas (Willis) in tow, Armand poses as a scientist named Hugo Bruckner, a recent escapee of a German concentration camp, to get close to Lady Jane and her family in order to exact his revenge for what went down so long ago, his dastardly scheme involving turning Nicki into pawn to do his bidding (man, vampires sure are a vindictive lot). Lady Jane soon realizes what's going on and enlists the aid of a skeptical Scotland Yard commissioner named Sir Frederick Fleet (Manders) to help her free her family of the curse of Tesla and put an end to the menace once and for all...
I think this film has a number of things going for it, the main being the presence of Bela Lugosi in the role of the vampire. Lugosi, who was in his early sixties at the time (I believe), still possessed a good deal of what he displayed some thirteen years prior in his landmark role of Dracula (charm, allure, magnetism, call it what you will). That's not to say this film is on par with Dracula, because it's not, but it is still a lot of fun, especially if you enjoy old timey monster movies (you know I do). I think the thing that hurts this film the most is the writing. It's not that it's bad, but it just feels so derivative of what came before. A number of aspects to sort of make up for this, including the solid performances, the decent direction, the atmospheric settings, and the overall strong production values (the graveyard bits were especially ookie). The wolf man bit tended to draw a few chuckles from myself as the character spent an inordinate amount of time slinking about, carrying, for reasons not entirely clear, Tesla's laundry bundled up in a paper parcel. I guess when you've spent the last twenty odd years in the ground, your clothes tend to get a bit rank, so it's advisable to always keep a clean outfit on hand. It's unclear why Tesla maintained a lackey in the form of a wolf man, other than it allowed for the inclusion of two monster type creatures rather than one. The wolf man character didn't seem to follow the established structure presented in past films in that his transformation here seemed voluntary, an aspect he could almost control, and not something dependant on the lunar cycles. I was willing to go along with this, but I was slightly annoyed by the fact he was relegated strictly as a lackey, present only to do the bidding of his vampire master. In my mind frame, a wolf man is no one's subordinate, except maybe for his lunar mistress. In wolf form Andreas really didn't seem all that menacing, but more like an oversized yappy dog in search of a treat. Another element I found a little hard to swallow was how quickly the scientific types were willing to buy off on the supernatural as being the cause for a strange, unexplained ailment. I suppose given the fact the film only runs about an hour and ten minutes there wasn't time allowed for them to deal with putting aside their secular leanings in order to accept the mythical, but still they, being Dr. Saunders and Lady Jane, seemed awfully easy to convince, based on so little, at least initially (then again, it is just a movie, so perhaps I shouldn't read so much into it). Taken for what it is, a middling monster movie loaded with atmosphere, the film is a lot of fun, and worth seeing if only to show Lugosi still had it, it being the ability to bring forth, many years after the fact, from a role he literally defined.
The picture on this Columbia/Tri-Star DVD release presented in fullscreen (1.33:1), looks relatively clean and clear, but does display some occasional white specking. The latter didn't bother me much as it didn't seem present throughout, and picture comes off as well as most any have probably ever seen it, bar those who may have been present for the original theatrical release. One noteworthy aspect is the inclusion of a bit of text prior to the opening credits, something apparently missing on previous VHS and Laserdisc releases. As far as the mono audio, it comes across well. There's not much in the way of extras except for subtitles in English, French, Spanish, and Japanese, along with a couple of trailers for the films Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) and The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958). The release seems a bit pricey for so seemingly little, but if you're a fan of Lugosi or old timey monsters, then you probably won't mind coughing up the dough to add this to your collection.
Surprisingly well made with Lugosi in fine form.
George Fabian | Mountainside, USA | 05/16/1999
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This came out the same year as Siodmak's Son of Dracula and is equally as good. Lugosi does well as Armand Tesla, vampire, who is unloosed during the London blitz and seeks revenge on those who previously "did him in" by attacking their grown up son and daughter. Lugosi projects malevolence in a good performance. Solid work, too from old pros Frieda Inescort and Miles Mander."