Tuesday, 16 September 2008


One of a pair of Low-budget B-movies made by Columbia in 1943 (the other being CRY OF THE WEREWOLF) this film has always been a bit of a favourite of mine when I'm in one of my less demanding moods. Of course, it stars Bela Lugosi, which is a plus for any horror film, as a vampire named Armand Tesla (didn't David Bowie play his brother Nikola in the recent THE PRESTIGE?) who is Dracula in all but name. Another plus is a nice werewolf played by Matt Willis who is a sort of low-rent Lon Chaney Jr. The hapless victim is Nina Foch (who was the werewolf in CRY OF THE WEREWOLF) and the disbelieving Scotland Yard detective is the ever reliable Miles Mander. All in all it's a nice little programmer with good sets and some atmospheric photography. It's directed by Lew Landers (who had helmed the 1935 THE RAVEN at Universal) based on a story by Kurt Nuemann who would later go on to direct THE FLY. Rating ***


Cerpts said...

A favourite of mine as well -- from countless childhood viewings. If Universal could team Frankenstein's Monster with the Wolf Man, why can't Columbia team a vampire with a werewolf. As you so accurately mention, Lugosi is playing Dracula in all but name and Matt Willis bears more than a passing resemblance to Lon Chaney Jr. Not a masterpiece by any stretch but it's a comfortable, enjoyable film to revisit again and again. As I mentioned previously, watching this film is like a visit from an old friend. Especially around Halloween when I usually never fail to drag it out and watch it once again. What could be better on an October evening when a light chill is in the air than to make some hot cocoa, grab some cookies (oops -- biscuits for our friends across the pond), settle into your most comfortable overstuffed chair and pop in RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE?!?

My only caveat is the very last line by Miles Mander (when he breaks the fourth wall); it never fails to make me cringe. However, other than that (and it's certainly not the actor's fault since he's only following the script and direction), RETURN is a great little 40's monster rally which manages to be just as enjoyable (perhaps more) than the concurrent crop from Universal. Another favourite scene is when Lugosi confronts Frieda Inescourt playing the organ -- and she whips away the sheet music to reveal that intensely-glowing cross! Frieda may be rather stodgy throughout the film but this scene reveals her character to be not only ballsy but also rather dashingly smart arse. What a great little monster movie. I want to go watch it right now!

Cerpts said...

Just a quick comment on your sidebar over there.

Well done! I adore Evelyn Ankers (and what monster kid WOULDN'T) even if Lon Chaney Jr. didn't. One of the original scream queens, as it were. Quick trivia: Does everybody know how to pronounce her name??? Well, Ms. Ankers (aka Mrs. Richard Denning) pronounced it EVE-a-lyn. Not EV-a-lyn. How do you like DEM apples. GET IT?!?!?! EVE! APPLES!!! Ok, I'll move on.

More congrats on mentioning Lee Marvin. I just think he's great! In everything he's ever done. It's only in recent years (read: adult life) that I've seen most of his movies; as a kid I somehow never saw ANY of 'em. Hilarious in CAT BALLOU, superb in ATTACK!, superb AND hilarious in THE BIG RED ONE (tossing one of a wounded soldier's testicles over his shoulder with the quip "Don't worry, son, that's just one of yer balls"), hissable as LIBERTY VALANCE or in BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, rollicking in DONOVAN'S REEF, devious in SEVEN MEN FROM NOW, and a meatball in THE CAINE MUTINY (literally. . .his character's name was Meatball). I'm just so pleased you chose to highlight them both. This is why FLEAPIT OF THE MIND is the place to be!!!

Weaverman said...

Well, of course,being British we would know that Mrs.Denning would pronounce her name EVE not EV-A. Oh, dear, you colonials have so much to learn. Now if Dionne Warwick were English her name would be pronounced War-rick but as she is a colonial we bow to your traditions and call her War-wick.

Lee Marvin is just about the best screen actor there is and tops my list. For me THE Lee Marvin film has to be POINT BLANK but the man never gave a bad performance.

Cerpts said...

Oh, is this the point where I swallow my pride and admit to never having seen POINT BLANK...??? I know I know, I'm a poor excuse for a human being. But you already knew that.