The Return of the Vampire
|The Return of the Vampire|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Lew Landers|
|Produced by||Sam White|
|Written by||Randall Faye|
|Music by||Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco|
|Cinematography||L. William O'Connell|
|Edited by||Paul Borofsky|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
The Return of the Vampire is a horror film released in 1943 by Columbia Pictures. The film presents an Englishwoman's two encounters with a vampire. The first encounter takes place during World War I, and the second during World War II. The film stars Bela Lugosi as the vampire Armand Tesla. The Return of the Vampire is not an official sequel to Lugosi's 1931 Universal Studios film Dracula, but the film has been interpreted by David J. Skal as an unofficial follow-up with Lugosi's character renamed only because the film was not made by Universal.
During World War I, the vampire, Armand Tesla, stalks London. His latest victim is admitted to the clinic of Lady Jane Ainsley (Frieda Inescort) and her colleague, Professor Walter Saunders (Gilbert Emery). 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 (Miles Mander) 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 (Roland Varno), 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 (Nina Foch), 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:
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