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The Return of the Vampire (1943) - Blu-ray Review

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The Return of the Vampire - Blu-ray

The Return of the Vampire, now on blu-ray thanks to Shout! Factory, is the film with which Columbia Pictures flies the B-movie, with director Lew Landers (The Raven) at the helm, to new heights courtesy of the German Luftwaffe aircraft in this unofficial (but, probably, yes) sequel to Universal’s Dracula.   It is a GREAT flick, full of atmosphere and sharp performances.  

If my recollection serves me correctly, there are very few vampire films that are deeply rooted in WWII.  This makes The Return of the Vampire a definite treat for film AND history buffs.  Starring Bela Lugosi as the 200-year-old Armand Tesla, his return to the fog-soaked graveyards of London arrives courtesy an errant bomb dropped from an unexpected air raid and the two dopey cemetery workers who remove the stake from his heart.  Whoops.

"From the arch in his fingers to the way he whispers, “COME TO ME” over and over, the actor brings his A-game to this production"


But the film starts much earlier than WWII.  It has to in order for Lady Jane Ainsley (Frieda Inescort) and Professor Walter Saunders (Gilbert Emery) to stake the vampire, save his assistant (Matt Willis as Andréas Obry), and leave the vampire to rot with that stake hammered down squarely in his chest.  Hence, The Return of the Vampire.  Get it?! Or is this, in fact, Dracula reborn? Hmmm.

For the first 10-minutes of the flick, already Landers, who made his fair share of duds, shows great skill behind the camera.  We have solid performances early on and, thanks to cinematographer L.W. O'Connell, lots of great shadows, stretching tall and awkwardly against walls and grounds.

And don’t even get me started on the use of heavy fog for developing strong atmospheres.  Even if it is only in use for the graveyard sequences, hilariously enough. From the opening shot as Willis, in full werewolf make-up (he even talks!!!), stumbles into the graveyard, the creep factor is highly charged, making this horror film a sleepy Gothic thriller that knows its way around the boneyard.

And that’s only the beginning . . .

Twenty-three years later, Tesla returns to finish what he started with the young Nicki Saunders (Nina Foch) and now that she is of age, and waiting to marry Lady Jane's son John (Roland Varno), the timing of his return couldn’t be any more convenient.  And his revenge on the family will be the sweetest he’s ever tasted.

Lugosi was near the end of his career in Hollywood. He would go on to make his best Monogram picture from this film, that being Voodoo Man, but – thanks to Columbia – he received his final studio-supported release as the main attraction with The Return of the VampireThe Return of the Vampire - Blu-ray

And it is truly deserved as he STILL strikes an imposing figure.  From the arch in his fingers to the way he whispers, “COME TO ME” over and over, the actor brings his A-game to this production, striking fear into our hearts one last time as a caped and very Hungarian creature of the night.

The Return of the Vampire gets its teeth sharpened thanks to Shout! Factory.

5 beers

The Return of the Vampire - Blu-ray

MPAA Rating: Unrated
Runtime:
69 mins
Director
: Lew Landers
Writer:
Griffin Jay
Cast:
Bela Lugosi, Frieda Inescort, Nina Foch
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
Eerie! Chilling! Screamy!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Your eyes look like burning coals. Don't come any nearer. Don't touch me."
Theatrical Distributor:
Columbia Pictures Corporation
Official Site:
Release Date:
November 11, 1943
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
February 19, 2019
Synopsis: In 1918, Armand Tesla (Bela Lugosi), a 200-year-old Hungarian Vampire, prowls the English countryside, feeding from the jugulars of the villagers. But Tesla's reign of terror is interrupted when a pair of scientists, Lady Jane (Frieda Inescort) and Sir John Ainsley (Roland Varno), drive a railroad spike through his heart. The "un-dead" Tesla remains safely entombed for two decades until the impact from a stray Nazi bomb accidentally releases him. Along with his werewolf servant Andreas Obry (Matt Willis), the resurrected vampire now plots vengeance on the family that put a halt to his nocturnal feasting.

The Return of the Vampire - Blu-ray

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory
Available on Blu-ray
- February 11, 2019
Screen Formats: 1.33:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

The Return of the Vampire is presented in 1080p with a crisp transfer that handles the blacks and grays quite well. Shadows, while not too terribly detailed, are thick and atmospheric throughout. Presented with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, the film looks marvelous and easily beats the poor appearance on television and on home video DVD that has previously dogged it. The sound is presented in a solid DTS-HD Master Audio English track that is perfect for the film’s low budget demands.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There are THREE NEW commentaries included with this release.  See the Special Features for the breakdown.

Special Features:

Lugosi fans will be delighted with what is included here thanks to Shout! Factory’s work. 

  • NEW Audio Commentary With Film Historian Troy Howarth
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Gary Don Rhodes
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Film Historian Lee Gambin
  • Silent 8mm Presentation
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery

The Return of the Vampire - Blu-ray

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