Blu-ray Review: THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE

THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE was directed by Lew Landers from a screenplay by Randall Faye and Griffin Jay based on a story by Kurt Neumann and stars Bela Lugosi, Frieda Inescort, Nina Foch, Miles Manders and Roland Varno.

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 and Sir John Ainsley, 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, the resurrected vampire now plots vengeance on the family that put a halt to his nocturnal feasting. 

This 1943 Columbia Pictures production begins in 1918 London and follows the Hungarian vampire Armand Tesla (Bela Lugosi) who’s killed with a stake through the heart by Lady Jane (Frieda Inescort) and Sir John Ainsley (Roland Varno). The bloodsucker has been making his rounds in town and the two catch up with him and put a stop to his feasting. Over two decades later he’s accidentally resurrected when a German bomb disturbs his grave and two groundskeepers pull the stake from the corpse not knowing what the circumstances will be.

Tesla has been resurrected and the undead bloodsucker calls upon his servant/slave werewolf Andreas Obry (Matt Willis) to help him lure in a new crop of victims as well as assist him in getting his revenge on Lady Jane. Tesla begins to make his rounds in the area as well as charming the lovely Nikki Saunders (Nina Foch) who catches his eye. His plan slowly comes together but Tesla is ultimately met with some shocking resistance and in the end it’s his own servant who delivers the long overdue fatal blow to the vampire that finally gives the werewolf his freedom.

The front of the packaging features the artwork you see at the top of the page and the back includes movie details, some images and list of special features. The reverse sleeve features a vintage promo ad. The Blu-ray disc features some artwork that matches the ad. Inserting the disc, the menu screen was simple and easy to navigate. The picture and sound quality for this high-definition release were good considering the age of this 1943 black and white feature. I didn’t really have any major issues with the video and audio.

Bottom line is, The Return of the Vampire ended up being another first time watch for me and this Columbia Pictures production kind of served as an unofficial sequel to the 1931 horror classic Dracula that was released by Universal Pictures. Some names had to be changed for legal reasons but we all know who this vampire really was and I thought they pulled it off for the most part. The movie was given a modern day setting when it was first released instead of going back in time again and I thought this was a fresh new approach for this classic villain. Once again, Bela Lugosi delivers as this sinister figure who’s not only out for blood but he finds a new damsel in distress to charm as well. The FX in this one looked a little cheaper than the Universal releases but still pretty good for its time. The Return of the Vampire is also pretty tame when it comes to the horror aspect of things but it’s still an entertaining watch from a much simpler era. The Return of the Vampire will be available on Blu-ray on February 19th.

Distributor: Scream Factory

Run Time: 70 Minutes

Rated: Not Rated

Blu-ray Video: 1080p High-Definition Fullframe (1.33:1) B&W

Blu-ray Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio Mono 2.0

Subtitles: English

Special Features: The extras include three new audio commentaries as well as the silent 8mm presentation of the film, a theatrical trailer and still gallery.

  • 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 (08:19)
  • Theatrical Trailer (01:06)
  • Still Gallery (05:15)
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