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When I was a kid, old movies were pretty much the main staple of daytime local television programming. This of course, allowed me to become hooked on horror movies during my formative years. Anytime I saw the names Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff or Lon Chaney Jr. in the TV Guide, I knew I was in for a treat. It was at this point in my life that I became familiar with a little film entitled THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE ($20), which featured Lugosi as a vampire, who just happened to have a werewolf slave to do his dirty work. Now for me, having both a vampire and werewolf in the same movie was like hitting the jackpot, and THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE became an instant childhood favorite.

THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE opens in 1918 with vampire Armand Tesla (Lugosi) terrorizing the English countryside. Physician Lady Jane Ainsley (Frieda Inescort) can’t seem to explain the rash of strange anemic deaths that have plagued her clinic. Turning to her friend Professor Walter Saunders (Gilbert Emery) for assistance, the two ultimately determine that a vampire is responsible for deaths. Uncovering the vampire’s hiding place, the scientists are able to drive a spike through his heart during the daylight hours, while his werewolf servant Andreas (Matt Willis) is away.

Springing forward to 1943, a German bombing raid accidentally releases Armand Tesla from his grave, allowing the vampire to rise once again. Tesla immediately subjugates Andreas to his will again, turning the poor soul back into a werewolf. Utilizing Andreas as a pawn, Tesla begins a campaign of revenge against Lady Jane and all those she loves. The cast of THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE also includes Nina Foch, Miles Mander, Roland Varno, Leslie Denison, William Austin, Billy Bevan and Harold De Becker.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE available on DVD in a nice looking full screen transfer that frames the movie in its proper 1.37:1 aspect ratio. Dust particles and minor blemishes serve as a reminder that the movie is nearly sixty years old, but in other respects the black and white film element has held up rather well. The transfer itself is rather pleasing; offering a fairly sharp and detailed image. Film grain is noticeable much of the time, but it is never bothersome. Blacks are pure, whites are clean and stable, plus the picture produces a wonderful grayscale and smooth contrast. Darker scenes are intentionally shadowy, but the image creates a nice sense of depth. Digital compression artifacts remain out of sight throughout.

While the Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack if free from noticeable background hiss and surface noise, fidelity of the nearly sixty-year-old soundtrack is decidedly limited. Music sounds a bit reedy, but it isn’t bad, provided that one doesn’t overdo the amplification. Dialogue is generally crisp and completely understandable, one can even make it past Lugosi’s thick Hungarian accent without problems. All and all this is a pretty good sounding track for a film of this particular vintage. While there are no other soundtrack options, English, French, Spanish and Japanese subtitles are included on the DVD. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as trailers for BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA and THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN.

THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE is as enjoyable now as I remember it being when I was a warped little kid who lived on horror movies. Columbia TriStar has done a pretty nice job with the presentation, short of giving the film an expensive restoration. Lugosi fans and classic horror buffs will want to add this DVD to their collections. Hopefully, Columbia TriStar will keep delving into the vault and give horror fans a few Karloff titles- anyone for THE BLACK ROOM, THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG, BEFORE I HANG or THE DEVIL COMMANDS?


The Return of the Vampire (1944)


DVD reviews are Copyright 2002 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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