Sunday 21 January 2007

The Return of the Vampire (1944) Lew Landers

On the outskirts of London in 1918, Andreas the wolfman whose hair only goes as far south as his chin visits the vaults of the Priory Cemetery to awaken his master, the vampire Armand Tesla, thus leading to the first return of the title. Then we switch to his first victim, the young daughter of Dr Walter Saunders, who he bits but doesn't get the chance to kill. Saunders has been investigating a patient and has got stumped, so naturally assumes that it's the work of vampires and werewolves and the such and equally naturally reads up on the work of a Romanian writer two hundred years ago. Yes, you've guessed it: Armand Tesla. And he tracks him down that very night and hammers a stake into his heart. I lost count of the scary number of coincidences I came across here.

It's obvious that this is a cheap run of the mill production from the very beginning, but it rapidly degenerates into something truly awful. Gilbert Emery can take heart from the fact that his performance here is uncredited. As Dr Saunders, he has the most outrageous and cliched lines you can comfortably imagine and throws them out completely deadpan. Needless to say there's a second return, courtesy of the Germans who wreck the cemetery, and so Armand Tesla gets to have another go at Nikki Saunders, this time a little older. More coincidences, of course, but they continue. Tesla's coffin gets knocked up onto the surface and the top removed, so that the wardens pull it out. All this of course comes on the day before his coffin is going to be opened anyway by Scotland Yard.

Yep, this one's painful. It possibly wasn't quite as bad in 1944 as it is now, but that doesn't mean it wasn't really awful. Bela is Bela and Nina Foch, who plays Nikki, is cute. There isn't anything else here. Incidentally I recently saw Nina Foch no less than 61 years later, playing David McCallum's delightfully crazy mother in NCIS. Somehow she survived this early entry on her resume.

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