Sunday 14 October 2007

The Return of Dracula (1958) Paul Landres

The Vampire, directed by Paul Landres in 1957, really had nothing to do with vampires. I ended up describing it as Dr Jekyll & Mr Wolfman. A year later he decided to put an actual vampire in a vampire movie, which is at least one improvement, and sure enough we start with an attempted vampire slaying: the boys coming in like the gang in Reservoir Dogs, but with crosses and stakes instead of guns.

It was a promising start but unfortunately it soon became a game of counting the cliches. Even before Count Dracula, finds his way to the States, he gets hungry for a snack on the train and his victim screams just as the train whistle blows to enter a tunnel. He takes his victim's identity and so finds his way to Carleton, CA to stay with his victim's family, who conveniently live right next to an abandoned mine. Soon he gets to emerge from his coffin in slow motion, surrounded by fog even though he's in the depths of that mine.

Count Dracula is played by Francis Lederer who has a presence to him, though he looks amazingly like DR from Alan Moore's DR and Quinch. He also does his best with the lines he's given, making him by far the best thing about the film. Unfortunately the story is very much a rehash of any handful of vampire scripts you could pick at random. Fifty years on, Landres could probably have created this exact film without any actors at all, by doing it as a mashup of clips from other films, because everything you'll see here, you've already seen somewhere else first. The direction is lackluster too, meaning that this would work better as a radio broadcast, even though the soundtrack is terrible.

The only thing that seems new to me is the whole concept of Immigration taking a look at Dracula, though unfortunately that was only a ruse. It would be cool if a future film could have the Count's nefarious evildoings stopped by Immigration. It could even be turned into an intriguing political satire of modern day America, but then that wouldn't be interesting to cookie cutter Hollywood.

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