THE RETURN OF DRACULA. (1958) DIRECTED BY PAUL LANDRES. STARRING FRANCIS LEDERER AND NORMA EBERHARDT.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘Jenny, I’ve come to wake you!’
‘The world shall spin and they all shall die, but not us.’
‘I’ve got to close the window! He’ll hear us, he’s outside!’
‘I had the strangest dream last night, only I can’t seem to remember it.’
‘You’re already balanced between two worlds. Eternity awaits you now.’
‘I can free your soul, Jenny. I can take you from the blackness into the light.’
Any film that starts with a group of men pursuing a vampire through a graveyard and right into his crypt with the intention of driving a stake through his heart is okay in my books. This is a little black-and-white curiosity I discovered on YouTube while searching for Dracula stuff. The Jack-Palance-as-Dracula film wouldn’t start for me so here we are, lol.
THE RETURN OF DRACULA is quite similar in storyline to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1943 movie, SHADOW OF A DOUBT, in which a mysterious uncle (Joseph Cotten) returns to the bosom of his small-town American-as-apple-pie family, only to spread a putrid fear, dread and uncertainty through its ranks.
The pretty young daughter of the family, played by Teresa Wright, is a romantic at heart who yearns for a better life than she thinks she’ll have in her small-town existence. She is hugely attracted to the mystery and glamour that emanates from the newcomer, but the best thing she can do, for herself and her family, is to stay as far away from him as she can. As is the way in films though, she doesn’t discover this fact until it’s nearly too late. Where would be the fun otherwise?
In THE RETURN OF DRACULA, a mysterious, middle-aged Eastern European man who claims to be a Mrs. Cora Mayberry’s long-lost cousin, Bellac Gordal, turns up in the American small town of Carleton. They’ve been expecting him and they’re very excited about the homecoming. Cora, her teenage daughter Rachel, her young son Mickey and Rachel’s boyfriend Tim (he drives a convertible!) all make the tall, dark speaks-with-an-accent stranger as welcome as they know how.
Is being a vampire compatible with family life? (Ah, come on, you already know he’s a vampire! How is that a spoiler?) Not really, no. Cousin Bellac keeps the most irregular hours, doesn’t sleep in the bed provided for him but in a mist-filled coffin in a nearby abandoned mine and can’t abide mirrors or crucifixes. He’s not too keen on the family moggy, Nugget, either, but then in another way, he’s a little too keen on him, if you take my meaning.
Cousin Bellac is supposed to be a talented artist, but he seems to have only painted one picture during his stay with the Mayberrys, and that one painting is deeply disturbing. No-one knows where he goes on his so-called ‘painting trips’ or what he does on them. He plays his cards tight to his chest and doesn’t encourage familiarity, except from Rachel, for whom he has great things in mind. I’m sure you can guess what things.
Rachel, the blonde All-American daughter, is an aspiring fashion designer and she is instantly attracted to the suave, sophisticated Eastern European artist, who makes her boyfriend Tim seem like a crude, inexperienced callow youth by comparison. She even goes off Tim for a bit, much to Tim’s mystification, while Cousin Bellac is around.
Rachel introduces Cousin Bellac to her friend Jenny. She more or less hands him Jenny on a plate. ‘Oh, Jenny’s blind and bedridden and helpless and you can do whatever you like to her, and she’s ever so sweet and she’s just DYING to meet you, I’ve told her all about you!’ Well, congratulations, Rachel, old girl. You’ve just given the vampire his first victim, all trussed up like a turkey, and you’ve even made the dressing and all the trimmings yourself as well.
There are some spooky scenes when the Immigration officer looking into Cousin Bellac’s papers and his legal right to be in America comes a cropper. A pitiful voice calls for help by the railway track, and a few gruelling seconds later, Mr. Immigration Officer is a blood-soaked corpse. And, of course, there’s no-one around. No-one saw or heard anything…
I love the bit where the white-shrouded woman skips lightly back to her coffin in the super-cool Receiving Vaults before the first light of day breaks over the horizon. She’s very obviously the Lucy character from the Bram Stoker Dracula novel, who gets some of the creepiest and most electrifying scenes in the whole book and also in any film or television dramatisation.
There’s one splash of bright-red blood, very reminiscent of Hammer Horror across the pond, in this black-and-white film, but I won’t tell you whose it is. 1958, of course, was the year when Hammer Film Studios released their own DRACULA (THE HORROR OF DRACULA in the United States), with horror legend Christopher Lee in the title role. Several more DRACULA films followed in the next decade and a half, and they make up a fine body of work in total.
Did it hurt the Dracula legend, bringing the Fanged One to small-town America, rather than keeping him amongst the crumbling abbeys of England or, even better, the castles of his native Transylvania? No, I think it worked well enough.
After all, SON OF DRACULA starring Lon Chaney Jr. brought Count Dracula to the swamps and plantations of the Deep South of America, and that was a terrific, if terribly gloomy, film. Not much in the way of comic relief there. ‘I see you living in a grave, married to a corpse.’ See what I mean…?
Why is this film called THE RETURN OF DRACULA? I honestly don’t know. Was there a previous film? Again, I don’t know. I’m guessing too that this film isn’t very well known. It’s still worth at least one watch, though, as it has a certain small-town charm and, as I said at the start, it’s a real little curiosity. At eighty minutes long as well, it won’t take up too much of your time. Go for it.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
You can contact Sandra at: