"When we had a film we wanted finished in 2 days, we called in Lew Landers"
Attributed to a studio exec, Lew Landers (aka Louis Friedlander) directed almost 130 films in 20 years, and though a steady B-movie veteran with RKO, Columbia and myriad Poverty Row studios, Landers nevertheless crafted some tight gems, often rising above the assembly line screenplays.
Based on a story by Kurt Neumann, "Return of the Vampire" places the vampire concept smack in the middle of bombed out London, a rather novel concept at the time, but nothing new to present-day audiences already used to odd spins on the vampire mythology. Because Universal owned the "Dracula" copyright at the time, Columbia's vampire riff abandoned the usual dark castle cliches and added a werewolf servant to the British location, along with a female scientist to foil the depraved Romanian scientist's plans to settle down in merry old London and threaten her son's fiancée (played by the radiant Nina Foch, in her feature film debut). Added to the mix is dialogue with brimming with outrageous British nonchalance: Scotland Yard's head scolds our heroine, "My dear lady, you simply can't go around the country driving things through peoples' hearts," to which she most humbly replies, "I quite understand, Sir Fredericks."
Columbia's DVD presents the uncut American print, featuring Lugosi's icky disintegration shots which were trimmed by the queasy British censors, and though the print itself shows some wear and speckling, "The Return Of The Vampire" looks very nice. Landers' atmospheric direction made great use of small sets, maximizing the art direction, and exploiting the talents of his underrated dual cinematographers. The black and white cinematography is effectively moody, and the sharp transfer shows no artifacting amid clean grays and deep blacks. The mono sound mix is average, with dialogue and music balanced and clear.
Aside from two horror trailers, the disc's extras are slim. Granted it's a straight B-level shocker, but some biographical data concerning Bela Lugosi's contributions, director highlights, production notes, and Columbia's early horror efforts would have given viewers some needed historical background to the kind of films that were standard fodder for hungry moviegoers in the forties.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan
Site designed for 1024 x 768 resolution, using 16M colours, and optimized for MS Explorer 6.0. KQEK Logo and All Original KQEK Art, Interviews, Profiles, and Reviews Copyright © 2001-Present by Mark R. Hasan. All Rights Reserved. Additional Review Content by Contributors 2001-Present used by Permission of Authors. Additional Art Copyrighted by Respective Owners. Reproduction of any Original KQEK Content Requires Written Permission from Copyright Holder and/or Author. Links to non-KQEK sites have been included for your convenience; KQEK is not responsible for their content nor their possible use of any pop-ups, cookies, or information gathering.