Wednesday, October 20, 2010

31 Days of Halloween - Day 20 - Movie 1

There's not a lot of vampire action in The Return of Dracula (1958), but this well directed and shot film, which plays as more of a crime thriller is interesting to watch because it is so different from any other Dracula movie.

Pursued by a modern group of vampire hunters, Dracula escapes Europe by taking the identity of an artist he kills on a train. He then moves in with the murdered artists' family in California, where he sets about building a new empire by first turning a local blind girl into an apparently sighted vampire. His vampire hunting pursuers finally catch up to him, but are they in time to stop him from turning the daughter of the family he's staying with into a vampire as well?

Though sluggish in places, this is an interesting curiosity. Francis Lederer who plays Dracula posing as artist Bellac Gordal is very unlike any incarnation of Dracula previously seen. He comes off more like a criminal in an Italian spy thriller than the undead count, but commands a threatening, sinister presence nonetheless. The vampire action is reduced to a few disolves meant to show Dracula and the blind girl, Jennie (Virginia Vincent) materializing out of mist, and Jennie in the form of a white dog (meant to be a wolf) attacking one of the vampire hunters. We never see any puncture marks on the throats of Jennie or Rachel (Norma Eberhardt), the saintly daughter he's trying to turn into a vampire, so it's hard to say whether or not Rachel was ever bitten, despite her pale complexion and preoccupied stare the next day. It's also nice to see a movie in which vampires don't need to be explained in lengthy exposition. The real star of this movie is Gerald Fried's score  which makes great use of Hector Berlioz's interpretation of "Dies Irae"-- the same piece of music used during the opening drive sequence of The Shining (1980).



Johnny Bacardi said...

This was a favorite movie of mine growing up in the 60's...Famous Monsters ran pics from it from time to time, and Channel 5 Nashville's afternoon movie show, the Big Show, aired it at least once a year. the Big Show, showing monster movies, Elvis flicks, and other great films of that ilk, helped "ruin" my formative years...

John Rozum said...

We had "The Creature Double Feature" on Saturday afternoons when I was growing up. Our daily 4 o'clock movie was on a program which called itself "Dialing for Dollars." The host would call people randomly during commercial breaks and if you could name the movie, you won money. He never called my house though.