"Couldn't we do something different?" Wendigo asked me.
"Why, are you afraid of this one?"
(If he isn't, he should be.)
"No, but the new Wolf Man movie is coming out and it's putting me in the mood to do a Universal picture."
"We've already done one."
"We could do a Hammer movie."
"Already done one of those...What's next on your pile, anyway?"
It was a Columbia Pictures film by Lew Landers with which we were both quite familiar, but if we were to go retro, I thought we might as well do what we would have done next week, anyway. But Wendigo wanted to know why I chose this one instead of a Universal or a Hammer, and the answer is that I sort of sympathize with the underdogs of cinema. Return of the Vampire is often disparaged as an exploitation film, a rip-off of Universal's cycle featuring Bela Lugosi as a second-rate Dracula and a gratuitous wolf man. But I've always liked Return because of the ways it differentiates itself from the Universal films, particularly the way it exploits its historical moment compared to Universal's retreat into the neverland of Visaria.
Matt Willis), "some loathsome creature of the vampire's" in Sir John's description. Andreas was introduced to us earlier as a depraved, servile and fully articulate wolfman, but Tesla's demise transforms him into a human being whom the Ainleys basically adopt and rehabilitate. By 1941, Andreas is a trusted assistant in Lady Jane's patriotic work of smuggling dissident scientists out of occupied Europe. But a German air raid blasts the cemetery where Tesla's body lay, inert but perfectly preserved, and when two comedy-relief wardens pull the spike from his chest, the vampire returns to life, immediately reasserting his control over an Andreas who just happens to wander across his path. Now a wolfman again whenever Tesla needs him to be, Andreas will aid his master in wreaking vengeance on the Ainsley family, unless he should retain some sliver of the goodness that Lady Jane has instilled in him during the interwar years....
Tesla plans his misty revenge on the Ainsleys and their loved ones. Bela really could use an opera cape in the scene below to hide his painful posture, and he'll get one later.
Tesla tries to put the moves on Lady Jane (Frieda Inescort's pioneering female vampire hunter) only to find that he's been played like a pipe organ by the devout heroine.
IMDB has a trailer I can't embed here, but you can go look at it here.