Movie Review: The Return of the Vampire (1943)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1943 horror movie starring Bela Lugosi as the vampire Armand Tesla

Synopsis: Twenty-four years after staking a vampire that terrorized her young daughter, Lady Jane Ainsley is accused of murdering an innocent man because the only other person who knew the truth is no longer alive to vouch for her.
That's not the worst of her problems. A Nazi bombing raid struck the cemetery the vampire was buried in. Freed from his coffin and with the help of his werewolf servant, he seeks revenge.

Who's in it?

The Return of the Vampire

Bela Lugosi stars as a vampire stalking the streets of World War II London when German bombing releases vampire Armand Tesla (Lugosi) from his grave. Aided by a werewolf named A...

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A Little Too Much Like Another Vampire Movie

I’ve seen actor Bela Lugosi in a lot of non-Dracula roles. However, this was the first time I came across a movie that had him starring as another vampire, Armand Tesla. And, I have to admit, that, alone, got me interested in watching. Unfortunately, the movie just wasn’t as good as I was hoping it would be.

The best way to describe this film is it is, in many ways, a poorly disguised rip off of the much more successful “Dracula.” Lugosi’s vampire character may not have had the same name but his personality, down to his trademark hypnotic eyes would have had me believing it was the same person.  The same was true of some of the other characters. The daughter, Nicki (Foch), was very similar to Lucy in the other film; Sir Frederick (Mander) replaces Dr. Van Helsing and the werewolf assistant (Willis) was a furrier version of Renfield.

Some of the scenes also looked like they were directly out of the other movie too, such as when he lures Nicki out of bed in a trance. In fact, most of the differences between the movies, such as the werewolf, really were just cosmetic.

I did like the idea of this movie being set against the backdrop of World War II because the fact the various players had to avoid Nazi bombs did add a somewhat interesting element to the storyline, both because it was the way the vampire escaped and because it added a new element of danger. Unfortunately, still wasn’t enough to make the movie seem overly different from Lugosi’s “Dracula” film.

The Bela Lugosi Collection (Murders in the Rue Morgue / The Black Cat / The Raven / The Invisible...

Bela Lugosi is known as the master of evil in the horror-film genre. His range as an actor in this realm knew no boundaries and his legend lives on in this 5-movie collector's e...

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Final Opinion

To be fair, I do think Lugosi did a fantastic job as the vampire in this movie. He was very believable and, at times, a little scary. However, the film really doesn’t add much in terms of original content and, if you're going to watch him in a vampire movie, “Dracula” would be the better choice.

My Grade: C

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Updated: 07/05/2016, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 03/26/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
The library system here has the complete legacy collection of Lugosi films. But that collection has no The Return of the Vampire listed among the included films, which nevertheless mention Dracula. So I'll not see The Return of the Vampire in the present or in the near future.

How would this film fare as a colorized reboot or remake nowadays?

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