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RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE (1944)

Not a soul will ever believe us, but we know this monster exists – menace – deadly – horrible! We must destroy it!





  Director:
 
Lew Landers

  Starring: 
Bela Lugosi, Frieda Inescort, Nina Foch, Miles Mander, Matt Willis, Gilbert Emery, Roland Varno, Sherlee Collier

  Screenplay: 
Griffin Jay and Randall Faye, based upon a story by Kurt Neumann

Synopsis: In London, in 1918, a werewolf, Andreas (Matt Willis), is in thrall to a vampire (Bela Lugosi). Andreas enters a crypt in an abandoned graveyard, the Old Priory Cemetery, letting the vampire know that darkness has come, and reporting to him the condition of a certain girl, who is in the care of doctor and scientist, Lady Jane Ainsley (Frieda Inescourt). The vampire crosses the cemetery, and vanishes into the night... Puzzled by her patient’s condition, Lady Jane calls in Professor Saunders (Gilbert Emery). She tells him that when the girl was brought in, she was almost bloodless; although she is not anaemic, and there were no injuries that could account for such blood loss. When he tries to talk to the victim, she becomes hysterical, speaking wildly of someone with burning eyes. She then collapses and dies. Outside, there is the sound of a dog howling... Reading a book on the undead by a Romanian scientist, Armand Tesla, written some 200 years ago, Professor Saunders realises the truth. Meanwhile, upstairs, someone breaks into the room where the Professor’s granddaughter lie sleeping; the young Nicki (Sherlee Collier) screams as a caped figure swoops towards her...  The following morning, the Professor shows Lady Jane two small puncture wounds on the throat of the dead girl: something he noticed the night before but did not then consider important. Now, however, he is sure he knows what caused them... Lady Jane is doubtful until it is discovered that Nicki was attacked during the night. Seeing the marks on her throat, the Professor orders an emergency transfusion. Arguing that no-one will ever believe them, the Professor convinces Lady Jane that they must hunt down the vampire themselves. They investigate local graveyards, and finally locate the vampire's coffin. As the Professor drives a spike through the monster’s heart, the werewolf Andreas is released from his power and reverts to his human form... Years later, an account of these occurrences falls into the hands of Scotland Yard after Professor Saunders dies. Lady Jane tells the Chief Commissioner, Sir Frederick Fleet (Miles Mander), that the vampire was in fact Armand Tesla himself, whose fascination with vampires recoiled upon himself; and that Andreas is in her employ after undergoing many years of therapy. Disbelieving the vampire story, the Commissioner warns Lady Jane that she may be facing a murder charge. Lady Jane tells the truth to her son, John (Roland Varno), who is engaged to Professor Saunders’ granddaughter, Nicki (Nina Foch); Nicki remembers nothing of the vampire’s attack upon her as a child. Lady Jane declares that she is not worried by the prospect of a Scotland Yard investigation, since even if they find Tesla’s body, it will not have decomposed – thus proving that he was a vampire. The two are interrupted by Andreas, who denies that he heard what they were talking about. An air-raid siren sounds, and the household shelters in the basement during the subsequent barrage, which hits the Old Priory Cemetery. Two workers sent to clean up the damage find Armand Tesla’s body. Assuming that it is a piece of debris from the bombing, they pull out the metal spike. Tesla immediately revives and, intent upon revenge, he makes his way to Lady Jane's house to reassert his power over Andreas and Nicki...

Comments:  I get more of a kick out of Return Of The Vampire than its intrinsic merits deserve. The film is a low-low-budget production from Columbia, which drowns its meagre sets in dry ice fog in a not exactly successful attempt to hide their shortcomings; it steals shamelessly from a number of other horror movies produced over the preceding few years; and it was written by Griffin Jay, whose name in the credits always gets an instinctive flinch out of me – and whose screenplay for this particular film suggests that he wrote a number of unrelated plot-points on scraps of paper, tossed them into the air, and included whichever ones landed face up.

Yet somehow these individually discouraging factors come together into an engaging little film, whose (mostly) straight-faced handling of its disparate story elements is rather charming. It is also given some genuine interest by the decision - even granting it was probably made for budgetary reasons - to set the story in contemporary times, and at the height of the London Blitz.

Return Of The Vampire is of course one of Bela Lugosi’s Not-Dracula roles; in fact, this could fairly be described as his last serious outing as an undead bloodsucker. The film wastes no time giving its audience what it presumably wants, either, with a pre-credit sequence in which a girl screams helplessly as a caped figure swoops towards her. Either side of this plays an amusing onscreen apology for what is to follow:

 

The film proper opens with an odd little meta-moment, or at least a sloppy bit of writing, as a voiceover from someone we will come to know as Professor Walter Saunders reads to us from an account of vampirism that hasn’t actually been written yet. As the camera pans over an abandoned and crumbling old cemetery which is swathed in dry ice mist, Professor Saunders informs us that, “This is the case of Armand Tesla, vampire.” The camera then finds and closes in upon a figure moving stealthily through the graveyard. It is---a werewolf!?

Yes, indeed. Return Of The Vampire was produced in the wake of Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, the first of Universal’s “monster mash” films, and copied the tactic of giving the paying public more bang for its monster-buck. Columbia took a different tack from Universal in how it promoted its own monster mash-up, however, using separate sets of advertising art to promote the film as a vampire movie and as a werewolf movie. Naturally the vampire advertising featuring Lugosi dominates – besides the fact that, you know, the film is called Return Of The Vampire – but nevertheless we also find promotional material for the film such as this:

But if Return Of The Vampire owes its genesis to the success of Universal’s attempt to keep its profitable franchises alive (or at least undead), it does show some originality in its handling of its monsters, both of whom, it is implied, are the way they are because of certain psychological weaknesses. The early stages of the film find Professor Saunders reading a two hundred-year-old work on The Supernatural And Its Manifestations, which discusses instances in which the dead return; the book carries as its frontispiece a rather remarkable ink sketch of its author, Armand Tesla, a Romanian scientist.

Tesla asserts that those who return from the grave do so either as a vampire of a werewolf. We later learn, courtesy of Lady Jane Ainsley, that, “Tesla’s morbid thirst for knowledge turned upon him, and after his death he himself became a vampire.” Though in this respect Return Of The Vampire may have taken a hint from the death-obsessed anti-heroine of Son Of Dracula the year before, the suggestion that certain individuals are predisposed for transformation, through their particular psychological kinks, is rather interesting.

Another note of originality comes with Matt Willis’ oddly dog-like werewolf. All throughout, Andreas growls and whines, cringes when scolded, and trots around obediently after his “Master”, always seeking his approval. Here, he slips down into the crypt of the abandoned cemetery, alerting the vampire to the fact that night has come. At this point we do not see Tesla, we only hear his distinctive voice – which, in an ill-judged touch, has been given reverb, these days inevitably putting the audience in mind of Zandor Vorkov in Dracula Vs Frankenstein.

Andreas informs his master that someone, presumably the pre-credits victim, has been taken to the nearby clinic run by Lady Jane Ainsley, a doctor, and that the strangeness of the case has caused Lady Jane to summon her teacher and mentor, Professor Saunders. “As if any of them could tell what happened!” Andreas grovels.

"Am I in the right movie?"

I enjoy Return Of The Vampire’s handling of its heroine; and I think we can call her “its heroine”. Lady Jane Ainsley is a doctor in addition to being a wife (or at least, widow) and mother, and – we might say – in spite of being an aristocrat; she has a private psychiatric clinic, and she also conducts research. She is about to turn vampire-hunter, and before the end of the film she will be collaborating with the French Resistance during WWII. Though truthfully the film does not do enough with her in story terms, in spite of her myriad qualifications, it is nice to see a woman cast for once in the role of the savant’s prize pupil.

(On the other hand, the screenplay suffers from the common American incapacity to grasp title usage, having our heroine toggle between “Lady Jane” and “Lady Ainsley”. Since it later proves that her son has no title, “Lady Jane” is correct; as is “Dr Ainsley”.)

As it turns out, Andreas is a little over-optimistic about the degree of the doctors’ bafflement. At first neither Lady Jane nor Professor Saunders can understand the young woman’s case – she is in deep shock, possibly even hypnotised, and was brought in “almost bloodless” despite no sign of anaemia or any significant wound – and she dies after crying out in terror to some unseen third party that, “I didn’t tell!” However, Professor Saunders has acquired a copy of Armand Tesla’s seminal work on the undead, and by the next morning he understands the significance of those tiny puncture marks on the dead girl’s throat. He is trying to persuade the sceptical Lady Jane of the truth when they are interrupted by some horrifying news...

Let me guess: he has the same publisher as Dr Ted Stevens?

Apparently the graveyard vampire was sufficiently put out by Lady Jane’s attempt to save his previous victim – or at least the fact that she got between him and his next meal – for him to conclude that some payback was in order. The night before, we briefly met the two youngest members of the household, Lady Jane’s son, John, and Professor Saunders’ granddaughter, Nicki. After the children were asleep, the house was invaded---with a dark figure swooping towards the terrified Nicki...

(It was creepy enough when it was filmed, but these days this scene of a predator invading the children’s bedroom has a whole extra edge to it. We note, too, that the studios’ nervousness about same-sex vampirism, evident from Dracula onwards, was still in effect: why else would the vampire bite Nicki but not John?)

Lady Jane and Professor Saunders follow the terrified family nurse upstairs, where they find Nicki alive but unconscious. Seeing the marks on her neck, Saunders immediately orders a transfusion. He also tells Lady Jane that if they do not stop the vampire immediately, he will return again for Nicki; and that their only hope is to find the creature and drive a spike through its heart, or by dragging it into the sunlight.

Still unconvinced, but willing to go along on the strength of her faith in Professor Saunders, Lady Jane tells him that there are two cemeteries in the vicinity, one long-abandoned. Their investigations take them to the crypt, where a puzzled Saunders points out the tracks of bare human feet. But more urgent matters intrude: Saunders opens a coffin lying on a bier, which contains the body of a man, not only intact but seemingly alive. To quiet Lady Jane’s qualms, Saunders demonstrates that the individual in the coffin casts no reflection (and giving us an amusing glimpse of an empty suit of evening clothes). She makes no further protest, and Saunders sets to work with his iron spike – an interesting instance of the screenwriter returning to actual folk-lore, rather than just copying an earlier film.

"I dunno... I just can't see myself wearing it."

Even as Saunders pounds away, he is startlingly interrupted by Andreas, who staggers into the crypt clutching his own heart. “You killed the master!” he gasps before collapsing. The two doctors stare in disbelief as he transforms back into his human form.

But note that he does not die. This is an interesting point, given that Return Of The Vampire explicitly classes werewolves with vampires as “the undead”. If we are expected to infer here that because Andreas is not dead, he not in fact cured of his lycanthropy, it would be an unusually subtle bit of writing for Griffin Jay.

Lady Jane’s first impulse is to help Andreas, and after the narrative leaps forward some twenty-three years, to the middle of WWII, we discover him not only, ahem, cured after years of intensive therapy (an idea that intriguingly looks forward to The Howling), but a trusted employee at Lady Jane’s clinic.

When we pick up the story again, Lady Jane’s vampire-hunting activities have come back to, uh, bite her. Professor Saunders having been killed in a plane crash, the examination of his effect has brought to light his account of the staking of Armand Tesla, which (somehow or other) has fallen into the hands of Scotland Yard. The Chief Commissioner is appalled by its implications, warning Lady Jane that if the story is substantially true – naturally he does not believe she and Saunders actually staked a vampire – she may be facing either a murder charge or institutionalisation. Lady Jane is unbothered, confident that if the authorities do find Armand Tesla’s body, it will show no decomposition and therefore prove her story.

(By this point, Return Of The Vampire has added Dracula’s Daughter to the list of its “inspirations”.)

"I must find a new resting-place---one well away from any crosses, which of course I cannot tolerate..."

The following scene catches us up with the rest of our characters: John Ainsley, having been honourably discharged from the air force, has resumed his career as a composer and pianist and is staging a charity concert built around his new concerto; and he is engaged to Nicki, who is in the WRENs.

To John only Lady Jane confides her situation; we learn that Nicki was never told of her childhood encounter with the undead Tesla. Andreas walks in on their conversation, but in spite of his evident alarm he hastily denies overhearing them.

An air raid puts an end to the discussion. The bombs fall very close to the clinic; instead they hit the nearby graveyard and disinter some of the bodies. In the aftermath, two unfortunate council employees are given the job of cleaning up. (Some unwise comic relief here, also echoing Dracula’s Daughter.) One of the bodies, lying in a coffin that has been broken open, is surprisingly intact except for the spike in its chest, which the men take to be a bomb splinter. They agree that it must be removed before the dead man can be re-buried, and one of the men steels himself for the job...

Meanwhile, we discover that in addition to all her other activities, Lady Jane is the English endpoint of an underground network that smuggles certain valuable individuals out of Europe. She has them met, arranges their papers, and provides them with clothing and accommodation in London. The latest beneficiary of the network is a Dr Hugo Bruckner, who has been broken out of a concentration camp and is on his way to England.

The Odious Comic Relief---representing the firm of Blimey, Blinking, Blasted and Blooming.

“I feel we are doing a good thing for humanity, helping a fellow-scientist to escape the Nazi yoke!” announces Lady Jane approvingly. Her confidante is Andreas, who is also her assistant in this aspect of her work: an unfortunate choice in the current exercise, as it turns out. Barely has he stepped outside the clinic than he runs into the resurrected Armand Tesla; and before you can say “So much for twenty years of intensive psychotherapy”, the beast in Andreas has the ascendancy again and he is helping Tesla find a new resting-place...which turns out to be a church damaged in the recent bombing raid. Eh!?

Tesla swears revenge on those who put him in the ground for more than two decades; he seems embarrassed about having been taken down by a couple of rank amateurs, and soothes his wounded amour propre by growling, “It was my curse that caused Professor Saunders’ recent death!” And you waited twenty-three years because---? Lady Jane – or rather, her loved ones – are his next targets, Andreas’ mercy mission on behalf of Lady Jane offering the vampire a perfect opportunity to infiltrate the family.

Poor Dr Bruckner is the real victim in this film.

Meanwhile, Sir Frederick and Lady Jane are searching for the unmarked grave in which Tesla’s coffin was hidden all those years ago. When they cannot find it, Sir Frederick is content (and not a little relieved) to let the matter drop, but Lady Jane grasps the more alarming implications.

Lady Jane Ainsley: she's a scientist as well as a doctor. And a musician, and a resistance-fighter, and a vampire-hunter...

First, however, she must give her attention to John and Nicki’s engagement party. Sir Frederick is invited as a peace-offering, and he comes bearing Saunders’ manuscript, which he and Lady Jane agree to keep from Nicki. Lady Jane thrusts it hurriedly into a drawer upon the arrival of the evening’s guest of honour, Dr Hugo Bruckner...

Return Of The Vampire offers a fairly dignified role for Bela Lugosi, in spite of its derivative nature and low budget, and he responds with a strong performance. In particular he gives this scene his all, as “Dr Bruckner” throws double entendres at the oblivious Lady Jane: “I have waited impatiently for this moment – I owe you so much...”

(And of course, here we see the necessity for Professor Saunders’ manuscript in the first place: Lady Jane must never have read Tesla’s book, although it seems highly improbable under the circumstances that she has not.)

Bruckner then turns his attention upon Nicki, telling her smoothly that they have met before, just once, when she was a very little girl... (Ew!)

(The grown-up Nicki is played by Nina Foch, whose involvement here got her cast in Cry Of The Werewolf, also 1944.)

In the wake of the party, Lady Jane discovers that Saunders’ manuscript has been stolen. She shows Sir Frederick the forced drawer and voices some of her fears. Naturally he dismisses them...saying nothing of the small clump of animal hair he finds caught on the broken lock.

"At last we meet, Lady Jane! Now I can begin my plan for revenge, which will pay off in twenty years or so..."

The missing manuscript shows up in Nicki’s bedroom, and she sits down to peruse it... as with Andreas, Tesla has little difficulty reasserting his power over Nicki; and she obeys the disembodied voice that calls her downstairs to a mysteriously mist-drenched library (although not, of course, without first putting on her dressing-gown and slippers). There, Tesla informs her that she is to be his undead bride; but that there are some tasks he requires of her first...

The next morning, Nicki is found unconscious on the floor of her bedroom. On her throat are two puncture-wounds which are familiar to Lady Jane, at least. Her worst fears confirmed, she stays only to arrange for an emergency transfusion before, leaving Nicki in John’s care, she goes vampire-hunting once again. She tracks down the council workers and learns about the removal of the spike. The men also confess that upon pulling it out, they heard “a sort of gasp, a low moan”. Lady Jane asks the men to show her where they reburied the body, but of course all they find is an empty grave...

Lady Jane carries her story to Sir Frederick, but although he offers her and Nicki protection, he refuses to accept her version of events.

(By the end of Return Of The Vampire it has offered too many light moments for its own good, particularly the ending itself, but I rather like this one, given Sir Frederick’s stubborn obtuseness: “I’ve got an idea!” he announces to one of his subordinates, who responds in evident surprise, “Oh, really?”)

"You're under arrest! Failure to scoop!"

Sir Frederick’s idea is the cause of Lady Jane gaining some unexpected support for her assertions. He sends two of his men to bring in Andreas for questioning. They catch up with him in his human form, but in the process of resisting Andreas transforms---though of course there’s no transformation scene, just the detectives gaping in disbelief off-camera. After a violent struggle, Andreas fights off them off and flees into the night. Though stunned and incredulous, the two detectives cling, ahem, doggedly to their story.

This addition of werewolves to vampires is almost too much for Sir Frederick, but he is given pause when one of the detectives shows him a clump of animal hair torn off in the struggle: hair identical to that found on the broken lock. Hard on the heels of this comes a report from the police lab, which declares the hairs found at Lady Jane’s to be wolf hairs.

(Really? Straight-out wolf hairs? That seems rather unlikely.)

Almost overlooked in all this is that during the struggle Andreas dropped the bundle he was carrying, which turns out to contain items linking it to Dr Bruckner.

Meanwhile, with the coming of darkness, Nicki is feeling “very much better”; but although she persuades Elsa, the elderly housekeeper, to leave the blackout curtains open and the lights off, she cannot make her leave the room. “Lady Jane said you were not to be left alone,” Elsa says firmly – and is promptly disposed of by a lurking Andreas, while Nicki obeys Tesla’s call...

"No, darling...of course I'm interested in your mind."

It is the night of John’s big concert, and he is dressing when Nicki wanders in---casting unloving looks at John’s dog, which barks and whines in contrast to its previously affectionate attitude towards her. For a moment it seems that Nicki will not be able to drag her eyes away from John’s throat long enough to carry out her mission, but at last she pulls John into a distracting embrace...

It takes an urgent call from the concert hall to alert the household that something is wrong. Just returned home, Lady Jane finds John unconscious in his bedroom, telltale marks on his throat. Summoned to John’s bedside are Sir Frederick and, quite inexplicably, Dr Bruckner, who to the Commissioner’s disgust is prepared to concede the possible existence of vampires. John’s fevered mutterings suggest that although Tesla was lurking, it was Nicki who vampirised him...

Lady Jane and Sir Frederick then confront Andreas, who admits everything except the whereabouts of Armand Tesla. He then makes his escape out of a window. Sir Frederick sets some men after him, and personally conducts Lady Jane to the rooms of Dr Bruckner at the Professional Club. Bruckner has a reputation there for strange behaviour, particularly with respect to his habit of sleeping during the day. Finding the room empty, the bewildered manager insists that Bruckner came in just before dawn; he has not left by the front door, and there is no secondary way out of his third-storey room.

"May I request 'Come To Me, My Melancholy Baby'?"

Having got rid of the manager, Sir Frederick tells Lady Jane that his inquiries have determined Dr Bruckner to be a heavy-set, bald man with a limp; he adds that there is some sort of connection between the false Bruckner and Andreas. The penny immediately drops for Lady Jane, who informs Sir Frederick that the imposter is none other than the undead Armand Tesla...

With the day dying, Nicki starts to panic; although all of her fears are for John, not herself. Lady Jane finally decides that drastic action is necessary to save both of the young people: she leaves Nicki alone in her room.

Now, ordinarily it’s the villain who shows off at the organ, but here it turns out that among all her many, many other accomplishments, Lady Jane is a musician, too (presumably this is where John gets it); and she is playing solemnly when Dr Bruckner---scratch that, when Armand Tesla suddenly appears.

Well...we may not have the villain playing the organ here, but this is the even more traditional “Villain reveals entire plan in order to taunt hero” scene. Tesla first rubs Andreas’ reversion in Lady Jane’s face – she responds that there is good in Andreas’ soul, which she planted there – and then tells her that he has come to take Nicki away; when she is undead like himself, she will be coming back to finish off John. Unmoved, Lady Jane calls Tesla a liar, accusing him of vampirising John himself but making Nicki think she did it. (And John, apparently!) She further reminds him that the power of evil cannot stand against the power of faith and good---

 

"Gasp! A cross! I must flee!..."

---and she whips away her music to reveal a glowing cross. Tesla recoils in horror and vanishes in something like a clap of thunder; returning, presumably, to his resting-place.

His resting-place in a ruined church, to which he moved from an abandoned graveyard.

Yeah. They didn’t really think this through, did they? Strangely, given its otherwise stock invocation of vampire lore with respect to stakes and mirrors and coffins, Return Of The Vampire insists from the outset that a vampire will always be found in a graveyard or crypt, preponderance of crosses notwithstanding. Indeed, almost the first thing he does in the film is go for a stroll through a graveyard filled with predominantly cruciform grave-markers.

The only thing I can think of here is that it is because Lady Jane’s illuminated cross throws an actual cross of light onto Tesla that he reacts like that; but really, we shouldn’t have to dissect scenes like this.

Sir Frederick then shows up, and Lady Jane confides to him her daring plan to let Tesla take Nicki, so that they can follow him to his lair. Incredibly, Sir Frederick still doesn’t believe her version of events (there is such a thing as carrying scepticism too far, you know!), but Nicki’s sudden gliding arrival in an obvious state of trance makes any more argument pointless. Sir Frederick continues to splutter and mutter, but Lady Jane has had enough and rides rough-shod over his objections. The two follow Nicki out into the night.

 

"...through the cemetery and into the church!"

Tesla and Andreas are waiting for Nicki in the original (cross-filled) abandoned graveyard. Nicki collapses, and as Andreas moves forward to pick her up, Sir Frederick shoots at him. Lady Jane berates him for his interference. At this critical moment, there is another air raid, and once again the graveyard becomes a bombing target; although what it is about this small patch of consecrated ground that so upsets the Germans is left to our imaginations. Lady Jane and Sir Frederick are forced to take cover, and when the all-clear is called their quarries are long gone...

Evidently Andreas is not immune to lead bullets; but perhaps we can accept this in conjunction with his psychological lycanthropy. Depositing Nicki on a stone slab in the abandoned church, the wounded Andreas begs Tesla to keep his long-standing promise to grant him immortality. Tesla, however, with an undead bride almost in his clutches, considers that Andreas has worn out his usefulness, and drives him off.

Big mistake.

Another big mistake is that the wounded Andreas finds a cross in the dirt, and uses this to drive Tesla away from Nicki.

For heaven’s sake, people---THEY ARE IN A CHURCH.

Sigh.

   

<Steve Martin> "They hate that cemetery!" </Steve Martin>

As Andreas gazes upon the crucifix, he hears Lady Jane’s voice in his head, assuring him that there is good in his heart and this will give him all the strength he needs. Reverting to human form, Andreas presses forward as Tesla looms over Nicki, interposing the shadow of the cross between the two of them and causing Tesla to recoil.

(So it’s not the cross itself, but the light or shadow thrown by it, that’s effective? I’m confused...)

Tesla tries to re-exert his power but Andreas is having none of it. He forces Tesla back towards the stairs – but at that moment, another bomb drops. None of the three inside are killed (can a vampire be killed by being blown to pieces? you’d think so), but Tesla is knocked unconscious. The shattering of the roof lets in the daylight – the deadly, deadly daylight – and Andreas smiles. He drags Tesla outside, while a dazed Nicki staggers after them. Leaving the vampire incapacitated, Andreas searches for tools. Finding a brick and a small spike, he sets enthusiastically to work...

I’m ambivalent about the ending of Return Of The Vampire. I understand that they wanted Andreas finally throwing off Tesla’s thrall once and for all, even at the cost of his life, or unlife; but I’m disappointed that it isn’t Lady Jane who gets to pound a stake into Tesla, perhaps as a quelled Sir Frederick assists. We also note that the good in Andreas heart doesnt manifest itself until after Tesla has denied him eternal life.

But on the other hand, we do get a rather gruesome dissolution scene, which like the vampirisation of the child Nicki is most unexpected for 1944.

In the immortal words of Judith Fontain - "Uck!"

Word reaches Sir Frederick and Lady Jane of Nicki’s whereabouts, and they go rushing to the ruined church. Of course, a recovering Nicki isn’t all they find there. Already on the scene are the two detectives, who fought with Andreas and who lost Tesla when they were tailing him because he simply vanished; and it is not without a certain Schadenfreude that they point out to Sir Frederick all that’s left of the vampire.

This, alas, is not the end end of Return Of The Vampire, which – in a touch not at all unexpected for 1944 – goes for the jokey kicker ending. However, what they serve up is, thankfully, not within miles of the utterly asinine conclusion tacked onto The Beast With Five Fingers two years later; an ending that makes me want to drive a stake through the hearts of Jack Warner, Robert Florey, Curt Siodmak, and whoever the hell else might have been responsible for it – so I guess I can cut them a little slack...

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---revised and reformatted 04/01/2015