Directed by Paul Landres [Other horror films: The Vampire (1957), Destination Nightmare (1958), The Flame Barrier (1958)]
This is a film that I had little interest in, and while I admit that it surprised me a bit in elements of it’s approach, I don’t think The Return of Dracula will end up being that memorable. It’s not a bad movie, but is it noteworthy? Likely not.
It’s the plot here that makes things a bit better then one might think at first. Instead of focusing on some Eastern European country, or the Transylvanian region, the story takes place in sunny California, which was an interesting change of pace. The shift in setting doesn’t really help the basic story any, but it does give the movie a fresher feel.
Only two names really stood out here, being Francis Lederer (from Terror Is a Man the following year) and Norma Eberhardt. Eberhardt had that young, innocent look that made her perfect for a vampire to lust after, and as for Lederer, while his portrayal was nothing special (and Christopher Lee blew him out of the water the same year), it was perfectly competent.
For a slight surprise, there was a small scene in this black-and-white film that utilized color. It wasn’t near as unique as The Tingler’s approach, but when a vampire gets staked through the heart, the scene moves to color and we see the red blood spurt out. It wasn’t a big addition, but it was sort of cool in an otherwise mostly pedestrian film.
From my understanding, this came out before the aforementioned Horror of Dracula, but once Hammer’s second hit came out, this movie, with it’s low budget and black-and-white execution, was largely forgotten. And even had Horror of Dracula not hit the theaters until ‘59, I have a hard time imagining this would be heralded as a lost classic.
Like I said at the beginning, it’s not as though The Return of Dracula is bad. It’s competently-made, and has a few decent scenes. But overall, is the film memorable? Not whatsoever. I’d probably watch it again in the future, but I’d probably have forgotten I’d seen it before. It’s good for a single view, but past that, not so much, and it ultimately strikes me as a little below average.