Return of Dracula
Olive Films // PG // $29.95 // October 18, 2016
Review by Ian Jane | posted October 18, 2016
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version

The Movie:

Directed in 1958 by Paul Landres, The Return Of Count Dracula begins when a man kills another man on a train in Transylvania. The first man (Francis Lederer) assumes his victim's identity and poses as Bellac Gordal. Soon enough, he travels to a small California town at the behest of Gordal's cousin, Cora Mayberry (Greta Granstedt). Since she lost her husband she's been having trouble holding onto the family home. He arrives and tells her how wonderful the house is, how it reminds him of the old country. Meanwhile, Cora's son Mickey (Jimmy Baird) loses his kitten named Nugget but finds her stuck in an open pit in a nearby cave that once held a mine of some sort.

Bellac's behavior is strange, right from the start. He takes the mirror off of his walls and tends to wander about the town late at night. He tells Greta's pretty teenaged daughter Rachel (Norma Eberhardt) that his ways are different from theirs simply because of the culture from which he came. Rachel seems fascinated by the older man, much to the dismay of her boyfriend and next door neighbor Tim Hansen (Ray Stricklyn), and she hopes that as he is a painter by trade he might help her with some of her fashion design work. When she tells him of a patient she tends to at the parish house, a blind woman named Jenny (Virginia Vincent), he starts to show his true form by creeping into her room and biting her on the neck. It's all part of Bellac/Dracula's evil plan to turn Rachel into a vampire like himself (as the local priest says about her ‘I'd dare say she'd charm the devil himself!")… but not everyone he left behind in Europe has forgotten about him!

Quickly paced and more than just a little bit goofy, The Return Of Dracula is a pretty fun watch. The black and white photography is sometimes quite atmospheric, other times it is a bit plain. The movie is an odd mix of fifties era American life in the suburbs and a fairly traditional gothic vampire tale. As such, the tone is erratic but that just adds to the fun. The site of a vampire doing his thing in the suburbs is kind of amusing, as is the fact that he stores his coffin in the same cave where poor Mickey found his cat nugget drained of its blood! Jimmy Baird, as Mickey, is one part Beaver Cleaver and one part Dennis The Menace. He's the ‘awww shucks' type of kid that popped up in a lot of fifties movies and TV series but he's fun here.

As to the performances, they're interesting. The Mayberry family is well cast. Greta Grandstedt does a fine job as the mother, and the fact that she has no idea who Bellac really is until it's almost too late really is no fault of the actress, but rather of the script. She's got an ‘everyday mom' look and vibe to her that suits the character well. Norma Eberhardt plays Rachel as a ‘deer in the headlights' type, she really is so innocent as to be clueless as to Bellac's true identity and intentions, but we buy Norma in the part. She is so whitebread here that she really epitomizes the chaste American teen that populated so many other films made around the same era. Sure, she kisses her boyfriend on the lips on the front lawn once mom turns her hard, but that's as far as she's going. The real star of the show, however, is Czech born actor Francis Lederer in the title role. He's got greasy, curly hair and looks more like a door to door vacuum cleaner salesman than any sort of Lugosi-esque creature of the night, but the guy commits. He appeared in a lot of fifties television and will look familiar to a lot of viewers for that reason, but if he's an unorthodox looking villain, he's a blast to watch in the role, especially once it all ramps up in the last twenty-minutes or so.

The movie might not send any serious shivers down anyone's spine but it does work towards a pretty great conclusion. The plot basically just recycles the same old Dracula story we've seen countless times before but the settings and performances, combined with the positively innocent suburban surroundings and characters help to make this one stand out.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

The Return Of Dracula arrives on Blu-ray in a beautiful AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Detail here is pretty solid and while some minor print damage is present in the form of some small scratches and specks throughout the film, the source used for the transfer was evidently in fairly good condition. Grain is present throughout the presentation but it never gets so heavy as to distract from the generally solid detail and texture that the HD transfer offers. Black levels are really nice, quite strong, and contrast looks spot on. All in all this is a sharp and crisp image offering surprisingly good texture and contrast along with strong shadow detail. The movie looks quite good in HD, there's nothing to object to here at all. Fans should be quite pleased with the visuals on this release.

Sound:

The English language DTS-HD Mono Audio track on the disc is pretty good. The score sounds quite strong here and helps to really ramp up the tension in the last twenty minutes or so. The dialogue stays crisp and clear, it's never a problem understanding any of the characters. Levels are well balanced and there's as much depth as you could reasonably expect from an older low budget picture. As it is with a lot of older movies, the limitations of the source material do come through, as they should, but this is a clean track that suits the movie just fine and which doesn't suffer from any serious problems. There are no alternate language options provided although optional English subtitles are available.

Extras:

Extras are limited to an admittedly awesome theatrical trailer, static menus and chapter stops.

Final Thoughts:

The Return Of Dracula is equal parts goofy fifties suburbia and hokey gothic horror but it's never less than plenty entertaining. It's an odd mix of elements but Francis Lederer and the rest of the cast are a lot of fun and the movie goes at a pretty good pace. Olive's Blu-ray release is light on extras but it does look and sound quite good. Recommended.



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