The Return of Dracula

| October 18, 2016

I’ve been consistently impressed with Olive Films’ horror and sci-fi Blu-rays over the past two years. With their label populated by titles including classics like It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) and Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), as well as the hilarious Thing with Two Heads (1972) and the surprisingly fun Monster of Piedras Blancas (1959), Olive have truly established themselves as a distributor of cult cinema to watch. This is especially true when you consider they’d previously released Stephen King’s Cujo (1983) and Thinner (1996), Night of the Demons 2 (1994), and The Boogens (1981)! Add to that the fact that Olive is a Chicago-based distributor and you can understand my keen interest in their output.

This is why I absolutely had to check out their release of indie horror film, The Return of Dracula (1958). Released by Gramercy Pictures, the studio responsible for The Monster that Challenged the World (1957) from a script by Monster that Challenged the World writer, Pat Fielder, Return of Dracula follows the legendary vampire’s exploits in a small American town. Posing as a distant, foreign relation of the Mayberry family, Dracula takes a liking to young Rachel Mayberry and sets about enslaving her as we’ve seen Dracula do onscreen to Mina in adaptations of Bram Stoker’s original novel.

Francis Lederer, who co-starred in G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box (1929), stars as Dracula. While he may be no Bela Lugosi, Lederer’s performance is serviceably ominous. He has the air of a foreign dignitary not wholly unlike that of Lugosi himself, which makes his ability to seduce his younger female victims that much more believable.

The thing is, beyond comparing Lederer’s Dracula to other incarnations of the character I found little in the film to be terribly engaging. It’s a rather dull, low budget affair with few exciting moments beyond the climactic dispatch of the Count. And yet, as a film historian, I find it fascinating to consider that this film was a contemporary of the likes of The Fly, The Blob, and Fiend without a Face. So I’m glad to have experienced The Return of Dracula if for no other reason than it helps me gain a more complete understanding of the horror film landscape in 1958. So, while this may be one of the weaker horror films in Olive’s catalogue, it’s not without its virtues or value and is at the very least worth a look, especially in light of its context as a film released the same year as some true classics of the genre.

The Return of Dracula is now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Olive Films.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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