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The Return Of The Vampire (Blu-ray Review)

This is a pretty cool new spin with the Scream Factory and Sony/Columbia relationship. It appears they are unlocking another wing of their ever-growing vault for more classic horror of the black and white era. In addition to what they are grabbing from Universal, it seems the classic monster/horror era is building a better foundation in the Scream Factory library. Shout! Factory looks to be getting their hands on some Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and radioactive monster era horror now. While not the first time, the volume looks to have picked up significantly for 2019. We begin here with a Bela Lugosi film having him play a fanged menace once again (NOT Dracula, though) in The Return of the Vampire. You’ll be able to pick it up this month on February 19th. Pre-order using the Amazon link found below the review.

Film 

In 1918, Armand Tesla (Bela Lugosi), a 200-year-old Hungarian Vampire, prowls the English countryside, feeding from the jugulars of the villagers. But Tesla’s reign of terror is interrupted when a pair of scientists, Lady Jane and Sir John Ainsley, drive a railroad spike through his heart. The “un-dead” Tesla remains safely entombed for two decades until the impact from a stray Nazi bomb accidentally releases him. Along with his werewolf servant Andreas Obry, the resurrected vampire now plots vengeance on the family that put a halt to his nocturnal feasting.

The Return of the Vampire is kinda sorta an elseworlds sequel to the 1931 Todd Browning film, Dracula. This wasn’t a Universal Studios production so they couldn’t use the name. But, it does star Bela Lugosi. Everything about this film when watching it tells you exactly what it is without being official official. Lugosi’s performance, his costuming, the title is “Return of the” and the vampire is played by Lugosi. I mean, we can easily put this together right? This came five years before Lugosi would officially reclaim the role over at Universal in the Abbott and Costello film. Another interesting factoid is that this film has a werewolf character in it and happens to be coming out the same year we got Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man.

Overall, the film isn’t too bad. It does begin to drag at some point in the second act as it gets to a lot of tried and true vampire tropes of characters having to re-learn things the audience knew many movies before going in. The first act gets off to a hot start as it seems to acknowledge we know these things already. Its also very funny as much of that first act makes it feel like they had limited time with Bela Lugosi as his face is never really seen and only in shadows or from behind with a covered face. Oh, it also has the original Alfred Pennyworth in it! In the end though, this is some solid B-level fun to Universal’s A efforts. If you’re a fan of the Dracula lore or Bela Lugosi, this is a pretty fun, competent treat.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: The Return of the Vampire debuts from Shout! Factory in what one images is some HD master. They tend to boast about a can whether its 2K or 4K. This one is only as good as the print condition is. At time its pretty brilliant, crisp with impressive amounts of detail. And at times the grain is a little too heavy and you can spot blemishes and streaks in the print. Overall, this is a genuine presentation, but the look does have some character with its age.

Depth:  Space is pretty decent since the grains has been left intact. Movements are cinematic and smooth with no rapid motion distortions present.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty deep and contain a bit more heavy grain. There a really glaring issue early on with an open window and the darkness outside have the black night look shiny and flashy. There are some little bits of crushing here and there throughout as well, but nothing too distracting.

Color Reproduction: N/A

Flesh Tones: Skin tones have a consistent tint throughout the film.  Facial features are decent in close ups and relatively sparse the further back you go.

Noise/Artifacts: Just the aforementioned moment above. Most of it is print deterioration related.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: The mono track here on The Return of the Vampire comes with some analog sourcing present with a bit of a his underlying the audio. However, its pretty solid and well balanced with no real blotches on its overall performance.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are plenty audible and well displayed with a little bit of hiss to them.

Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With film author/historian Troy Howarth
  • With author/film historian Gary Don Rhodes
  • With film author/historian Lee Gambin

Silent 8mm Presentation (HD, 8:19) – An 8mm “home version” of the film restored as best possible. The subtitles on it are not the most legible, but this is a neat little piece of home video history.

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1:06)

Still Gallery (HD, 5:15) – I must say the quality of these images is pretty stunning.

Summary 

The Return of the Vampire is a pretty solid bit of B-level prestige of the classic monster era that features one of its iconic actors reprising his most know role as…Armand Tesla? I mean, this is Dracula, lets not fool ourselves anymore. The film is fun enough, but is it better than the non-Lugosi Dracula sequels Universal made? That’s up to you. But I think you could put it alongside them and pretty much not skip a beat. Scream Factory’s release has a solid presentation and features 3 pretty informative takes in terms of commentaries and a nice little 8mm presentation for the film. This is a solid pick up for collectors when its available at a decent price.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “The Return Of The Vampire (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Phil

    Return of the Vampire is a Columbia Picture, not Universal.