The Wartime Monster

Columbia originally planned Return of the Vampire as a direct sequel to Universal’s Dracula, and given the Lugosi connection, that seems an obvious choice. But, legalities prevented that idea, so the names were changed. So be it. This is still a Dracula sequel, if unofficially.

Most of Universal’s Dracula sequels hazily connected, if they did at all. Dracula’s Daughter, a steamy, sexually suggestive horror fantasy is among the most prominent. The rest generally pit Dracula (but not Lugosi) against other monsters. Columbia’s take moves the story forward into wartime, with Nazi war machine incidentally awakening Lugosi’s “not Dracula” vampire during the blitz.

Return of Dracula doesn’t have much on offer, a merely routine chiller

Without any genuine doubt and even less setup, Return of the Vampire immediately suggests vampires exist. Werewolves too, as the otherwise gentle Andreas (Matt Willis) falls prey to the count’s spell. No doubt a delight for ‘40s era monster kids, Return of the Vampire hits the right beats – foggy cemeteries, slow opening caskets, eerie winds, bite marks, and of course Lugosi. It’s nigh indistinguishable from Universal’s own other than the different backlots.

Being of WWII, post-Pearl Harbor, the script is imbued with a fiery, rebellious streak in the dialog. Staring down at a piano, one of Lugosi’s victims chillingly calls him evil, and that he underestimated, “the power of faith and goodness” in that fight. It’s less about vampires than Nazis, with Lugosi indirectly a manifestation of Germany’s forces, a perfect and timely villain in 1943. It’s also a more interesting allegory than an ancient evil suddenly rising to drink blood.

Return of Dracula doesn’t have much on offer though, a merely routine chiller remembered only for putting Lugosi back in a cape to lure woman to his cause. Barely over an hour, there’s little time to establish anything beyond archetypes among the characters, and the familiar/tired routine of authorities questioning whether vampires exist was played out even by 1943. The movie’s script accepts their legend as truth from the start, then spends an hour with the cast saying otherwise.

There’s no nuance in the workmanlike visuals either, dry in contrast and shadows, and the off-screen kills lack the same zest seen in Universal’s pre-code original. Return of the Vampire is perfectly fine, on-par with lesser sequels in the actual series, if just as forgettable.


An adequate but marginal HD presentation brings Columbia’s small scale horror flick to Blu-ray. The print itself looks in fair condition, certainly suffering from scrapes, dents, and full scratches. Nearly undetectable gate weave is worth a mention, but barely so.

Mill Creek’s encode chugs in keeping the grain natural. Return of the Vampire suffers far less though than the companion film on this two-for-one disc, Five. There’s enough resolution to drive detail into the frame, and sharpness stays organic, minus any notable halos or digital tinkering.

While black levels fail, overall gray scale suffices. Delineation between gradients happens perfectly, and with appropriate variety.


Considering the age, this is a stellar mono track. Dialog resolves wonderfully well. The score, simple as it is, manages to keep high-end treble crisp.



Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Return of the Vampire
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Return of the Vampire isn’t a monster spectacle, but it’s an adequate pseudo-sequel in horror’s golden age.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 35 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray:

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