It’s time to look at another vampire movie. It’s actually been quite a while since I’ve seen one. Have they gotten better over time or is it doomed just like the rest? This one’s basically the latter. It’s far and away not the worst vampire film I’ve seen, but it still isn’t particularly good. It deserves some props for trying to do its best within the genre, but at the same time it could have simply have chosen another genre and that would have been the end of that.
The film starts off with a vampire showing up and deciding to destroy someone. It’s what he has been doing for years so why stop now? He then claims another victim in a town so 2 of the locals head over to his coffin and murder the guy. (The vampire base gets less and less guarded in each film) Unfortunately the groundskeepers show up later and remove the stake since they were dismayed to see the corpses being defiled in this way. This allows Dracula to return from the grave (All right, I’ll start calling him Tesla from here since that’s his name in this film) and continue his hunt. Tesla decides to adopt a human identity once more so that he can attract more attention to himself and gloat in his self satisfaction. Can anyone stop him?
Right away I have to give the film some credit with how it treats Lady Jane as the lead. She handles the situation wayyyyy better than most of the other main characters who run around crying and screaming at the mere sight of Dracula. Nobody’s got time for that. Jane destroyed him once and when he returns she is ready to conquer him once again…I mean Tesla. Her best scene is when Tesla walks over to her room and boldly starts telling her every part of his plan. He’s going to take her family and rule the world from the shadows. She calmly ignores him during the whole speech and gives him a look that says “Are you done yet?” Tesla gets a little perturbed by this and approaches her. Jane calmly finishes her piano piece and then puts the book down, revealing a cross under it. Tesla runs away scared and you realize that Jane is a very sensible character. She also spends a great deal of time trying to convince everyone else that Tesla is real.
Of course, a vampire film wouldn’t be all there without that one skeptic who refuses to believe that vampires are a thing. He sees the bite marks and doesn’t care. It’s all superstition and hocus pocus. Even his two comic relief underlings eventually see the light while this guy doesn’t even at the very end. You always cut these skeptics a little slack since it would take a lot for me to suddenly believe they are real as well, but you should at least look at what is happening and consider the possibility. What does this guy have to lose? As a result he is rather slow and doesn’t help much at all. He brings a gun to the final fight where he panics and fires the first shot, but that doesn’t help his case either.
To quickly give the underlings a shoutout, they did put up a reasonable fight against the werewolf. It may have been futile, but I’m glad that they didn’t go down in one punch as you may have expected. The Werewolf himself is a little annoying. He can’t resist Tesla’s powers and even after being cured he allows himself to regress back into a villain. At the end it takes getting shot in the chest to finally get him to realize that being a hero is the only true path to take. Better late than never though so we take those.
What makes this film a little better than the other Dracula films is that it doesn’t go for the low brow vampire moments that doom the genre. We don’t see Tesla constantly draining people’s blood. Make no mistake, there are fatalities here and he’s still just as unlikable a villain as always, but the film doesn’t rub our faces in it. There is also no animal violence squeezed in this time. I still don’t find vampires particularly interesting, but considering the genre I think the movie did a fair job of it. The writing isn’t bad either. It balances in some humor and the characters sound reasonable. While the skeptic ultimately would not see reason at least he had some valid reasons for sticking to his version of events.
Overall, The Return of the Vampire is about what you’d expect from a Vampire film. It basically goes through all of the usual motions, but does its best to stay classy throughout. If you are a fan of these films then you’ll certainly enjoy this one. Get ready to see Jane dish out the damage against Tesla. While Vampires have quite a few weaknesses including Garlic and Stakes, I’m always glad that the Cross gets such a powerful effect against them as well. It’s used quite effectively here. The most random scene in the film is probably when a giant explosion occurs which prevents the cross from finishing off Tesla, but since the vampire was doomed anyway perhaps it was just a way to stretch out his inevitable end. Tesla certainly didn’t end up going very peacefully.