Director: Paul Landres
Writer: Pat Fielder
Cast: Francis Lederer, Norma Eberhardt, Ray Stricklyn, John Wengraf, Virginia Vincent, Gage Clarke, Jimmy Baird, Greta Granstedt, and Enid Yousen
Composer: Gerald Fried
Release Date: 4/1958
MPAA Rating: PG
Traveling from the Balkans to a small community in California, Count Dracula (Francis Lederer)—assuming the identity of a Czech artist named Bellac Gordal—moves in with Rachel, Mickey, and Cora Mayberry (Norma Eberhardt, Jimmy Baird, and Greta Granstedt), all distant relatives of Bellac. When Rachel’s best friend Jenny dies inexplicably, European police inspector John Merriman (John Wengraf) arrives to investigate.
Similar to The Vampire (another film directed by Paul Landres), The Return of Dracula introduces a predatory, bloodsucking creature into a 1950s residential area. Classic horror buffs may therefore enjoy this production, which presents a unique and original twist on the vampire legend.
By taking place in a suburban location, The Return of Dracula provides a modern update on the premise of Bram Stoker’s most famous novel. Especially worth noting are the everyday characters featured in this offering: Rachel Mayberry, a mature high school student standing in for Mina Harker; Dr. Whitfield (Gage Clarke), a local reverend filling the role of Dr. Seward; and the heroic Tim Hanson (Ray Stricklyn), an all-American boy who, like John Harker in the 1931 version, does a fine job of protecting Rachel/Mina from Dracula’s influence—all of whom allow viewers, at least those watching the film in 1958, to connect with the outdated subject matter suggested by Stoker.
Lacking the hypnotic gaze of Bela Lugosi and the deep, enchanting voice of Christopher Lee, Francis Lederer offers an underwhelming portrayal of Count Dracula—typically a mysterious, captivating figure.
Despite altering many aspects of Stoker’s aforementioned novel, The Return of Dracula retains the concept of good versus evil in a fictional scenario—with Christian iconography working to overpower demonic forces at various points throughout the story.
The Return of Dracula contains a fresh and compelling take on its eponymous character, who, at one point in the film, turns into a domestic dog while attacking his prey—a clever method of blending in with his new environment. Vampire enthusiasts are thus advised to view this well-written (albeit highly obscure) movie, dubious casting choices notwithstanding.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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