Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Dracula Made Dull

Film: The Return of Dracula
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

It doesn’t happen often, but there are times when I wish I had created this blog around shorter reviews. Were I writing 500 word reviews, I’d probably post a little more often. Even if that were the case, though, even if I was writing 300 word reviews, I’d be struggling with The Return of Dracula in terms of having things to say. This is a movie that leaves almost no impression. It plays exactly like a typical Dracula movie. Even now, typing this while the movie is literally still playing, I’m struggling to think of things that are worth talking about.

It starts out with at least a little bit of promise. A Czech artist named Bellac Gordal (an uncredited Norbert Schiller) is heading to America to spend time with some cousins. At the same time, a group of vampire hunters is looking to kill the corporeal body of Count Dracula (Francis Lederer). Dracula turns out to be missing; he’s on the train, and it just so happens that he’s in the same train car as our artist. So, no shock when our vampire takes over the artist’s identity after draining him of blood.

If I asked you what the family our faux Bellac Gordal was visiting looked like, I’ll bet that you get it mostly right. There’s a widowed mom named Cora (Greta Granstedt), a young son named Mickey (Jimmy Baird), and of course a teenage daughter named Rachel (Norma Eberhardt). Do you think that Count Dracula is going to become obsessed with Rachel and decide to make her his bride? Of course that’s going to be the case because that’s how these stories work. We’re supposed to ignore the fact that Rachel is a teen being played by a woman close to 30 being wooed by a many a year away from 60 because that appears to be how at least some of these Dracula stories work as well.

Of course, since Rachel is our face character, we know that she’s not going to be Dracula’s first victim. No, that’s going to come in the person of Jennie Blake (Virginia Vincent), a young blind girl who evidently is at death’s door because she is blind and who lives at the local parish house where Rachel works. We’re not specifically told that Jennie is bedbound, but she appears to be. It’s also evident that she hasn’t bothered to learn Braille, because Rachel reads to her. Naturally, our man Dracula is going to hunt her down—how he manages to enter what is essentially holy ground without being invited is never answered.

Anyway, we’re going to toss in a few extra characters. We need the equivalent of a Jonathan Harker character; this will be fulfilled by Tim Hansen (Ray Stricklyn), Rachel’s next door neighbor and boyfriend. The Van Helsing character will be taken up by John Meierman (John Wengraf), who has arrived from Czechoslovakia to investigate the murder of a man found thrown of the train—the real Bellac, although he has not been identified. Meierman will eventually bring in the local minister (Gage Clarke) to help on the religious side of things.

As I said, there’s not a lot here that isn’t expected or original, but there are a few moments that are kind of fun. One is the moment when Mack Bryant (Charles Tannen), who has been helping Meierman, gets attacked by a “wolf” that is actually a white German shepherd. The other involves Mickey’s cat Nugget, who is found dead by Mickey in a nearby cave. We don’t see the cat, but based on Mickey’s actions, the cat was eviscerated, and it’s soon evident that Dracula was the cause. There’s also a frame or two of Jennie getting staked (c’mon—you knew this would happen, it’s hardly a spoiler) that is suddenly in color.

Anyway, all of this winds down exactly as we expect it to. Unless you’ve never seen a Dracula film before, and this seems unlikely if you are reading this blog, nothing is going to be a surprise to you.

The film also feels wildly miscast in the main roles. Our high school teenagers were both around 30 when this was made, and they look it. This is especially true of Norma Eberhardt. Young blind girl Jennie was played by a nearly 40-year-old Virginia Vincent. Most importantly, and most disappointing, Francis Lederer is convincing as Dracula than Leslie Neilsen was in his parody. He just doesn’t look the part.

This is a movie that doesn’t need to exist. If this had never been made, the world would be exactly the same as it is now, and if you never see it, your life will be no different than if you seek it out.

Why to watch The Return of Dracula: If you can’t get enough Dracula, this is here for you.
Why not to watch: There is nothing about this movie that is memorable.


  1. A poor-level Dracula film... no thanks.

    1. This film is essentially vapor. If you've seen a Dracula movie, you've seen better (with perhaps a couple of exceptions).