Here's another I never got around to. I owned the Sony DVD for years, but I never managed to get past the twenty-minute mark. The Return of the Vampire moves at a slug's pace, and I tried to watch it while indulging in adult beverages.

I sat through the film last night and I hate to say it isn't much.

Now, I like all the old movies. All of them, and The Return of the Vampire is no exception. I'll always have tremendous affection for the classics, regardless of how weak some of them may be.

The Return of the Vampire was originally intended as a direct sequel to Dracula, but due to the very low budget and shortcomings of the filmmakers, it falls way short of the goal.

This was the final time Bela Lugosi, a Saint to all horror fans, received top billing in a movie produced by a major Hollywood studio. Though Columbia was a far cry from Universal at this point. The Return of the Vampire makes the lowest of the Universal Horror pictures look like Hitchcock in comparison.

The effects are cheap and the acting is straight out of Podunk community theater. Even, forgive me, old Bela. The murky plot somehow involves World War 2 bombings and stock war footage is ungracefully integrated into the movie. For some dumb reason a steel spike is used to dispatch vampires instead of the tried and true wooden stake formula.

An erudite talking werewolf will have you howling. The hair glued to its face looks like a grade school art project. A human assistant to the Count would have been a wider decision.

Add in some mumbo jumbo anthropological babble, heavy-handed theatrics, and some lamebrain comic relief from a pair of doltish gravediggers.

Poor Bela gets too little screen time and his delivery is over-the-top and unconvincing.

And yet. How often do you get to see Bela don the cape and play a vampire with a straight face? I love the Abbott and Costello movies and the increasingly silly monster mash Frankenstein and Dracula sequels, but here at least Bela gets to try to re-embrace his greatest role. The results are negligible, but The Return of the Vampire is worth a look for classic monster completists.

If you make it to the end the final line is worth a genuine chuckle.

Written by Mark Sieber

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