The Return of the Vampire

The Return of the Vampire is a horror film released in 1943 by Columbia Pictures. The film presents an Englishwoman's two encounters with a vampire. The first encounter takes place during World War I, and the second during World War II.

The Return of the Vampire
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLew Landers
Produced bySam White
Written byRandall Faye
Griffin Jay
StarringBela Lugosi
Frieda Inescort
Nina Foch
Miles Mander
Roland Varno
Matt Willis
Music byMario Castelnuovo-Tedesco
CinematographyL. William O'Connell
Edited byPaul Borofsky
Distributed byColumbia Pictures Corporation
Release date
  • November 11, 1943 (1943-11-11) (US)
Running time
69 min.
Box office$500,000 (estimated)[2]

The film stars Bela Lugosi as the vampire Armand Tesla. The Return of the Vampire is not an official sequel to Lugosi's 1931 Universal Studios film Dracula, but the film has been interpreted by many critics and Dracula scholars as an unofficial follow-up with Lugosi's character renamed only because the film was not made by Universal.


During World War I, a vampire stalks London. His latest victim is admitted to the clinic of Lady Jane Ainsley (Frieda Inescort) and her colleague, Professor Walter Saunders (Gilbert Emery). They are baffled by what they regard as a severe case of anemia. The vampire infiltrates the clinic; unable to finish his previous victim, he preys on Prof. Saunders' granddaughter instead. Saunders comes to believe that both patients are victims of a vampire. He shows Lady Jane puncture marks on their necks.

He and Lady Jane search a nearby cemetery for the vampire's crypt. A werewolf assisting the vampire tries to prevent their intervention. Once the vampire is staked, the werewolf, Andréas, is cured of his curse. He later becomes Lady Jane's assistant.

Twenty four years later, Scotland Yard detective Sir Fredrick Fleet (Miles Mander) reads the deceased Saunders' account of these events. He informs Lady Jane that if the body they staked was alive at the time, she will be charged with murder. Lady Jane explains that the man they staked was a seventeenth century vampire expert named Armand Tesla.

Lady Jane tells her son, John (Roland Varno), about the investigation. She is certain that Sir Frederick will find that Tesla's body has not decomposed, proving he was a vampire. She and John agree to keep this information from John's fiancée, Saunders' granddaughter Nikki (Nina Foch), to avoid reawakening the trauma of her previous attack.

After a bombing raid, cemetery workers find Tesla's corpse exposed, with the metal stake still in his chest. Believing the stake to be bomb shrapnel, they remove it and reinter the body. Thus freed from death, the vampire regains power over Andréas and prepares to avenge himself on Lady Jane. Helpless to resist, Andréas murders Hugo Bruckner, a scientist recently escaped from a concentration camp who had arrived in England to work with Lady Jane. Tesla intends to impersonate Bruckner.

With Tesla's body missing, Sir Frederick closes his investigation for lack of evidence.

Lady Jane throws a party to celebrate John and Nikki's engagement. She discourages Sir Frederick from giving Saunders' manuscript to Nikki and locks it in a drawer. Tesla arrives as Bruckner and charms everyone except Sir Frederick.

The manuscript is stolen and left in Nikki's room. She begins reading it and falls under Tesla's power. She is found the next morning unconscious with puncture marks on her neck.

Lady Jane questions the gravediggers, who tell her about the staked body. She relates the story to Sir Frederick, who dismisses vampire stories as fantasy. He assigns two plainclothes men to shadow Andréas. They report seeing him transform into a werewolf, and recover a bundle containing the effects of the real Bruckner. Sir Frederick's suspicions grow when a laboratory analysis of the rifled drawer finds a quantity of wolf hair.

Tesla preys on John and convinces Nikki that she did it. John is found the next morning unconscious with puncture wounds. Nikki believes she has become a vampire.

Sir Frederick corners Andréas for questioning, but as he begins to transform Andréas escapes. Sir Frederick assigns plainclothes men to follow Tesla, but the vampire eludes them.

Tesla threatens Lady Jane that he will turn Nikki and John into vampires. Warning Tesla that the "power of goodness" can still destroy him, she brandishes a cross. Tesla vanishes.

When Tesla commands Nikki to leave the house, Lady Jane convinces Sir Frederick that they must follow her.

Nikki meets Tesla and Andréas at the cemetery during an air raid. She faints. Andréas attempts to carry her to safety, but Sir Frederick shoots him. He and Lady Jane take shelter from the bombing.

Tesla abandons Andréas and tells him to die; Andréas crawls into a corner and grasps a crucifix and is freed of the vampire's power. He attempts to destroy Tesla. A bomb strikes the cemetery, and the rays of the rising sun reduce the vampire to bones. Andréas dies of his bullet wound.

Nikki tells Sir Frederick and Lady Jane that Andréas saved her life. Lady Jane tries again to convince Sir Frederick that Tesla was a vampire, but without physical evidence he refuses to accept her version of events.


  • Bela Lugosi as Armand Tesla/Dr. Hugo Bruckner
  • Frieda Inescort as Lady Jane Ainsley
  • Nina Foch as Nikki Saunders
  • Roland Varno as John Ainsley
  • Miles Mander as Sir Fredrick Fleet
  • Matt Willis as Andréas Obry
  • Sharliee Collier as Nicki as a child (uncredited)
  • Donald Dewar as John as a child (uncredited)
  • Frank Dawson as Old Man (uncredited)
  • Olaf Hytten as Ben (uncredited)


Bela Lugosi was paid $3,500 dollars for his four weeks of film.[3]

Bela Lugosi's scenes were filmed in August and September 1943, prior to his final two Monogram films. This was also the last time he would receive top billing by a major Hollywood studio.

In his book Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen, David J. Skal writes: "Columbia Pictures hired Lugosi for Return of the Vampire, in which he played Dracula in all but name; for copyright purposes, the vampire's name was Armand Tesla."[4]

This movie is mentioned in the Sanford and Son episode #104 ("The TV Addict") where Fred G. Sanford is watching a television program with his friend Grady Wilson. The movie is mentioned and Grady says that there is a surprise ending at which point Fred says he likes surprise endings. Then Grady tells him "if you like surprise endings, boy you're going to really like this one", and he goes on to explain the surprise ending, which infuriates Fred. Fred at that point overturns a bowl of potato chips onto Grady's head to show his dismay at having the surprise ending of the movie spoiled for him.

See also


  1. Internet Movie Database Trivia
  2. Internet Movie Database Trivia
  3. Internet Movie Database
  4. Skal, David J. (2004). Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen. Paperback ed. New York: Faber & Faber. ISBN 0-571-21158-5 - page 244
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