Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Return Of The Vampire.

Came across this wee 1943 gem quite by accident and what a pleasant surprise it proved to be. Bela Lugosi stars as vampire Armand Tesla ( What a great name. Almost as cool as Bela Lugosi. ) in a decades crossing yarn detailing two encounters with this arch vampire by the aristocratic Lady Jane..
At the end of that first encounter Armand Tesla is staked but revived twenty four years later when a German bombing raid over England sets in motion a chain of events which lead to him rising from the dead once more. Or rather returning to a state of being undead.
             Both times the vampire is served by a werewolf slave who saunters about their graveyard dwelling with a surprising degree of casuality. it is almost endearing were he not a psycho werewolf hybrid. Lycanthropy like this is usually best affected by Lon Chaney Jnr. himself in a Universal stylee. in the period between the two vampire encounters the world has moved on and got many shades darker. the Second World War is raging and no one knows for sure who will win althoigh every one knows for sure who must not win. In comparison to the threat of Hitler and his henchmen the notion of vampirism fades almost to timidity. Bela is charming as ever, part Murder Legendre, of White Zombie, part Dracula. he revels in his sly cruelty
             Lady Jane as played by Freida Inescourt is given much to do in this 1943 picture, playing the same woman at two different stages of her life. When a journal detailing the staking of Tesla makes its way into the hands of the police there is a very real possibility she will face criminal charges for her actions. They hanged one for such things back in the day. Lady Jane is very much the Van Helsing figure in this story and she carries it well.It is she who keeps her head when the bodies start to turn up and it is she who comes up with a way to counter this threat from beyond the grave. She is brave and strong willed and yet remains compassionate, even for her enemies. The plight of the werewolf slaves touches her and aids a surprising resolution. Audiences for this movie m its day must have sat in darkened movie theaters appreciating what a thoroughly modern conceit it is to move the story of the vampire into the present day. The passing decades since have off course turned the whole exercise into a period piece. A well formed nicely packaged one all the same. It is quite telling that in the story the idea of one of the cast having relocated to England after escaping from a Nazi concentration camp is an all too believable one, a chillingly plausible one at that. Demonstrating how difficult it was for fantastic unreal horror to hold its own in the terrifying stakes against real world horrors. It is one of the reasons we dream I suppose. Even when those dreams are bad ones.