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The Vampire In the Blitz

by Dawn Fratini

Return of the Vampire is one of the only three times Bela Lugosi played a vampire on screen, with Dracula and Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. (In Mark of the Vampire he is only an actor). Made by Columbia, the vampire here is named Armond Tesla, but evokes the Count of the more familiar name.

The most interesting aspect of the film is its war time settings. The vampire Tesla is staked-to-death in 1918 by a pair of scientists, Dr Jane Ainsley and Prof. Walter Saunders. His werewolf henchman is taught by Lady Jane, a Christian message of finding good inside himself and eschewing evil, which reverses his curse. He becomes her assistant.

All is well until 23 years later when a German air raid unearths Tesla, and a pair of bungling civilian grave-diggers remove his stake, thus resurrecting him.

Lugosi’s Tesla is about to ravish Nina Foch in a basement when the abused werewolf spots a cross in the dust and wields it against him. Just at that moment, another blitz begins. When the dust settles, only the skeleton of the bombed out building remains, resembling a cathedral, through which the wolf man drags the vampire out into the sun.

The film, then, aligns Christianity, Britishness, and goodness with salvation and 19th century demons with German-ness, evil, and defeat. In the closing moments, Miles Mander as Sir Frederick Fleet, proclaims that he doesn’t believe in vampires. He turns to two detectives who insist that they do believe, in response to which, Mader turns to the camera to ask us if we believe. It’s an odd moment of both comic relief and metaphoric resonance.

Return Of The Vampire Air Raid Ending

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Ending of RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE in which wolf man finds goodness within and having thwarted vampire with cross during an air raid, drags him into the sun amidst the rubble to finish him off.

from Return of the Vampire (1944)
Creator: Lew Landers
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Posted by Dawn Fratini