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When Old World Menace Meets Modern Warfare

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 wartime 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 Dr. Ainsley 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. Awakened, Tesla draws his wolf man back to his service. Thus the vampire is a metaphor for the evils of insatiable hunger for power, while the wolf man serves as a metaphor for the German people, beguiled by an evil leader, but capable of goodness. As you can see, actual documentary footage is used to depict the air raid.

Return of the Vampire First Air Raid

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Evil vampire Armond Tesla is unearthed in a German air raid (stock documentary footage).

from Return of the Vampire (1943)
Creator: Lew Landers
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Posted by Dawn Fratini