The Vampire (1957)



Well, for one thing, it’s not really a vampire.


Actually he/it looks more like Lee Marvin after dipping his head in a vat of acid.  But, anyway, judging by how this review came after the one for The Return of Dracula, you can safely assume I just watched this pair of fun, somewhat schlocky, late 1950s, drive-in “quickies” back to back on the same DVD.  It turns out this one was also written and directed by Paul Landres.

The big difference between The Vampire and The Return of Dracula is that, in this case, the movie has more of a science fiction feel to it than fantastical horror.  Also, this one is slightly more interesting because of the nihilistic tone it takes.  I know you’re thinking that I’m reading too much into it when I draw such a conclusion.  But, when you see how the movie plays out, it makes sense.  Sure, you could just as easily chalk it up to bad writing as a result of just trying to get a movie quickly made but it’s worth acknowledging.

Basically, what happens is Dr. Paul Beacher (John Beal) mistakenly takes a pill made from the blood of vampire bats instead of the aspirin he was supposed to take.  Henceforth, he turns into the above pictured monster nightly and starts picking off innocent victims one after another.  I know the plot sounds more like a scientific werewolf movie but he doesn’t brutally mutilate his victims; he just drains them of their life-blood via the neck.  And instead of becoming part of the undead, they just remain… dead.

So why is that nihilistic?  Well, it was Dr. Beacher’s daughter that mistakenly switched the pills and, because of her completely innocent mistake, she watches her single father deteriorate until he’s forced to be killed in the film’s climax.  No redemption in spite the fact that other than accidentally taking the wrong pill, he was a completely benign doctor.  I could see the climax being some form of poetic justice if the doctor was a mad scientist or just overzealous but he wasn’t.  He was a good, normal doctor.

Otherwise The Vampire is a fun, quickly moving, horror thriller with nicely placed shocks and kills – including an old lady, which I thought was cool since, in spite of the more innocent era in which the movie was made, it did not prevent an old lady from being a victim to the monster.

There are some okayish stock characters; a cute nurse, a nosy detective and, of course, the doctor’s daughter and the direction was solid, with neat shots and quick pace.  Plus John Beal’s make-up job was cool too.


The Return of Dracula (1958)



The title for this quick, little drive-in picture from writer/director Paul Landres is a little misleading since it’s not a sequel nor canonical in any way with any other Dracula story or franchise.  It’s just a one off story about a vampire that assumes the identity of a Czech artist, moves into a small town and proceeds to terrorize its inhabitants.

That’s okay though.  For the most part, it’s a good, fun little thriller with all of the vampire movie cliches and typically expected twists.  There isn’t that much to say about it.  Francis Lederer is the vampire who acts “mysteriously” by sleeping all day, going out at night and refusing to attend social gatherings- including a Halloween party where you’d think he’d fit in fine.

The acting is pretty standard stuff to get you through the plot but the movie looks cool so that’s a plus.  There are a few well placed shocks, including a corpse, among other stuff and the climax in the cave is pretty cool as well.

I know it seems odd to give three out of four iron crosses to a movie which I have so little to say about but, really there just isn’t that much to this.  There’s a neat mausoleum scene at the beginning and cave at the end looked cool but there just that much more to say about it.

It did come at an interesting time in horror cinema.  By the late 1950s, the horror movie was all but dead and it seemed that many of the studios tried to keep horror in a modern context since it takes place in the modern time.  This one sort of fell by the wayside by the time Hammer and American International breathed fresh life into gothic horror cinema with their color adaptations.