“The Return of the Vampire” (1943) was directed by veteran film director Lew Landers, who was famous for his Universal Studios screen thriller adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” (1935, Landers directed the Universal thriller under the name of Louis Friedlander; according to IMDB). In the latter part of his career, Landers directed the Columbia Super-Cinecolor fantasy feature, “The Magic Carpet” (1951, with Lucille Ball, Raymond Burr and John Agar). He also directed several episodes of two successful TV series for Columbia’s Screen Gems unit, “The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin” (from 1956-59) and “Circus Boy” (1957, with a pre-“Monkees” Micky Dolenz in the title role and Noah Berry Jr.).
Who was in “The Return of the Vampire” (1943)?
The players who appeared in Landers’ Columbia vampire thriller were Bela Lugosi (in the dual roles of Armand Tesla and Dr. Hugo Bruckner), Frieda Inescort (as Lady Jane Ainsley), Roland Varno (as John Ainsley), Nina Foch (as Nicki Saunders), Gilbert Emery (as Dr. Walter Saunders), Matt Willis (as Andreas Obry), Ottola Nesmith (as Governess Elsa Walter), William Austin (as Detective Gannett), Leslie Denison (as Detective Lynch) and Miles Mander (as Sir Frederick Fleet).
Bela Lugosi previously appeared in the role of Dr. Richard Vollin in Landers’ Universal adaptation of “The Raven” (1935) with Boris Karloff, who played the role of Edmond Bateman (according to IMDB). Ten years before “The Return of the Vampire” (1943), Lugosi played the title role of Degar in Benjamin “Ben” Stoloff’s Columbia horror feature, “Night of Terror” (1933).
“The Return of the Vampire” (1943) marked one of Nina Foch’s earliest appearances in her screen career. That same year, Foch appeared in a Warner Bros. western short subject, “Wagon Wheels West” (1943). The following year, Foch played the role of Celeste in Henry Levin’s Columbia thriller, “Cry of the Werewolf” (1944). She later appeared in the role of Milo Roberts in Vincente Minnelli’s Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical, “An American in Paris” (1951, based off of George Gershwin’s song) with Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant and Georges Guétary.
Originally planned as a sequel to “Dracula” (1931)
According to the American Film Institute’s database article on “The Return of the Vampire” (1943), the film was originally planned as a sequel to the earlier hit Universal vampire thriller with Lugosi, “Dracula” (1931). Universal Studios officials objected to the idea of the “Dracula” character in a rival studio’s production. Columbia Pictures executives decided to change the names of the characters in order to avoid legal action by Universal, according to IMDB’s trivia section. Lugosi made his second and final feature film appearance as Count Dracula in Universal’s hit monster comedy with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948).
Columbia also withheld the theatrical release of Landers’ Lugosi vampire thriller for a brief while so that it would not conflict with the release of Universal’s “Dracula” entry, “Son of Dracula” (1943, with Lon Chaney Jr.).
One of the last top billing screen roles for Lugosi
According to additional details from IMDB’s trivia section, “The Return of the Vampire” marked the final time that Lugosi would receive top billing in a major studio production. In the following year, Lugosi made his final Monogram Pictures appearances (the future Allied Artists) in two “B” horror features, “Voodoo Man” (1944) and “Return of the Ape Man” (1944).
Filmed at another studio in addition to Columbia’s Sunset-Gower lot
Due to tight production space at Columbia’s Sunset-Gower studio lot in Hollywood (the former Columbia/Screen Gems lot is now known as Sunset-Gower Studios), additional filming for “The Return of the Vampire” was done at the former Fine Arts studios, according to IMDB. According to E.J. Stephens and Marc Wanamaker’s Arcadia book, “Early Poverty Row Studios;” Columbia purchased the former Fine Arts (a.k.a. Talisman) studio property in 1940 for additional studio production space, notably for the studio’s “Whistler” series (directed by William Castle), the latter “Lone Wolf” films and some of Columbia’s latter “Three Stooges” comedic short subjects (the additional Columbia space was sold and demolished in the late 1960s).
Be sure to watch and/or record Svengoolie’s premiere of “The Return of the Vampire” (1943), this Sun. on Me-TV!
With Lugosi, Inescort, Varno, Foch, Emery, Willis, Nesmith, Austin, Denison and Mander; you will not want to miss out on Svengoolie’s upcoming big broadcast premiere of “The Return of the Vampire” (1943), this Sat. on Me-TV! A perfect pre-Halloween cinematic treat to kick off the month of Oct. with Sven’s extended fun facts, Doug Graves’ parody tune and Kerwyn’s “mail call!” Highly recommended to all fellow SvenPals and aficionados of classic cinematic horror!
Sat., Oct. 6 at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central on Me-TV
In the Frederick, Maryland/Washington, D.C. area: WTTG-5.3/Cable 196/FiOS 489/Antietam Cable 194 (also on QAM digital 68.6 for Antietam cable subscribers)
In the Baltimore, Maryland area: WBAL-TV 11.2/Cable 208/FiOS 460
In the Hanover/Gettysburg/York, Pennsylvania area: WGAL-TV 8.2/Cable 248/FiOS 460
Have fun and live-tweet (via Twitter) with all fellow #Svengoolie SvenPals from coast-to-coast during Sven’s Sat. big broadcast premiere of “The Return of the Vampire” (1943) on the airlanes of Me-TV!
For our fellow Chicago/Berwyn SvenPals and fellow SvenPals who are traveling to Chicago/Berwyn: Svengoolie will be making an appearance at the Drury Lane Theater, introducing the Drury Lane players’ live stage musical adaptation performance of “Little Shop of Horrors” on Fri., Oct. 5 (100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois 60181)! Sven will be signing autographs and will have photo sessions (beginning at 6 p.m. local time), followed by Sven’s live stage introduction to “Little Shop of Horrors” at 8 p.m. (local time)! Ticketing information can be found on the official Drury Lane site!
Sven will also be making an appearance in his hometown of Berwyn, Illinois for the 50th annual Berwyn/Cicero, Illinois Houby Parade (“Houby” is the Czech-Slovak word for “mushroom”)! Note: According to Sven’s official site, the parade route will begin at Noon (local time) at the Unity High School on 54th Ave. in Cicero, Illinois and will travel through Cermak Rd. through Berwyn up through Harlem Ave.!
Sven’s upcoming appearance with a rock-and-roll legend for “Nightmare on Chicago Street!” Sven will also be making an appearance for the “Nightmare on Chicago Street” “safe zone” festival on Sat., Oct. 20 (Burritt Building, 27 S. Grove Ave., Elgin, IL 60120) from 7:30-8:30 p.m.! Note: Be sure to get into the autograph line early (for the “Nightmare on Chicago Street” festival, according to details from his recent Oct. newsletter), as time for autographs will be limited. Rock-and roll legend Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon will also be joining Sven for the autograph session! Sven and Freddy will also appear onstage for the “Zombie Homecoming Pageant” contest from 8:45 p.m.-9:15 p.m. (local time) with their live performance of the “Svengoolie Stomp!”
To all fellow Chicago/Berwyn SvenPals and fellow SvenPals who are traveling to Berwyn/Chicago, have fun seeing Sven in person (and Sven and Freddy for “Nightmare on Chicago Street”)! -C.H.
Upcoming “Mad” Magazine appearance! A Svengoolie satire piece will appear in the upcoming Oct. 9 issue of “Mad Magazine” (according to Sven’s official social media/Twitter feed)! Be sure to check your local newsstand, bookstore, comic book store and/or supermarket soon!
If you watched Sven’s Sept. 29 showcase of “The Creature Walks Among Us” (1956), you may have noticed an ad for the official Svengoolie/Me-TV Store Halloween sale! The sale will occur for one day only on Wed., Oct. 3! All official Sven and Me-TV items in the Sven/Me-TV store are 20% off the original price (on Oct. 3), by entering the coupon code “MeTVHALLOWEEN” at checkout! Get yourself an official Sven long-sleeve shirt (“so much sleeve!”), an official Sven T-shirt, Sven magnets, any of the Sven button sets (including the Alex Ross/Scott Shaw limited edition Sven/Kerwyn art buttons), the Sven “It Came From Berwyn” poster or any item from the official Me-TV store! Any of the aforementioned items makes a great gift for any fan of Sven!
Give generously to help out one of our fellow super SvenPals’ friends! Again, help spread the message and give whatever you can to help out the friend of fellow super SvenPal Jamie Lee (via the official GoFundMe site) to help alleviate extra costs of his additional medical treatments, Again, donate whatever you can/spread the word to help out one of Jamie’s friends! –C.H.
In relation to “The Return of the Vampire” (1943):
“The Return of the Vampire” (1943) is also available on DVD as part of the “Hollywood Hits: 4-Movie Collection” set of classic Columbia horror/thriller features from Mill Creek Entertainment, by arrangement with Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc./Sony Pictures Entertainment/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.