The Return of Dracula is a 1958 American supernatural horror film directed by Westerns specialist Paul Landres (The Flame Barrier; The Vampire) from a screenplay by Pat Fielder (The Vampire; The Monster That Challenged the World). The Gramercy Pictures production stars Francis Lederer as Dracula. The female lead, Rachel, was played by Norma Eberhardt.
When shown on television, the film was titled The Curse of Dracula. For its British United Artists release, it was bizarrely re-titled The Fantastic Disappearing Man.
Although filmed in black and white, the film includes a brief colour shot of blood during the staking climax. The same year, British Hammer film Dracula was released in glorious Eastmancolor, and any interest the public might have had in Francis Lederer’s vampiric role in The Return of Dracula was usurped by Christopher Lee’s new stardom as the Count.
In October 1971, Francis Lederer reprised his role of Count Dracula on an episode of Night Gallery titled “The Devil Is Not Mocked”. In this story, Dracula tells his grandson how he fought the Nazis during World War II.
In the 1950s, Dracula (Lederer) travels from Transylvania to a small town in California. He poses as an artist named Belak Gordal who has ostensibly travelled from Europe to visit his cousin, Cora Mayberry (played by Greta Granstedt).
Once in the family home, he becomes infatuated with Cora’s daughter, Rachel (Eberhardt). Meanwhile, the US immigration authorities are hot on the Count’s trail…
“The Return of Dracula was also among the first to have its vampires turning into wolves (well, it’s supposed to be a wolf, anyway)… That sort of thing combines with the unusual setting, the unexpected characterization of Dracula himself, and an atmospheric sensibility…” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
“Lederer is very impressive as the seemingly affable cousin who in reality is an evil and manipulative monster. With curly hair, piercing eyes, and a large black overcoat draped over his shoulders to cleverly suggest a cape, his calculated vampire stalks the night with evil authority. Director Landres lifts the humble black and white B production up several notches with his misty atmosphere and trick photography shots…” DVD Drive-In
“Francis Lederer was a delight as Dracula/Bellac, playing him as kind of a slimy, antisocial jerk. No romance whatsoever to this version; even when he’s going after the female lead you get the feeling that he’s just going through the motions and would rather go back to his room and drink or something. Even his hair is kind of messy.” Horror Movie a Day
“It’s an intelligent conception for a B movie… ” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror
“Fans may be disappointed that all the action is downplayed until the brief climax. We see no fangs, no bite-marks, not even any contact between Dracula and his victims. He approaches, and then the screen goes black. Perhaps he kisses them instead of biting them? Fans may also wish for better atmosphere and music. Everything is well staged and well shot, with some nice use of dry ice inside coffins…” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
“Low budget movie that veers uneasily between the horror element and a stereotyped picture of life in small-town America.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook
Cast and characters:
Francis Lederer … Count Dracula – posing as Bellac Gordal
Norma Eberhardt … Rachel Mayberry
Ray Stricklyn … Tim Hansen
John Wengraf … John Merriman
Virginia Vincent … Jennie Blake
Gage Clarke … Reverand Doctor Whitfield
Jimmy Baird … Mickey Mayberry
Greta Granstedt … Cora Mayberry
Enid Yousen … Frieda
Melvin F. Allen … Mel – Baggage Clerk (uncredited)
William Fawcett … Eddie – Station Master (uncredited)
Dan Gachman … County Clerk (uncredited)
Joseph Hamilton … Man Reporting Murder at Station (uncredited)
Robert Lynn … Doctor Paul Beecher (uncredited)
John McNamara … Sheriff Bicknell (uncredited)
Belle Mitchell … Cornelia (uncredited)
Norbert Schiller … Bellack Gordal (uncredited)
Charles Tannen … Mack Bryant – Dept. of Immigration (uncredited)
Bronson Caves, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California
Palms Depot, Heritage Square Museum – 3800 Homer Street, Highland Park, Los Angeles, California
Audio: Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Black and white | Colour
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1