Bela Lugosi returns as the dreaded vampire Count, here trading under the
name of Armand Tesla due to Columbia Pictures being unable to secure copyright to the 'Dracula' name (owned exclusively at the time by Universal). Despite this,
Lugosi here gives in my opinion his finest Dracula performance - much
improved over his halting and stagey efforts in the Universal classic
twelve years previously.
Dracula / Tesla returns from the grave to wreak vengeance upon the
vampire hunters who staked him decades previously, after a Nazi blitz
raid unearths his tomb and a comedy Cockernee (played as usual by the
reliable Billy Bevan) mistakes the stake through his heart for shrapnel
and removes it. Lugosi sets his sights on vampirising the lovely Nicki Saunders (Nina
Foch, and you can't blame the guy), daughter of Professor Walter Saunders - the Van Helsing stand-in who oversaw his staking in the sepulchre decades before, and even adopts the identity of a
German doctor fleeing the Nazis to get closer to his prey. Lugosi gets
more top do here than in most of his 1940s horror movies, and rises to
the challenge with a great performance.
We also get Matt Willis (not the one from Busted!) as Lon Chaney-a-like
werewolf Andreas, in thrall to his vampiric master by night, but
yearning to destroy him whilst in tormented human form. Also featuring
good solid performances by Frieda Inescort as the decidedly MILFy Lady
Jane (pardon my Male Gaze), and Miles Mander (also to be seen in Universal's 1943 The Phantom of the Opera, as well as the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes entries The Pearl of Death and The Scarlet Claw [both 1944] and the classic The Picture of Dorian Gray ) as the disbelieving police inspector. He doesn't
believe in werewolves or vampires. Do YOU people?