Friday, December 25, 2009
The Return of the Vampire is a 1944 film, released by Columbia
Pictures starring Béla Lugosi, Nina Foch, Frieda Inescort and
Miles Mander and Directed by Lew Landers.
Armand Tesla, a former Romanian scientist who became a vampire
because of his obsession with the occult, moves to London. He has
a werewolf servant named Andréas (Matt Willis), and preys on one
family until he is staked in 1918. When his grave is disturbed by
Nazi bombs during World War II, gravediggers who have to rebury
the overturned graves decide not to bury Armand with the stake,
pulling it out. He then claws out of the ground.
He seeks out Andréas, who now, after being turned back by
Armand, has the power to change form at will, and sets out to
take revenge on the family that had staked him. In the end,
Andréas is shot trying to give Nikki (the doctor's daughter)
back to Armand.
The vampire tells the lycanthrope, "I no longer had need of you.
" After changing back, Andréas, who finds a cross buried in
corner of the church Armand has made a home, pulls it out
and starts forcing Armand up the stairs toward the sun.
A bomb dropped from a passing German bomber lands in the
church causing an explosion, destroying the building. Andréas
finishes the job by dragging Armand into the sun, finishing
Armand and releasing Nikki of Armand's spell. Then Andréas is
finally dead of his bullet wound, resting forever in peace.
This is one of only three films in which Bela Lugosi played a genuine
vampire, the other two being Dracula and Abbott and Costello Meet
Frankenstein. In Mark of the Vampire, Lugosi played a supposed
vampire who turns out to be a fake. In Old Mother Riley Meets the
Vampire, Lugosi played a mad scientist who has a delusion that he
is a vampire.
Actor Matt Willis as the werewolf had a completely different
portrayal than Lon Chaney's in Universal Studios' The Wolf Man.
-Bela Lugosi...Armand Tesla / Dr. Hugo Bruckner
-Frieda Inescort ...Lady Jane Ainsley
-Nina Foch...Nicki Saunders
-Miles Mander...Sir Frederick Fleet
-Roland Varno...John Ainsley
-Matt Willis...Andreas Obry
Saturday, December 19, 2009
At the opening night and Saturday night Dracula was danced by
regular guest Jimmy Orrante, with Keiko Amemori as Mina, Georgina
May as Lucy, Patrick Howell as Harker, Hiro Takahashi as Arthur
Holmwood and Darren Goldsmith as Dr John Seward. Sebastian Loe
For the Saturday matinee, David Kierce was Dracula to Natalie
Leftwich’s Mina, Martha Leebolt’s Lucy. Tobias Batley was Harker
with Darren Goldsmith as Holmwood and Kenneth Tindall was
Seward. Patrick Howell was Renfield. Stephen Wheeler performed
Van Helsing at all the performances I saw.
The piece starts with a coffin coming up from the ground and
Dracula emerging naked and walking to the back of the stage.
The action then moves on to Harker and his trip across
Transylvania. I think the coach and horses are cleverly realised,
realistic and spooky. At the castle we see Dracula wanting to
drink the blood of Harker and wrestling with his feelings. He
then sees the photograph of Mina and enters Harker’s mind
to find out more. There is a tussle between Dracula and Harker
before the Brides arrive and Harker is bewitched by them.
Harker also sees Dracula crawling down the castle wall.
We then see Dracula heading off to England in his box of
Meanwhile Lucy is torn between Holmwood and Seward,
eventually choosing Holmwood. Seward returns to his
sanatorium and is studying his case notes on Renfield,
who is caged.
Dracula sates himself with Lucy in a churchyard before her
engagement to Holmwood. He arrives at the engagement
party and sees Mina – Lucy is forgotten for the moment.
Lucy makes a show of herself and everyone dashes off stage
after her, leaving Dracula alone with Lucy until Harker appears.
He then goes back to Lucy, who subsequently seems to die
at the end of Act 1.
Act 1 is fairly slow moving and some of the changes between
scenes are a little slow and could detract from the flow of the
action. There is a real contrast between Dracula’s treatment of
Lucy and Mina – with Lucy he is wild and full of lust and with
Mina he is gentle and really seems to care for her. The set is
fairly stark but extremely effective.
In Act 2, the action really hots up. Van Helsing had been brought
in to try and help Lucy. At her funeral he sees her rise from the
grave after the others have left and he persuades the others that
she needs to be staked.
They then go and try to find Dracula, little realising that he has
gained access to Mina and that they are desperately attracted to
each other. The hunters return and Dracula flees. There is then
the race against time across Transylvania leading to the final
David Nixon has conceived this piece very much as a chamber
ballet, only using a corps in the engagement party. All the other
scenes use only the main characters. The work has a tense, almost
I found all the pdd compelling and relevant and the pdd between
Mina and Dracula in Act 2 is just stunning – worth the entrance
money on its own! There is some good ensemble work for the
Dracula wears a gloriously full cape that seems to take on a life
of its own and becomes a powerful bat motif. The mostly-fabulous
costumes were designed by the multi-talented David Nixon and Ali
Allen did the atmospherically minimalist set. My one niggle is the
trousers that Dracula wears – glam-rockers The Sweet came to mind!
The dancers really threw themselves into the performances. NBT
specialises in dancers who are strong actors and these performances
proved that. The good thing about seeing several performances and
different casts is being able to see the different interpretations of the
roles. For example, Georgina May was a very young and flirtatious
Lucy while Martha Leebolt came over as being more worldly in her
dealings with her suitors. Both abandoned themselves to Dracula
with a shocking degree of lasciviousness.
It was nice seeing the younger dancers getting their big chance.
Sebastian Loe was superb as the mad, bug-eating Renfield. I
overheard someone in the audience describing him as the new
Jeremy Kerridge – very high praise indeed and well-deserved.
Tobias Batley was really naïve and totally terrified by Dracula
as Harker. Darren Goldsmith is such an elegant dancer, really
on the top of his form, and it was good to see him performing
both Holmwood and Seward and bringing something different
to both of them.
Both Jimmy Orrante and David Kierce were marvellously sinister
at Dracula, both handling the enormous cape really well – making
it come alive.
Keiko Amemori was lithe and sinuous as Mina, with Natalie Leftwich
giving a more innocent performance.
Northern Ballet Theatre
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Fernando Fernández (born 1940) is a Spanish comic book artist.
Fernández was born in Barcelona, Spain in 1940. In 1956 Fernandez
joined the well known Spanish agency Selecciones Illustradas, at the
age of 16. From 1958 through 1964 Fernandez worked on war comics
(including Air Ace and War Picture Library) and romance comics
(including Valentine, Roxy and Marilyn) for British publishers. He
also paintedcovers for paperbacks and picture libraries like
Commando and Chiller. Fernandez left the comics industry for a
period of time in the 1960s, returning in 1970. He drew the strip
Mosca from 1970 to 1973.
Fernandez started working for Warren Publishing in 1973 due to his
connections with Selecciones Illustradas. Unlike many of the Spanish
artists from S.I., Fernandez both wrote and drew his stories. During
his period with Warren from 1973 to 1975 a total of 11 of these
stories were made, all of which were published in Vampirella (issues
28-32,35-6,40-3). The story Rendezvous (issue 35) was included in
a list of the top 25 Warren stories of all time in the book The Warren
Companion by author David A. Roach. Fernandez won a Warren
Award in 1975 for Best Artist/Writer on the story Goodbye My Love,
Goodbye (issue 41). An additional story written by Fernandez, but
drawn by Jose Miralles appeared in issue 57 of Vampirella in 1977.
Warren would later reprint three additional Fernandez stories
originally done in Spain in Eerie in 1978 (issue 94), 1980 (issue 117)
and 1981 (issue 118). After Warren, Fernandez worked on french
educational comics for Afha as well as the Cuando el Comic es Arte
series for Jose Toutain. He also worked on the series Circulos in
1979 and Zora y los Hibernautas in 1980, which would later be
reprinted in the U.S. in the magazine Heavy Metal. In 1982 he drew
the comic version of Bram Stoker's Dracula for the Spanish edition
of Creepy. He adapted Isaac Asimov stories in 1983 for the book
Firmado por: Isaac Asimov, and collaborated with Carlos Trillo to
create the medieval fantasy La Leyenda de las Cuatro Sombras for
He would later adapt Asimov again with Lucky Star in 1989.
Fernandez eventually left the comics field in the 1990s to
focus exclusively on painting.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
CAPSULE: This has been a very rare film, but it seems to be
becoming more readily available. This is not a sequel to, but
a simplification of Bram Stoker's novel. It just replaces the
London backdrop with Istanbul and sets the story in the year
of its production, 1953. The film has some nice bits on a tight
budget, but turning the Mina character into an alluring stage
dancer somehow cheapens the story. Atif Kaptan makes what
seems a lack-luster Dracula, but perhaps if I knew Turkish it
might have been more impressive.
As someone who was interested early on in horror films and
not long after that in the long history of the horror film, I had
a large number of titles of films I wanted to see some day.
Most I was able to see as a teen or at least by my twenties.
But there are some lost horror films and some that are just too
obscure to ever find. I had considered the Edison version of
FRANKENSTEIN one such lost film, but I eventually got a chance
to see and review.
Nearly as rare was the Turkish version of Dracula, Mehmet
Muhtar's DRAKULA ISTANBUL'DA or DRACULA IN ISTANBUL.
This was a 1953 version--not a sequel--of the Bram Stoker
story. In this version Dracula comes to prey on Istanbul. At
first that change of setting seems strange, but NOSFERATU
and DRACULA (HORROR OF DRACULA) did bring Dracula to
Germany. This was only the third film version of the novel.
Actually Dracula was only one of several well-known figures
who were brought to Istanbul in Turkish films. There was
TARZAN IN ISTANBUL (1952), THE INVISIBLE MAN IN ISTANBUL
(1955), THE UFOS IN ISTANBUL (1955) (if a UFO can be
considered a well-known figure), and in 1967 there was the
Turkish FANTOMAS: APPOINTMENT IN ISTANBUL.
One might think that setting the latter part of DRACULA in
Istanbul would create a problem. Bram Stoker's Dracula is all
caught up in the Christian tradition. The vampire is repelled
by the cross, by holy wafers, and by holy water. Well, actually
the problems had already been worked out. In 1928 Ali Riza
Seyfi wrote a novel KAZIKLI VOYVODA (or VLAD THE IMPALER)
which was mostly just a translation of DRACULA, though the
action does not move to England but to Istanbul. Seyfi had
already worked out how much of the vampirism translated to
a mostly Muslim country. The holy wafers and holy water were
left out. Crosses became portable copies of the Koran which
repelled Dracula. Seyfi's intent was to play up Bram Stoker's
having Dracula the vampire be the still-living remains of Vlad
Tepes, also known as Vlad the Impaler. After all, whom did
the real historical figure Vlad impale? It was Turkish invaders
into his country. Turks have a special historical reason to
The film DRAKULA ISTANBUL'DA is based on both the Stoker
novel and the Seyfi novel. And because the two novels are so
similar, probably even Ümit Deniz, the writer of the film, did
not know what parts he was taking from either. The script is
really a much-shortened version of the story most people
After the film was released in 1953 it disappeared for many
years, as films frequently did in those days. It was just an
unavailable film that people like me wished to see but never
really expected to see. I thought it was a lost film like LONDON
AFTER MIDNIGHT. Apparently eventually it did make it to
Turkish television and eventually could be seen in various ways
in this country. I saw it under less than ideal conditions. It was
in Turkish without subtitles and the aspect ratio was wrong. I
do not know Turkish. But seeing this film is like seeing an opera
on the stage. I may not know exactly what is being said at each
instant, but I know the story well enough to have a rough idea
of what was going on.
Is this film an accurate film adaptation of DRACULA? Well,
NOSFERATU and the 1931 version of DRACULA did not set the
fidelity bar very high. DRAKULA ISTANBUL'DA was the most
accurate adaptation up to its time. Five years later Terence Fisher
would make DRACULA (United States title: HORROR OF DRACULA)
and I would say the two are on a par for closeness to the novel.
Neither was exactly right and each was much simplified. Still, this
book has never been really well adapted to cinema. I would say
the most accurate versions made to date were COUNT DRACULA,
the 1977 BBC/PBS version with Louis Jordan, and Francis Ford
Coppola's 1992 DRACULA, though each took liberties. Orson
Welles also did a fairly accurate radio version for the premiere
of his Mercury Theater radio program.
Go to http://www.mercurytheatre.info for all his Mercury Theater
DRAKULA ISTANBUL'DA updates its story and moves the story to
Istanbul. That is two strikes against it. It also removes an entire
insane asylum, Dr. Seward, Renfield, and a host of other characters.
Mina is no longer the delicate flower of a girl she is in the book but
a somewhat sensual stage dancer. She is less innocent, so does not
create so much concern for her situation. There are two production
numbers showing her on the stage, one has her as a Latin hottie
and the other as a tastefully covered Turkish belly dancer. The
musical production numbers in a horror film may have been
inspired by THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943).
There are little economies throughout the production. My wife
pointed out how many scenes had Jonathan Harker in one hallway
of Dracula's castle and how easy that made camera setups. (By the
way, the character names are all Turkish and nothing like what they
are in the novel with the exception of Drakula. For example Mina
becomes Guzin. To save explaining I will use the names of their
antecedents in the novel.) Dracula has only one bride and one
servant. The latter is of dubious loyalty and seems more
sympathetic to Harker than to Dracula.
The score has odd touches including at bit of "April in Paris." The
composer, whoever he is, seems to be frequently at cross- purposes
with the director. Times when the film should be creating an aura of
fear, instead the score has an air that is light and comical.
Visually the film is a mixed bag. Clearly it was made on a low
budget. But it has atmosphere. The credit sequences take a cue
from what might be Universal horror films. The American studio
would frequently some touch like smoke congealing into the letters
of the opening titles. For this film the opening credits seem to roll
out like a scroll on invisible paper across the screen. Dracula has
sleeping gas piped to some of the rooms of his castle and in one
room is comes out like smoke from the eyes of a painting creating
a bizarre image. Staking scenes take place with most of the gory
action off camera. Dracula's castle, really an unconvincing drawing,
is wrong for eastern European castles. I think of them as having
conical turrets like Castle Bran does in Transylvania. The castle
we see in the film has open turrets like we would expect to see
in a King Arthur movie (or on the sorts of castles built by the
Crusaders in Turkey).
Mina does not look particularly Turkish and she is played by Annie
Ball, which does not sound like a Turkish name. Nevertheless
Ms. Ball seems to have made a career in Turkish films. Atif Kaptan
who plays Dracula apparently had appeared in other macabre roles.
He is a slight letdown as the King of Vampires. It might have been
different if I could understand what he was saying, but he just
looks like a distinguished gray- haired gentleman without
particularly striking looks. Dracula appears to have fangs that
grow when he needs to use them. It has been claimed that this
was the first film to put fangs on a vampire. Not true. NOSFERATU
had fangs, but they were two front teeth and not retractable. One
effect that does not work well any more is that Dracula appears in
a flash. Basically it is the effect that goes back to George Melies
of just stopping the camera, having the character walk into its
view, and start filming again. There is a nice scene of Dracula's
face when he is in the form of a bat.
In a sequence taken from Bram Stoker, Dracula crawls down the
wall of his castle, a disquieting scene. COUNT DRACULA (1977)
usually gets credit for having shown this sequence for the first
time. However, it appears earlier both in this film and in SCARS OF
DRACULA (1970). The film plays up his bat-like characteristics.
As a human he wears a cape that gives him a bat-like look.
Dracula can transform into a bat, but for some reason he does not
toward the end when he is being chased on foot. This mistake leads
to his downfall. The age-old vampire is something of an esthete and
he hypnotizes Mina to have her dance for him. Also unorthodox for
portrayals of Dracula is that when he wants to disable an opponent
and just socks him. I suppose Buffy vampires kickbox, but for some
reason I just do not think of Dracula as ever having to deliver a
I decline to rate the film since I feel only somebody who knows
what the actors are saying should have that privilege. Overall, I
did not care for the updating. But I was willing to overlook most
of the film's other weaknesses. It had enough strengths to make
watching it, even under poor condition, a real pleasure. I hope
that now that the film has been re-discovered that some
entrepreneur will decide it is worth subtitling and putting on
DVD. Was it worth the wait to find this film? Well, probably not.
But now that it is becoming available it is worth seeking out.
Mark R. Leeper
Copyright 2007 Mark R. Leeper
Fonts: Mark R. Leeper