|Francis Lederer as Dracula|
When a young artist named Bellac Gordal (Norbert Schiller) begins a journey to America, he is waylaid and murdered by Dracula (Francis Lederer of Terror is a Man) --having just escaped from his pursuers -- who takes his place in modern-day California. Pretending to be a cousin, Dracula enters the household of young Rachel Mayberry (Norma Eberhardt of Live Fast, Die Young), along with her mother and little brother, Mickey (Jimmy Baird). Dracula/Bellac tries to keep to himself, although the others keep pestering him, but he is much more interested in, say, drinking the blood of Rachel's blind friend, Jenny (Virginia Vincent of I Want to Live!). He also sets his sights on Rachel, but her boyfriend, Tim (Ray Stricklyn), may have something to say about that. Meanwhile a policeman from Europe continues his hunt for Dracula in the U.S. I wouldn't be surprised if this film was rushed out as an answer to Hammer's Horror of Dracula, released the same year, but the films are miles apart in quality. Lederer was always a kind of oily leading man, even in comedies like Midnight, but in this he seems more charming than menacing, mostly due to his underplaying, as if he were afraid to seem too hammy. The production is widescreen and in black and white, except for a quick color insert showing a stake going into somebody's heart with blood spurting. Only of passing interest, The Return of Dracula has little style or excitement and proved no threat to Hammer's Dracula production. Paul Landres also directed The Vanpire the following year and it was slightly better than this.
Verdict: Stick with Christopher Lee. **.