Bela Lugosi plays Prof. Armand Tesla, a vampire living in 1918 in London, right in the middle of the First World War. He targets a family belonging to a famous doctor, and takes a shine for his young daughter. And so, with help of his werewolf sidekick Andreas (Matt Willis), he bites the young girl. Suspecting a vampire is responsible, the doctor, with help of Lady Jane Ainsley (Frieda Inescourt), stakes the vampire. Years go by, Andreas has been rehabilitated and the young girl has grown up into a hot Nina Foch. But the bomb raids during WW2, and with help of some bumbling gravediggers, revive Tesla and he returns to take revenge on the family that staked him, and take back the young girl and make her his slave.
Movies during WW2 mostly were propaganda in nature, and the horror genre was no different, as this one shows. Bela Lugosi played a vampire for the second time in his career (after Dracula in 1931), and here he’s basically playing the same god-damn role. The only difference here is that he’s a bit older, and a lot of the macabre sex appeal he used to have was now long gone. He seems like an old grampa’ trying to be scary during Halloween, but all you want to do is pat him in the back. Matt Willis as a werewolf isn’t very scary either, and he’s basically doing a Lon Chaney impersonation. The fact that he talks during makeup doesn’t help matters, and a scene where he seems to wander into the tomb with dirty laundry in his hands almost made me laugh out loud. Almost.
The movie’s not all bad though, it just suffers from a bad script and outdated monster mash ideas. It’s main positive power is the set design. It’s like they purposefully wanted to be superior to the Universal horror films, and in this aspect they might just have gotten near it. Only The Bride Of Frankenstein and Dracula’s Daughter surpass it when it comes to scares and atmosphere of the horror’s golden age. Scenes are beautifully lit, and the fog machines create a very artificial, yet eerie atmosphere. I think that if the script would have been better, this might be better than the over-rated Dracula (1931), but sadly this aspect of it hinders it well. The third act picks up a bit, with having more action and having Andreas turn into a good guy. As he stakes Tesla and exposes him to sunlight, we see what might as well be the first vampire meltdown, although it lasts too short to be impacting. I smell the censor’s scissors at work. Still, if you like old school horror movies, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy this, since it has it’s share of effective scares and creepy atmosphere. Shame about the script.