The least you can expect from a director, approaching a story as venerable as Dracula, is that he or she will have the guts to take it seriously. Updating the legend to modern day is even more possible when you figure out new versions of old terrors. The 1958 The Return of Dracula, an economical and effective black and white horror film released by UA, stars the ageless Czech-American actor Frances Lederer. Before Lederer's death in 2000, he claimed that his only regret as an actor was appearing in this film, possibly because of its gore content (it was gory by the standards of '58, that is). Apparently, his regret wasn't that Drac was some sort of anti-Eastern European stereotype, seeing as how Lederer reprised the Count as his very last role in "The Devil is Not Mocked," an episode of TV's Night Gallery directed by Legend of Hillbilly John's Manly Wade Wellman. (The plot of that episode is the perfect example of the first story that comes to a novice horror-writer's mind, and which has to be discarded right away: During World War 2, Nazi soldiers commandeer a certain castle, and...)

Well, it scared me, but it must have been the actor, not the story. Lederer is aDracula to reckon with in The Return of Dracula as he helps himself to the denizens of Carleton, California (population 1162). "His sole purpose is to establish a chain of domination, " says the Van Helsing guy, an "European Police Agency" investigator called Meiermann (Jon Wengraff). This budget Drac was exhibited as The Curse of Dracula, and The Fantastic Disappearing Man--the latter title is an apt description of this one's modest special effects. But I've got an alternate title: I Was a Communist Vampire. Director Paul Landres zeros in on the Red Scare to give this Dracula some teeth.