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  Mother Riley Meets the Vampire When Bela Met ArthurBuy this film here.
Year: 1952
Director: John Gilling
Stars: Arthur Lucan, Bela Lugosi, Dora Bryan, Philip Leaver, Richard Wattis, Graham Moffatt, María Mercedes, Roderick Lovell, David Hurst, Judith Furse, Ian Wilson, Hattie Jacques, Dandy Nichols, George Benson, Bill Shine, Charles Lloyd Pack, Laurence Naismith
Genre: Horror, Comedy
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The country is gripped by tales of a criminal who calls himself The Vampire (Bela Lugosi), actually Count Von Housen who believes himself to be the descendant of a real bloodsucker, and accordingly feeds regularly on the red stuff, drawn from the bodies of young women who he thinks will keep him replenished. His gang has kidnapped another woman, Julia (María Mercedes), but he has another motive for that crime: he wants her scientist father's chart that reveals the location of precious uranium deposits in South America with which he can power his army of robots...

Now, if that sounds like you're going to get an impressive, effects-filled adventure, or at least something akin to the sci-fi serials that were beginning to die out around the time that this was released, then it's safe to say you'd be disappointed. That said, there were elements of the serial style here: there was a big chase or two and a rampaging robot to be reckoned with, but largely what was on offer was something of a clash of genres, the music hall comedy and the horror movie that Lugosi starred in, usually of the low budget variety by this time. The music hall aspect was catered to by a performer who had been a big name in that arena for decades.

But by 1952, when this was released, the variety acts that used to fill the theatres across Britain were starting to wane as television began to make inroads into the way the public spent the way they were entertained, and rock 'n' roll was just around the corner, ensuring that acts like Arthur Lucan, who co-starred here in drag as Old Mother Riley, were soon to be shown the door, though he died before the rot really set in. Lucan had done better than some as dressing up as an Irish washerwoman had been very successful for him, and like George Formby for example he had spawned a series of hit movies out of the character.

This was the final bow for Lucan, and even by his standards could have been viewed as somewhat desperate, only really made because Lugosi had been in the country touring the theatres in his Dracula role, and needed the money to get a ticket home, hence his appearance as the villain. To his credit, he never came across as simply doing this for the money even if that's exactly what the situation was, and seemed amused by his surroundings, or amused enough not to let on that he was in now rather dire circumstances. Even at his age and physical state (drug abuse was not being kind to him), he was spry enough to roll the hokey lines off his tongue as if it really mattered.

As for Lucan, in spite of being as physically poor as Lugosi he was full of energy, even singing a comic song in the first ten minutes as if his usual milieu was as healthy and prosperous as ever. The plot has to work out a way of bringing both the Vampire and Mrs Riley together, so we have some business about her uncle dying and leaving an inheritance to her, which gets mixed up with the baddie's robot, leaving Riley with the machine and the Count with a warming pan. He summons the old lady to his mansion lair, and though he initially charms her, she sees through his plans and saves the day - well, sort of. It's no exaggeration to say that this enjoys a terrible reputation, mostly among those unused to Lucan's comedy, but it was really no worse than much of the low budget product hailing from the UK at the time. Though Lucan's regular co-star, his now ex-wife, did not appear, Dora Bryan filled that role far better, and there were familiar faces here, but largely this was best recommended to those interested in such relics of a bygone age. Music by Lindo Southworth.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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