TITLE: Mother Riley Meets the Vampire
ALTERNATIVE TITLES: Vampire over London, My Son The Vampire
YEAR RELEASED: 1952
STUDIO: Renown Pictures
DIRECTOR: John Gilling
CAST: Arthur Lucan, Bela Lugosi
PLOT: A gang of criminals lead by a mysterious figure, known as The Vampire, are planning to take over the world with an army of robots. A mixup with delivery sees Old Mother Riley receiving the prototype robot and is embroiled in the criminal comedy capers.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Bela Lugosi was a wasted talent.
FUN FACT: This was the last of 16 Old Mother Riley films made by comedian Arthur Lucan.
MOTHER Riley Meets the Vampire 1952 would be long forgotten had it not been for Bela Lugosi’s appearance in this lacklustre British comedy, starring man-in-drag Arthur Lucan.
I watched this film this week not expecting much, despite its great horror connections.
The film’s director is John Gilling, who went on to direct great Hammer films like Plague of the Zombies, The Reptile and The Mummy’s Shroud. And it co-star is Dracula himself, Bela Lugosi, an absolute horror icon (albeit in his declining years).
But other than its title, Mother Riley Meets the Vampire is more a crime caper than a horror film, even in the broadest sense of the term horror film.
Mother Riley Meets the Vampire is the last in a long-line of comedies starring Arthur Lucan as Old Mother Riley. His drag act comes straight from the music hall and within minutes of the film starting he breaks into song (which was surprisingly catchy). There’s lots of slapstick, amusing one-liners and general tomfoolery.
In post-war Britain, films like Mother Riley Meets the Vampire would have been a blast. In 2011, it’s all a little bit lame and while I laughed a bit, I should have laughed more. (I spoke to my Mum about this today and she told me my grandmother used to hate Mother Riley films – I can probably see why.)
Bela Lugosi looks like he’s having fun playing as a criminal mastermind, known as the Vampire, who intends to take over the world with an army of intelligent robots. Any semblance of logic breaks down here but the film stars a man in drag, so why I am complaining?
Lugosi shows in this film that he was really quite wasted as an actor during his career and while this is clearly a light, slapstick film, he makes the best of it. (Watching Lugosi communicating with his prototype robot is really quite amusing.)
In summary, even with its title Mother Riley Meets the Vampire would not be mentioned in this blog or any horror film history without Bela Lugosi’s appearance. That should tell you something.