Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mark of the Vampire (1935)

Sir Karoll has been killed and the locals conclude it's the work of a vampire. The police inspector (Lionel Atwill) isn't so sure. But local professor (Lionel Barrymore) is convinced by the initial diagnosis. Together, they investigate. Wait, didn't I just see this one? It even stars Atwill! Ok, so the set-up is very similar to The Vampire Bat, but it diverges soon enough. Promise.

Also in the mix is the Barron and executor of the estate, the victim's daughter and inheritor, and her best-bo who stands to become rich. Also there is Bela Lugosi wearing his Dracula garb with his proto-Morticia daughter. Might want to check out his creepy castle while they are at it.

So, what exactly is the Vampire's mark? Maybe it's the fang marks on the victim's neck. Or maybe it's the unexplained mark on Bela's right temple (there's an unfilmed back story). Either way, it doesn't appear to play into the story. I like to pretend Mark was Count Mora's first name. Lots of standard gothic horror elements, the level of acting you'd expect from this crew. No soundtrack, which is a drag.

At times you'd think Tod Browning was trying to re-do Dracula. The vampire passing through the giant spider web thing was done again here. As were the creepy-crawlies dancing around Mora's castle. Irena and Fedor are Mina and Jonathan, Zelin is Van Helsing, only thing missing is Renfield.

Browning would direct only two more movies, his reputation apparently tarnished by the unsavory Freaks. I think he wasn't all that great of a director, at least in the sound age. Interesting fact: his uncle was old-timey baseball great Pete Browning.

For the most part this plays out like a standard gothic horror, but Browning does play a bit. In actuality it's a remake of the now-lost Lon Chaney movie London After Midnight. The principle difference, I understand, is the Vampire angle. There are apparently lost or deleted scenes which explain some of the story, but i think it works well enough at the shorter length. Browning could never match his Dracula success (although The Unknown was by far his best work), Mark of the Vampire was in many ways a better technical effort. It works as intended. AMRU 3.5.

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