Mark of the Vampire (1935)
Let me just say first off, that many of the reviews you’ll read for this film talk about how the trick ending ruins the film. I used to agree with this school of thought, but after I watched this film again I changed my mind. I’m getting ahead of myself, let me give you my review first. I really like Mark of the Vampire (MGM, 1935). It’s one of my favorite "vampire" movies.
The majority of the plot is pretty mundane. Mysterious murders occur. A famous man, Sir Karell, is killed. His body is found with two small puncture marks on his neck. His daughter Irena (Elizabeth Allan) fears she might be the next victim of Count Mora (Bela Lugosi) and his sinister daughter Luna (Caroll Borland). Police Inspector Neumann (Lionel Atwill) is dumbfounded and calls in Professor Zelen (Lionel Barrymore) to investigate. Typical vampire movie stuff happens. Later, your perception of everything in the film is turned upside down after the end. To me, this twist ending saves Mark of the Vampire from being a rather uncreative and boring film.
The cast is great. Bela Lugosi as the sinister Count Mora. Lionel Atwill as the police inspector. Lionel Barrymore as the wise old professor. The three men are perfectly at home in their roles. Count Mora is one of Lugosi’s best vamps. He’s more animalistic and savage in this film more than any other. His bullet wound make-up on his temple adds a creepy touch to his undead character. Barrymore is excellent as the Van Helsing-esque professor. Atwill is of course right at home in the role of police inspector. One of these days I’m going to see which he played more of: police inspectors or mad scientists.
Tod Browning, the director of Dracula, directed Mark of the Vampire. Browning does a much better job of directing here than he does in Dracula. I think Dracula is much more atmospheric and well photographed, but that was Karl Freund’s doing, not Browning. Browning’s direction is less stagy in Mark of Vampire than Dracula. He actually lets us see some things, not just have an actor point of screen at something.
Historically, Mark of the Vampire is important because it his a remake of Browning’s film London After Midnight. This film is legendary. It stared Lon Chaney as a particularly gruesome vampire. Stills of Chaney from the film survive, but an actual print does not. Collectors and monster fans have been clamoring for this film for years. Mark of the Vampire gives us a glimpse of what this lost film classic might be like.
Everyone should check this film out. If you’ve seen it you know what I mean by "twist ending," but if you haven’t I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you. Mark of the Vampire is a very atmospheric, chilling vampire classic. A must see for all vamp fans and a can’t miss for all classic horror fans.
Preview prints ran at 80 minutes.
The actors themselves were unaware of the "twist" ending until the very last days of shooting.
The shot where Caroll Borland flies like a bat took three weeks to get right.