Sir Karell Borotyn appears to have been killed by Count Mora, a vampire believed to haunt the local village. Now his daughter Irena is the count's next target. Enter Professor Zelen, an expert on vampires who's sent in to prevent her death. At the same time, secrets are revealed surrounding the circumstances of Sir Karell's death.
Lionel Barrymore ... Professor
Elizabeth Allan ... Irena
Bela Lugosi ... Count Mora
Lionel Atwill ... Inspector Neumann
Jean Hersholt ... Baron Otto
Henry Wadsworth ... Fedor
Donald Meek ... Dr. Doskil
XVid / MP3
The MARK OF THE VAMPIRE lies heavily upon the terrified inhabitants of a lonely European manor house.
In 1935 director Tod Browning set about the remaking of his 1927 silent Lon Chaney shocker LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT. The final result was rather an odd film for the MGM roster, but it benefited by being given the Studio's first class production values and casting. It is a tremendously entertaining film to watch even now, full of chills & suspense.
However, at a running time of barely one hour it has been obviously heavily edited. This does not help the already ludicrous plot, many of whose elements simply do not make the slightest sense. It is perhaps just as well to enjoy what the film does have to offer and not to harp about the incongruities of the storyline. The ending will come as a surprise to many viewers - some will be delighted at the turn of events, others will feel betrayed at the final fadeout.
The cast is excellent. Lionel Barrymore is at his most eccentrically watchable as the elderly vampire stalker. And who could play the Undead better than Bela Lugosi? Although he speaks not a word until the final seconds of the film he is pure menace throughout, stalking along cobwebed corridors, associating with giant bats and radiating pure evil. Lionel Atwill as a stern police inspector and gentle Jean Hersholt as a befuddled baron complete the quartet of leading actors.
Elizabeth Allan is lovely as the menaced young lady, while Carol Borland is properly mysterious as Lugosi's vampiress. Various members of the supporting cast are allowed moments to shine - Donald Meek as the frightened local doctor; Ivan Simpson as the manor's old butler and Leila Bennett as a rather hysterical maid. Movie mavens will spot an unbilled Christian Rub as a deaf peasant at the coroner's inquest.
The film's editing sadly left several very fine character actors on the cutting room floor, including Robert Greig, Eily Maylon, Zeffie Tilbury & Jessie Ralph (whose name still appears in the credits).
James Wong Howe's excellent cinematography should be mentioned, as should also the creepy special effects which add immensely to the atmosphere.
* Large South American bats were imported for the picture.
* The actors all played their roles for a straight horror movie, unaware of the twist-ending until the last few days of shooting.
* Preview reviews list a running time of 80 minutes, so that considerable footage was cut prior to the film's release. This would account for many listed actors who were cut from the final print.
* The film was banned in Poland, and censors in Hungary excised the screams, shots of bats and other gruesome scenes.
* There was a remarkable degree of difficulty to shooting the scene where Carroll Borland flies like a bat. A jockey initially doubled for her but became nauseous on the wires. A bar was placed down the back of her dress running from her neck to her ankles, but it took some time for she and the handlers to get this right. The single shot took three weeks to work (all of this for a scene where Borland is supposed to be an actor pretending to be flying).
* In the original script, Count Mora was supposed to be involved in an incestuous relationship with his daughter Luna, and to have committed suicide. After the filming began, however, all references to the crime were cut out of the script by MGM, and and so the character played by Bela Lugosi is seen with a noticeable, unexplained bullet hole on the side of his forehead. Because director Tod Browning's previous film, Freaks (1932), had been a box office disaster, Browning was unable to object to any changes made by the studio.
* An alternate ending with a second twist, in which Lionel Barrymore's character receives a telegram from the vaudeville actors apologizing for not being able to make their train for the castle assignment, was proposed, but Browning rejected it.