A black and white 1930’s vampire film, but not Dracula. Tod Browning’s the director, but not Dracula. Bela Lugosi’s a vampire, but he’s not Dracula. There’s fake bats, fake spiders, dusty old castles, and foggy graveyards. Again, this isn’t the famous Dracula from 1931. Instead, it’s a lesser known film called Mark of the Vampire from 1935. A big shout out to Gary Loggins over at crackedrearviewer for suggestion this film and giving me the story behind it.
Mark of the Vampire is a remake of a previous Tod Browning film. I’d never heard of this, but I had heard of the silent original. Famous among film, horror, and vampire fans, and starring the legendary Lon Chaney, Sr. complete with signature ghoulish makeup. I’m referring to 1927’s London After Midnight, a lost film and one of the most sought. The last known print went up in flames in a 1967 MGM vault fire. The basis for both films is a Browning short story called “The Hypnotist.” Still frames survive from the original, so we can’t judge it as a whole. We can judge the remake, or at least I can, and it’s actually pretty damn good.
The run time is only an hour, the perfect length for an old black and white film regardless of genre. There’s more than one appearance of the fake bat on a string gimmick. However, I forgive the inclusion for two reasons. The first being it’s 1935. The second is it’s tastefully executed, if such a gimmick and word can go together. It’s not overdone, or presented in a ridiculous fashion. The best thing by far is the ending. I loved it and never saw it coming. As a Twilight Zone fan, I love a good twist, and Mark of the Vampire gives us a double shot, along with a good natured laugh before the final credits.
Besides Bela Lugosi creeping through the scenes, there’s a few other names of note in the cast. Top billing goes to Lionel Barrymore. Then there’s Donald Meek of Stagecoach fame playing another nervous character. Elizabeth Allan, Lionel Atwill, and Jean Hersholt round out the rest of the main credits.
I’m surprised by Mark of the Vampire’s IMDb rating. It’s far too low, and normally I feel the opposite is true. I wouldn’t call this a perfect 10, but it’s an enjoyable film I’d add to my collection. On searching through Amazon, it’s never received a proper DVD or Blu-Ray release. Still, if you can find it, watch it. What have you got to lose? It’s only an hour, and it’s good.
Copyright © Drew Martin 2016