Mark of the Vampire (1935) – Tod Browning

Eight years after the release of London After Midnight, Tod Browning remade the film as Mark of the Vampire with Lionel Barrymore as Professor Zelin, a variation on Chaney’s inspector from the original film.

It is also the next film up in John Landis’ Monsters in the Movies, a coffee table tome that I am enjoying greatly, released through DK Canada.

It’s a little sad that after eight years, he didn’t freshen the story up much, and it remains beat for beat blatantly similar to London After Midnight. Unlike that film Barrymore is not given double duty, the vampire in this film, one Count Mora by name is played by Bela Lugosi who has almost no dialogue in the film but for a tag at the end, which seems to be a nod to his portrayal of Dracula.

Zelin is brought in to investigate after strangers move into the deserted Borotyn estate. At the neighbouring home of Baron Otto (Jean Hersholt), the house staff and residents, including the daughter of the late Karell Borotyn (Holmes Herbert), Irena Borotyn (Elizabeth Allan) and her fiance, Fedor (Henry Wadsworth) are taken with the notion that they are vampires.

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When Mora’s daughter, Luna (Carroll Borland) attacks Irena, everyone fears for her soul, but like London After Midnight, all of this is a masquerade to draw out the true story; the murder of Sir Karell and the villain who committed it.

There are no changes, no real surprises or shocks in how things play out, especially after having so recently watched London After Midnight. And if forced to choose, I prefer London, and Chaney’s portrayal.

This one was okay, nowhere near as captivating as the original tale no doubt was and I’m not sure how I felt about Barrymore’s performance.

Still, it’s fascinating that that there is all this hoopla about remakes these days, when they were obviously happening ever since films first started being made. What I do find interesting is that after eight years, the special effects didn’t seem to have improved very much at the time, there is an interesting ‘flying’ sequence with Luna, but overall, there really didn’t seem to be a reason for this film to exist at that time.

Still, I can check it off the list, and I do think by the time I finish with DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies, I am going to know a lot about cinema creatures, both good and bad. And no matter what, I do think it will be an entertaining journey in the dark.

Pick up a copy and join me won’t you?

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