After Sir Karell Borotin is found dead in his study, drained of his blood, the local doctor determines that he was killed by a vampire. The coroner and police Inspector Neumann dismiss the suggestion but a year later, Sir Karell's daughter is attacked and bite marks are found on her throat. Neumann calls in the eminent Professor Zelin who thinks the story of vampires is true. The locals are convinced that Count Mora and his daughter Luna are the perpetrators of the crime, creatures of the night that can turn themselves into bats. There may be another solution however and the Professor sets a trap. Written by
Filmed January 12-February, leaving Bela Lugosi unavailable for the Warner Oland role in Universal's "Werewolf of London." He also has no dialogue, until a brief exchange at the very end. See more »
When Luna is walking in the foggy night, her head hits some of the fibers simulating the fog and lifts most of the misty background that surrounds her. See more »
I'm sorry gentleman and lady, but it will be best for you to stay here tonight.
Ronnie - Englishman at Inn:
Come now, my good man. You can't frighten us. We've been over your foul roads before.
Please, you do not understand. It is not the road. It is the darkness. Here, our doors are protected with bat thorns.
What is with all this bat thorn business?
It keeps them out. They're afraid of it, the demons of the castle.
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Bit creaky and hammy but is still an enjoyable horror from the period
In a small village of Prague, dignitary Sir Karell Borotyn is found murdered and the police put it down to "unknown circumstances". The whole village knows the cause though and the consensus of opinion is that he was killed by the legendary vampire Count Mora. This belief is dismissed by the authorities but seems to be backed up when Mora appears to Borotyn's daughter Irena. Enter Professor Zelen, who plans to save Irena and bring an end to the rule of terror that Mora has brought to the village.
I have been watching several horrors from the first half of the last century recently mainly because I am tired of the "shock 'em with gore" school of thought that seems to have replaced atmosphere and creepy direction that should always make up a part of a horror film. With this film the story is actually quite interesting, albeit based on the usual "vampire hunter" storyline but it still works and has a certain amount of mystery to it. This is supported by a good sense of atmosphere and period not just all dark shadows and so on but a feeling that this is a real place and that the evil is only a few steps away at any time; hard to describe but it looks good. Of course it is dated and modern horror fans will scoff at it, but it does have some genuinely unsettling moments and the slow movement of Mora and the zombie-ish Luna is effectively used once or twice it was only a shame that they had surprisingly little actual time on screen.
The cast are impressive on paper and they do a good job on screen. Lugosi may just be doing his usual stuff in a supporting role but both he and the Count are probably the main draw to this film and he provides his usual ham with relish. Likewise the rest of the cast overact a bit but it suits the film and works pretty well since this film doesn't seem to be taking itself too seriously. Barrymore is good and is well supported by Allan, Atwill and Borland. They all play it up a bit and it works without taking away from the creepy atmosphere.
Overall it is hardly the most frightening thing you'll ever see, nor does it even come comes but it is still enjoyable and a little creepy if you meet it on its terms rather than with a modern eye. It is creaky and you might get a laugh out of it but viewed as a film it has enough going for it to stand up with some of the more "classic" horrors of the period.
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