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An underrated film
After the commercial failure of his controversial masterpiece "Freaks" in 1932, director Tod Browning found himself in serious problems to find new projects. Browning was a man of proved talent, being the director of some of the best silent films starring Lon Chaney as well as the mind behind the 1931 horror masterpiece "Dracula". However, "Freaks" proved to be too ahead of its time and sadly suffered the prejudices of audiences clearly unprepared for the tragic story of a midget in love with a full grown woman. In this state of disgrace, the studio rejected his projects and instead gave him the job of directing "Fast Workers", a melodrama with former silent superstar John Gilbert. Fortunately, luck was still on his side as in 1935 he was allowed to direct a remake of his successful silent "London After Midnight", a movie that would reunite Browning with Dracula himself: Bela Lugosi.

"Mark of the Vampire" is the story of the tragedy surrounding the wealthy Borotyn family. The patriarch, Sir Karell Borotyn (Holmes Herbert) has been murdered under mysterious circumstances, and soon everyone in town suspects it was the work of Count Mora (Bela Lugosi) and his daughter Luna (Carroll Borland), as these two deceased nobles are rumored to awake by night as vampires and wreak havoc in the small superstitious village. Inspector Neumann (Lionel Atwill) doesn't believe in this, as he suspects there is a more mundane motif for the murder of the rich old man, however, when Sir Karell's only daughter Irena (Elizabeth Allan) becomes the vampires' new target, Insp. Neumann will have to join forces with a strange scientist specialized in the occult, Prof. Zelin (Lionel Barrymore) to solve the mystery before someone else gets killed.

As written above, "Mark of the Vampire" is essentially a remake of the now lost classic "London After Midnight", although this time Browning enhances the horror elements of the story by focusing on the couple of vampires and their actions instead of the mystery of the plot. The story is pretty convoluted and very clever for its time, with a nice use of black humor (some even see it as a satire of horror films of it's time) and very surprising plot twists to keep the mystery a secret until the end. Sadly (and like always happened to Browning), the film suffered approximately 20 minutes of cuts by the studio, who disliked Browning's idea of incest as background for Count Mora among other things. Unable to fight the studio (as they were still mad at him for "Freaks"), Browning had to let them cut the film, leading to the creation of many plot holes in the already convoluted story, ultimately destroying most of its effect by enhancing its flaws.

As in most Browning's films, the power of the movie is in the haunting visuals conveyed by this master of silent films, images so powerful that in a way make up for the messed up and disjointed storyline. In fact (and like "Dracula"), most of the best scenes in "Mark of the Vampire" come when nobody talks and only the images are what carry the story. Taking his expressionist influences to the max, Browning makes the figure of the vampire to embody the ultimate vision of irresistible evil, as their unnatural shining in complete darkness makes them diabolically attractive. Browning always struggled with the use of sound, and this problem shows again in "Mark of the Vampire", although the high quality of his cast manage to improve Browning's direction in this "talkie".

Lionel Barrymore is very good as the eccentric Prof. Zelin, and while he receives some bash for giving an over-the-top performance, I think his acting is right on the money, as he is not a serious Van Helsing, his character seems to be wicked, almost as wicked as the monsters he fights, so his hammy touch is, in my opinion, very appropriate. Lionel Atwill shines as Insp. Neumann, bringing a sense of dignity to the film as the stoic hero who is forced to work with what he considers as superstitious fools in order to fulfill his mission. Borland and Luogsi are simply wonderful as the almost silent vampires, relaying mostly on gestures to convey their emotions. Jean Hersholt, Donald Meek and Ivan Simpson have nice turns in supporting roles, with Meek and Simpson delivering some nice comedy that seems to parody stereotypes of horror films of its time.

Sadly, the film (or what was left of it) suffers from many flaws that effectively make the brilliant parts of it look bad, leaving the final product as simply a slightly better than average 30s movie. Not only the cuts done by the studio ruined the storyline, as being honest, Browning's talent wasn't as fond of talkies as it was of silents. Browning was a genius of black comedy, but this skill couldn't translate well to sound movies and often his attempts of comedy look too over-the-top for the overall mood of the movie. To make things worse, the performances of Elizabeth Allan and Henry Wadsworth (the main romantic couple of the movie) are atrociously poor, paling in comparison to the work of the rest of the cast.

"Mark of the Vampire" is a very good film of Browning's short post-"Freaks" career, as despite being plagued by many problems, it still works as a nice tale of mystery and horror. It is definitely not the typical vampire movie, and a number of factors make me to be willing to believe that Browning intended this to be a satire than a proper horror (for example the fact that vampires are silent and humans are very talkative for example). While certainly not a masterpiece, it is a fine film to watch despite its troubled upbringing. 7/10
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Barrymore Stalks Lugosi
Ron Oliver29 May 2003
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.
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One of the Best Supernatural Films
wdbasinger28 March 2005
This was one of the best vampire films of the classic black-and-white era. Essentially a composite remake of "Dracula" and an earlier film called "London After Midnight" with some bizarre twists, in terms of ghoulish settings and atmosphere, particularly the cemetery scenes, and Lugosi and Borland wandering in the night, this film is second to none. There is no doubt that Bela Lugosi was the classic Dracula of the early sound period. If I were to make a list of his best 10 films, this would be one of them along with the 1931 "Dracula", the 1943 "Return of the Vampire", the 1940 "The Devil Bat" and others. Carol Borland's role as "Luna"sets the standard for "Vampira" of the 1950s and "Elvira" of the 1980s as well as "Morticia" of the Addams Family on TV. She does an excellent job in the role of a "creature of the night". And of course, Bela Lugosi as Count Mora is without peer. The entire cast including Lionel Barrymore, Lionel Atwill, Elizabeth Allen, Jean Hersholt, and others do an excellent job.


Dan Basinger
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Trippy vampire tale with a twist.
Joseph P. Ulibas12 November 2003
Tod Browning's return to the genre that made him famous brings along Bela Lugosi to reprise his role as a sinister Count. This vampiric tale is mixed in with a murder mystery. I found the end results to be very weird, unusual and entertaining. What I thought was going to be a routine horror story has a very funny twist. To give it away would be telling. If you're in the mood for something different then by all means watch.


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Tod Browning's third horror milestone in a row!
Coventry9 May 2004
Tod Browning easily is one of the most important directors who ever lived. Sure, he might not enjoy the same post-mortem status as a Stanley Kubrick or a Alfred Hitchcock but he single-handedly was responsible for some of the most important and genre-forming horror films. In a period of barely 5 years he brought us: Dracula (the mother of all vampire-movies and THE film that made Bela Lugosi immortal), Freaks (still amazingly scary after more than 70 years), this Mark of the Vampire and Devil Doll in 1936.

This film more or less is the first accomplishment that `plays' with the rules of the genre and creatively adds some very ingenious twists. A prominent citizen of a small community is killed and the superstitious population are convinced that the bizarre, vicious Count Mora is responsible for this act of terror. Count Mora and his freaky daughter Luna are believed to be vampires and the village's curse. Since the victim's beautiful daughter obviously is the next target, professor Zelin sets a trap the bloodthirsty killer red-handed. Mark of the Vampire is an eccentric horror effort and definitely ahead of its time! The opening sequences are atmospherically frightening and the nightly noises still have the ability to scare you. The illogical – but extremely dared – twists near the end easily guarantee this film an honored spot in the horror annals. Please see it for yourself and you'll agree that this film is tough to review! Personally, I thought Lionel Barrymore overacts terribly….then again, the development of the film provides him with an excuse for this! I am certain about one thing, though! Bela Lugosi gives away an outstanding performance. Naturally, his role here is overshadowed by his starring in Dracula but I dare to say he's equally chilling here. Lugosi almost has no lines to say, but his grimaces speak for themselves. Check it out!!
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Bit creaky and hammy but is still an enjoyable horror from the period
bob the moo13 January 2005
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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A "Different" Kind of Vampire movie
Norm-3029 May 1999
There are some excellent scenes in this film -- when the Prof peers in the window & sees Carole Borland "landing" -- very surrealistic! Also, when the father & Bela are in the cemetery, motionlessly watching the people looking into the crypt -- creepy sound effects!

Also, Donald Meek is excellent as the superstitious doctor.

What's wrong with it is that you hardly ever see Lugosi, and Lionell Barrymore REALLY hams it up in the "Van Helsing" role! He moves & speaks so slowly, so deliberately, that one would think that HE'S of the Undead, too! He tries for a dramatic effect, but fails miserably.

You may notice the (bullet) wound in Bela's temple; the original storyline had him killed for having an incestuous relationship with his daughter (Borland). That whole scenerio was cut from the film.

Even so, this a VERY "odd" & interesting "vampire" film; must see!

Norm had Lug
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Spooky Good Fun
Gafke10 April 2004
This is a nice re-working of the lost classic "London After Midnight" which

tragically perished in a fire, never to return. More a murder mystery than a horror story, "Mark of the Vampire" still has some very nice creepy moments and a fog-drenched atmosphere throughout that will make the twist ending


Irena Borotyn's father has been found dead, his body drained of blood through two small holes found upon his neck. Is it indeed the work of vampires, as the rumors through the isolated countryside insist? Or is it something else? A year after the murder, the dead man is seen wandering through the night in the

company of two hideous ghouls. Strange things begin to happen and Irena

seems to be the new target. Can Lionel Barrymore save her and solve the

mystery once and for all?

There are some absolutely gorgeous shots in this film featuring giant spider

webs, furry arachnids skittering up walls, wolves howling mournfully in the

distance and the silent presence of both Bela Lugosi and Carol Borland,

walking in perfect sync together through the misty graveyards and the crumbling castle ruins, he in his cape and she in her burial shroud. There's also a GREAT scene where Miss Borland descends from above on giant bat wings! The plot

doesn't always make a lot of sense, and at films end you discover you've been duped, but this is one of those films that should be watched for its atmosphere alone. It's so saturated with shadows and cobwebs and creepy Gothic splendor that it makes even the sunniest day feel like Halloween night.

Highly recommended.
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Ed4 January 2003
I haven't seen this film in quite a while but I found it very satisfying. I take issue with those especially who disliked the ending which I found absolutely right. Yes, Lionel gives his usual scenery-chewing performance as the "Von Helsing" character but it seems appropriate here.

*** out of ****
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(spoilers) ending is not all that original
funkyfry20 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Despite his reputation as a bit of an outsider and even possibly a sadist around Hollywood (he was once described as the only director to surpass Von Stroheim in the area of the bizarre and immoral), Tod Browning was one of the most important film-makers of the silent era and made 2 of the most recognizable films of the early sound era, the original "Dracula" starring Bela Lugosi and the infamous "Freaks." Unfortunately his later effort "Mark of the Vampire" displays the same poor ability in terms of directing dialogue as those 2 films but only a little of their unique visual appeal. Perhaps just as he was emboldened by the success of "Dracula" to make the controversial "Freaks", the failure of that self-same film may have humbled him enough to offer MGM a relatively weak imitation of "Dracula", which he had made for Universal (Lon Chaney having abandoned the project, probably signaling the fact that his loyalty to Irving Thalberg was far greater than any such associations with Browning himself). Other than the creation of a prime female vampire archetype in Luna Mora (Carol Borland) and some nice atmosphere, this film has little that's original to offer.

In fact according to David Skaal's excellent biography on Browning, this film was done as a re-make of his 1927 Lon Chaney vehicle "London After Midnight" in an effort to avoid possible litigation from Universal. After all, who could claim that "Mark" was an imitation of "Dracula" when both films obviously owed so much to "Midnight"? The most unfortunate aspect of this decision however is the fact that they retained the cheat ending of "Midnight" where everything is explained away as a conspiracy instead of a supernatural event. Despite the comments of dozens of IMDb users, this was NOT a "highly original" ending and it would not have been hugely surprising to 1930s audiences even if it ironically is surprising today for those who haven't seen many American thrillers from the 1920s (or perhaps a few episodes of Hanna/Barbera's "Scooby Doo"). But watch a few movies by Roland West and you'll see what I mean; this kind of thing was so normal that for the 20s audience the question wasn't so much whether the monsters would end up to be criminals in disguise but rather the basic mystery element of which character was the one wearing the disguise (we also see this device in serials from the 1940s including "The Crimson Ghost"). In "London After Midnight" the surprise was pretty good – it turned out that the vampire and the inspector were actually the same person (both parts being performed of course by the incomparable Lon Chaney)! This probably surprised audiences since they would have expected the vampire to be one of the criminals, and not the police. In this version we have the much less interesting premise that the vampire (Bela Lugosi) is an actor hired by the inspector (Lionel Atwill) and the vampire-hunter (Lionel Barrymore) to trick the real criminals into revealing themselves.

The only really fun aspect to this is the brief comic scene with Lugosi and Borland packing their trunks at the very end of the film. Obviously it makes most horror fans feel "cheated" – but what they should try to understand is that there was a dual purpose to these types of endings. First, they did act as a kind of buffer between the supernatural elements and the audience, which might have either religious objections to the material or might feel too sophisticated to believe in the material. In that sense, it could be considered a cheat. But at the same time these kind of devices enabled the audience to enter into a kind of proxy world of moral equivocation – imagine the possibility that any character in the story, from the leading man down to his little old mother, could be "the monster." In the sense by which the audience identifies with the characters in the story, this provides juicy opportunities for the viewer to identify with various possible incarnations of the monster and to experience vicariously the amorality of the adventure. I hope I've given those horror fans who felt "cheated" another perspective on the original appeal of this kind of suspense story.

As far as the meat of the film itself, like I said above there are some creepy atmospheric effects including weird music and sound effects and the wonderful image of Luna's transfiguration from bat to woman. I think the scene where she "attacks" the ingénue was probably pretty racy and fetishistic for its time. Lugosi and Borland look nice and creepy, and are kept mostly silent. You might wish Lionel Barrymore would follow their example a little more because even though his style is appropriate for this film there is just too much of him compared to everyone else and it unbalances the film. I think it was supposed to be more humorous than it ends up being, and Barrymore can do the "eccentric" humor (for example in "You Can't Take it With You") so here the blame lies mostly with Browning for the lifeless performance of Barrymore and others. I did enjoy the work of some of the character actors, especially Donald Meek.

One final note – I read through the comments and a lot of people are complaining that Lugosi isn't in the film very much even though he's "top billed". In the print I saw however Lugosi appeared in the second row of the supporting credits and it was Barrymore who was the top-billed star. I suspect these people need to pay more attention to the credits of the film and less to the credits printed on the video box. Of course Lugosi is a bigger star than Barrymore nowadays, but it's completely ridiculous to hold the film to account for an exaggeration made by whoever packaged and sold the video copies currently circulating.
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A minor gem among classic horror films...clever ending...
Neil Doyle18 August 2006
All of the essential ingredients for a good vampire film are here, but I guessed who the culprit was from the beginning (and even his motive), but I wasn't prepared for the nice twist in the surprise ending.

The story about a vampire stalking people in a picturesque village is handsomely photographed by none other than James Wong Howe and the settings rival any of those used in the original "Dracula" film. This time ELIZABETH ALLAN is the frightened heroine while BELA LUGOSI and LIONEL ATWILL fill their standard horror film assignments in fine form.

LIONEL BARRYMORE is Prof. Zelin and seems to have great difficulty in standing on two feet rather than being in a wheel-chair, so early was he inflicted with his rheumatism that forced him to be seated in most of his films by the end of the '30s, notably as Dr. Gillespie in those Dr. Kildare films. He's obviously a replacement for the usual Van Helsing character assigned to solve the vampire mysteries.

With a running time of 1 hr. 1 min. there's no time to be bored. A neat little thriller with good supporting roles from character actors like Jessie Ralph and Donald Meek--with all of the histrionics strictly in broad '30s horror style. One of Tod Browning's better films.

The atmospheric sets and shadowy but crisp B&W photography are beyond reproach.
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Lots of fun
preppy-31 November 2002
Interesting movie of a murder taking place in a small town reportedly done by vampires (played by Bela Lugosi and Carroll Borland). Lionel Barrymore (hamming it up) shows up to help destroy the vampires.

OK, the ending is horrible (everything is explained away) and the film seems a bit creaky at times but I still enjoyed it. It's very fast (60 minutes) and there are some very eerie scenes in it involving Count Mora and his daughter. The scenes of them traveling around an old castle with some VERY interesting noises on the soundtrack are beautifully atmospheric and quite eerie--even by today's standards. Bela Lugosi and Carroll Borland seem to be having lots of fun in the roles. The rest of the cast is pretty good--especially Lionel Barrymore who really chews the scenery here. Even director Tod Browning does an OK job! I've never liked his other movies (with the exception of "Freaks") but his direction is pretty good here. So, I find it an enjoyable old-fashioned horror movie. I'm giving it an 8. I'd give it a 10 but that lousy ending really hurts.
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Quite enjoyable.
Scott LeBrun20 December 2012
This is an ingenious, delicious film that offers a different take on the vampire tale. It's a remake of director Tod Brownings' 1927 silent "London After Midnight", one of the most sought after "lost" films of all time. It features a number of the trappings of the vampire sub genre, and establishes a respectfully sinister atmosphere. When a man named Sir Karell (Holmes Herbert) is found murdered, an investigation is launched by intrepid Inspector Neumann (Lionel Atwill, who's in fine huffy form). When it's believed that the death was a murder perpetrated by a vampire, an occult expert (a hilarious, delightful Lionel Barrymore) is called in to provide all the advice they could need. And for a while, this plays out the way we would expect a vampire movie TO play out. Our blood suckers are played by Bela Lugosi, once again cast in a perfect sort of role for him, and Carroll Borland, whose striking, long haired Luna can easily be seen as a forerunner to characters like Vampira and Morticia Addams. The cast is rounded out with people such as Elizabeth Allan as the distraught Irena, Henry Wadsworth as her suitor, Jean Hersholt as her uncle, the worried Baron, Donald Meek as Dr. Doskill, Ivan F. Simpson as Jan the butler, and comedy relief provider Leila Bennett as Maria the maid. One can't help but notice just how short this movie is - it runs barely over an hour - and in fact approximately 20 minutes of footage was cut after the preview. Unfortunately, because Brownings' previous film "Freaks" had flopped upon its release, he wasn't able to object to these studio decisions. Still, even in the movies' current incarnation, it works pretty well, with decent special effects and typically solid work by cinematographer James Wong Howe. But the reason why this should be so entertaining is the unexpected ending, which does a fine job of pulling the rug out from under us and turning into a different type of film altogether. Even the actors weren't informed of the big twist ending until it was time to shoot it, which does nothing but add to the effectiveness of their performances. Overall, "Mark of the Vampire" is great fun and a worthy viewing for any fan of old school black & white genre entertainment. Eight out of 10.
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Come Here to My Boudoir!
JLRMovieReviews13 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Bela Lugosi is not Dracula here, but is just as creepy if not creepier in this tale of a murder of a respected man of the community. Lionel Barrymore is sent in to investigate the murder, in which it is made to look like it was the work of a vampire. There have been sightings of a male and a female counterpart of the walking dead. They are appropriately disturbing looking, and the special effects and images here are surprisingly real and impressive. The production values here are what really make the film work and sets the mood perfectly. Barrymore tries to act clever and thorough in thought, but instead comes across as a ham, overacting with his lines. Overall, this relatively forgotten film needs to discovered by vampire film buffs of today. I think they'll be pleasantly surprised.
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A Brilliant But Erratic Horror Classic with a Hoodwink Ending
zardoz-136 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Black and white horror movies from the 1930s and 1940s are probably more eerie than scary. If you're going to enjoy either "Dracula" (1931) or "Frankenstein" (1931), you have to forget about gravity, embrace phantasmagoria, and suspend your considerable disbelief to accommodate raging implausibility. We know cinematic vampires have no counterpart in the real world unless they lurk in the deranged mind of a maniac. Nevertheless, by acknowledging film's fantasy elements, we adapt ourselves to the elaborate conventions of the genre. Vampire movies since "Nosferatu" have dictated that exposure to sunlight is catastrophic for vampires, despite the allowances that Bram Stoker made for his vampire in the 1897 novel "Dracula." The literary Dracula could tread the streets during the day. As a day-walker, he had to sacrifice his full, nocturnal supernatural powers. When F.W. Murnau turned the novel "Dracula" into his 1922 silent epic "Nosferatu," he paid the Stoker estate nothing, and the widow Stoker sued him for copyright infringement. The damage, however, had been done and has only been undone in recent films, such as "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and the "Blade" franchise. When "Dracula" director Tod Browning made "Mark of the Vampire," he maintained without reservation the same rules that governed the eponymous vampire in "Dracula." Vampires walk only by night. Anybody that a vampire bites turns into a vampire. Vampires must sleep in their coffins in their native soil. During the first 30 minutes of "Mark of the Vampire," the habits and life of a vampire are held up to rigid scrutiny. Unfortunately, the rest of the plot doesn't stand up to scrutiny as this lavishly produced MGM film enters its final ten minutes.

"Mark of the Vampire" qualifies as classic Hollywood hokum which without warning turns the tables on you the same way that "Shutter Island" did with a gimmick ending. The first 50 minutes of this creepy whodunit, set in a remote village in the mountains outside of Prague, are thoroughly engrossing. The last ten minutes, however, may frustrate horror fans who may feel, with some justification, that they have been cheated. Reportedly, Browning didn't let the cast know about the hoodwink ending until he distributed the last pages of the screenplay to them. Mind you, this bit of cinematic lore overlooks the blatant fact that Browning was remaking his very own 1927 silent film "London After Midnight" with Lon Chaney, Sr. All you have to do is compare a synopsis of "London After Midnight" with "Mark of the Vampire," and the resemblance should be conspicuous. Nevertheless, many horror fanatics hate Browning for this anti-climactic ending. They contend that it undercuts the first 50 minutes and takes advantage of its audience's latent obsession with necrophilia.


Undeniably, "Mark of the Vampire" bristles with contrivance from fade-in to fade-out. If the horrific elements do not enshrine it as a classic, then the highly irregular methods that the authorities employ to unmask the murderer should endear it to cult whodunit aficionados. Actually, aside from an early clue about the killer's identity, the clever culprit remains at large and opaque. Indeed, the actor who plays the villain was cast against type so audiences wouldn't be inclined to suspect him. Remember, the Prague police have not been able to capture the individual. Now, they are staking their last chance on vampires to flush the killer out of hiding. Meanwhile, no courtroom, judge, or jury would ever convict the dastard who poisoned the nobleman in "Mark of the Vampire." The murder of Sir Karell Borotyn (Holmes Herbert of "International Squadron"), provides the catalyst for the bizarre sting that the authorities launch to catch the elusive criminal. The murderer arranges it so the patriarch's demise appears to be the work of vampires! You see, Sir Karell was found slumped over his desk with two puncture marks in his neck. The local physician, Dr. Doskil (Donald Meek of "Stagecoach"), rules that a vampire drained every drop of Sir Karell's blood from his body. Everybody in the area believes that Count Mora (Bela Lugosi of "Dracula") fed on poor Sir Karell. Police Inspector Neumann (Lionel Atwill of "Mystery in the Wax Museum") is the exception.

The dubious Neumann demands Dr. Doskil attribute Sir Karell's death to natural instead of supernatural causes, when he completes the death certificate. A coroner's inquiry later concludes Sir Karell died from causes unknown. The judge dismisses all superstitious beliefs with nothing but contempt. Not long afterward, Count Mora's daughter Luna (Carol Borland of "Flash Gordon") attacks Irena (Elizabeth Allen of "Ace of Aces"), and the authorities are called in to investigate. Prague Inspector Neumann handles the investigation, and he summons a Van Helsing-type occult specialist, Professor Zelen (Lionel Barrymore of "Key Largo"), to protect Sir Karell's adult daughter Irena from future vampire attacks. Naturally, Baron Otto von Zinden (Jean Hersholt of "The Mask of Fu Manchu") wants to assist Neumann with his investigation. Neumann believes that everybody could have murdered Sir Karell. He points out that Sir Karell's death prompted the estate to appoint him as Irena's guardian and executor of the estate.

The censorship history of "Mark of the Vampire" exerted a powerful effect on the film. Initially, the Browning film ran 80 minutes, but MGM cut it down to 60 minutes for release. The entire back story about Count Mora and his incestuous relationship with his own daughter as well as his suicide from a bullet to the right temple have been eliminated. Remember, Count Mora has a gunshot wound to the head that is never explained. Later, Poland banned "Mark of the Vampire" and Hungary sliced up several scenes. The cinematography of James Wong Howe sets this movie aside as a classic. Black and white has never looked so spooky. The cast is fantastic, especially Barrymore as Count Mora's nemesis. Bela Lugosi doesn't utter a line until the end and it is hilarious. The cat inside the suit of armor scene is fantastic!
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Worth a look on TV, a minor classic
capaldini13 October 2003
Luckily, I saw this on cable instead of buying the tape. Among the interesting effects on the soundtrack, I liked the "moaning" voices -- sort of like a small church choir after eating too many hash brownies. I can understand why the ending bothered some people, but the brief closing scene shows that Lugosi had a sense of humor. I bet he was quite the charmer as a younger actor in European films.
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A bit of trivia
jknoppow25 April 2002
Count Mora has a scar on his temple. It's a gunshot wound acquired when after having incest with his daughter he committed suicide. That was meant to explain to the audiences how he and his daughter became vampires. But censors demanded the deletion of references to both the incest and the suicide.
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Mark, Shadow
tedg12 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Sometimes a genre overripens then gets reborn with a new fold. Such was the case with the recent "Shadow of the Vampire," which I thought was one of the most intelligent movies of 2000. It features two layers: the actual reality of the vampire and a "new" layer showing the overarching film reality. Naturally, one bleeds into and drives the other.

That's not quite what have with this, 65 years earlier and surely embedded in the genesis of the genre. But this is close, so close.

Tod Browning is surely one of the filmmakers worth watching. In this edition, he already stretches the bizarre world he lives in, one of freaks and madmen. This time, his mad scientist is a surrogate of himself, part obsessed and part creator of the world of obsession.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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Spooky vampire movie with a headache-inducing story that leads to a full migraine by the final reel
J. Spurlin1 February 2007
Sir Karell has been murdered, and the tiny pinpoint wounds on his neck suggest that a vampire did it. Baron Otto (Jean Hersholt) and Dr. Doskil (Donald Meek) are convinced of it, while the police inspector (Lionel Atwill) from Prague refuses to believe. Prof. Zelin (Lionel Barrymore), who specializes in the occult, must convince him that a dead count and his wife (Bela Lugosi and Carroll Borland) walk among the living and threaten both Karell's daughter and her fiancé (Elizabeth Allan and Henry Wadsworth), along with everyone else in the frightened village. At least that's how it all seems …

I had been warned by every review of this film that the ending is bad. But I had no idea. I won't spoil it—you wouldn't believe me even if I told you. I'll just say the last ten minutes will turn you into a Tex Avery character, with your mouth dropping to the floor and your eyes bulging to cover your head as the sound of a car horn expresses your shock.

What disappoints me is that none of the movie is all that good. I mean, yeah, it has a lot of spooky, fog-drenched scenes; it has rats, bats, opossums, spiders, cobwebs, dust; there are empty tombs, corpses playing organs, vampires walking through graveyards. In short, there's all the stuff that pleases fans of Universal Horror movies—and by extension, the MGM horror movies that resemble them.

The deal-breaker is the storytelling, which is a headache long before the thumpingly stupid last reel. The plot moves forward in irritating jerks; characters react to strange events like no human beings that ever existed; people are stupid or incompetent just because the plot needs them to be. And I wanted to do a little grave robbing of my own and throttle the ghost of the eminently slappable Leila Bennett, who plays the screaming maid.

The director Tod Browning steals, and expands upon, a lot of the effects he used for "Dracula" at Universal. Lugosi even returns to play a very Dracula-like character. But it all comes to naught. Reportedly the flaws are due to studio interference. Whatever the reason, this movie is very, very bad. And by the end, we can add about 3,672 more "very"s.
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Very lame rip-off of the 1931 version of Dracula
zetes23 October 2001
Nothing to see here. MGM hired Bela Lugosi and Tod Browning to reproduce their 1931 hit, Dracula, except they subtract a lot of Lugosi's role. We get a copy of the vampire's famous descent of the staircase, with the infamous armadillos replaced by a possum (although I kind of remember there being a possum in Dracula, too, but I could be wrong). The production, direction, and acting is all at least a step below Dracula (which I don't think is a film that holds up all that well anymore anyways; I gave it a 7/10). Lugosi, in the few scenes he's in, is on autopilot, as well as Tod Browning.

The only thing of interest is the ending, which, well, isn't all that convincing anyway and feels like a cop-out. It's short, so if you are a classic horror fan, this might be worth seeing, at least as a curio. It's worth is still little. 5/10.
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Only for dedicated movie buffs
artroraback31 October 2002
Mark of the Vampire is based upon London After Midnight and is an unusual vampire tale. There are genuinely creepy moments but the ending ruins the story. Lionel Barrymore and Bela Lugosi can't save this movie and we can only recommend this to dedicated movie buffs. The ending is disappointing and inexplicable.
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Actors are the real attraction in this odd remake of London After Midnight
dbborroughs20 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Sir Karell Borotyn is found dead, drained of blood. Most people suspect a vampire however the policeman investigating the murder will have none of it. However year later, with no solution in sight, it would appear that the dead Sir Borotyn has returned and is in the sway of long dead vampire and his daughter.

Let me put in on the table, this movie is a mess. Its nowhere near as exciting as I make it out to be. Much of the mess is due to this film being cut down from about 75 or 80 minutes to 60. The studio balked at some questionable allusions (incest even among vampires is a no no) and some other bits of plot, so they were hacked out with the result that a good portion of the film seems to be leading up to something that never comes. Yes there is a resolution but there are still a good many bits that just sort of hang out in space (like some unexplained bullet holes). Its not a bad movie, its just not a very good one.

The real reason to see this film is the cast. Lugosi is the name draw, but his role is mostly silent and he isn't really in it all that much. He's fine doing the typical vampire thing, but its mostly window dressing. The real stars are Lionel Barrymore as a professor brought in by Lionel Atwill as the pair trying to solve the murder and prevent the vampires from taking any more victims. They are a real treat to see in action (even if Barrymore seems to be in another movie at times with his mannered performance.) Adding to the fun is a sterling supporting cast including Jean Hersholt (you know that weird humanitarian award at the Oscars every year? This is the guy it was named for) and Donald Meek as the local doctor who insists that vampires are scientific fact.

This is a movie to watch if you're a fan of the actors or are having a multiple movie night on the TV. Its okay by itself, but it really needs to have a reason to be seen other than as an hour long time killer.
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Typical vampire movie, but with a twisted ending.
Michael O'Keefe26 October 1999
Vampire movies were the thing in the '30s. This one is really no different from the others in plot. Director Tod Browning and his writers Guy Endore and Berny Schubert leaves us with a mocking sort of light ending out of character with the whole movie. An outstanding cast brings recognition to this flick; Lionel Barrymore, Jean Hersholt, Elizabeth Allan, Bela Lugosi and Carroll Borland. The special effects were good for this time period; but the sound effects were even scarier. Best watched after the dark!
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One of the Most Atmospheric Horror Movies of the Golden Age
TheRedDeath3028 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
It's a real shame, to me, how undervalued this movie is in the annals of horror history. As a complete horror junkie, I frequent websites, message boards and fan cons and this movie is rarely mentioned among the greats, which is a shame because it could be put on a par with most of Universal's classic work. I recognize, though, that the bad wrap attributed to it is mostly because of the twist ending and we'll get to that in a second.

I normally try to avoid plot outlines and especially spoilers in my reviews, but it seems almost necessary with this movie and if you've read anything about it, that twist has probably been spoiled for you already. The movie begins with the death of a count, which is attributed to a local vampire and his daughter, played by Bela Lugosi and Caroll Borland. These same vampires begin to set their sights on the count's daughter, who has just been married. It is, eventually, revealed that all of the supernatural goings-on are a ruse by actors to try to ensnare the real murderer into revealing himself.

Directed by Tod Browning, this movie is a remake of his lost silent feature London AFTER MIDNIGHT, which is oddly probably more well-known despite being lost forever. Browning was a genius horror director of the golden age who has created some absolute classics like Dracula and FREAKS. His marks are all over this movie, which might be one of the most atmospheric films I've ever seen. This movie just screams to be watched at midnight with all of the lights off. We get plenty of Gothic flourishes and spooky props like bats and cobwebs. There is an eerie soundtrack throughout the movie with an ever-present sound of howling from the grave. The entire movie is just permeated with this hypnotic quality. That translates to the performances of Lugosi and Borland, as well, as they silently stalk their victims through the shadows. A few scenes really stand out like the bat to vampire transformations, which are admittedly poorly done by today's standards but nonetheless enjoyable, and the coup de grace, the scene of Borland flying through the air on large bat wings, which is still pretty spectacular.

Lugosi puts on one of his better vampire performances here. He has about one line of dialog in the whole movie, but his vampire is far more feral than most of his performances. Carroll Borland steals the show, though, as his daughter. While definitely inspired by the Brides of Dracula, her look is fantastic, with pale skin, sunken dark eyes and that long hair. Her look single-handedly defined the horror queen look that would be repeated by Vampira and Morticia Addams.

The "human actors" are not to be outdone, either, as we get some classic horror royalty. Lionel Barrymore is great as the professor and hypnotist who is essentially the Van Helsing of the movie. He has this creepy quality that makes the viewer never quite sure we're really to trust him. Everyone's favorite police man, Lionel Atwill, shows up here as well to play his usual inspector.

That ending is what ruins it for a lot of folks, though, but it never did for me. Maybe it's a childhood spent rotting my brain on Scooby-Doo cartoons, but the idea of revealing the monster to be a real person in disguise seems like a common horror theme and, indeed, in almost every spooky movie leading up to the 30s, the monster was always revealed to be a hoax. It's silly, to me. We know that monsters aren't real anyways, right? So, how does it exactly ruin a sense of drama for us if that's revealed to us in a movie? Every movie we watch is make believe, but people hate this one for pulling back that curtain and saying "we were just playing".

Browning's history of silent film directing made a definite impact on his style. Really, you could watch this movie on mute and it would still be an eerie, ethereal delight sure to give enjoyment to any classic horror fan.
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