Mark of the Vampire (1935)

“There is no more foul or relentless enemy of man in the occult world than this dead-alive creature, spewed up from the grave.”

Mark of the Vampire Poster

Synopsis:
When her father (Holmes Herbert) is murdered, a young woman (Elizabeth Allen) relies upon an occult expert (Lionel Barrymore) and a detective (Lionel Atwill) to help solve the mystery, which may involve two local vampires (Bela Lugosi and Carroll Borland).

Genres:

Review:
DVD Savant accurately refers to this outing by cult director Tod Browning as a “confused mess”, labeling it “some stylish scenes in search of a movie”. The film’s notorious storyline twist makes no sense at all, especially given that the suspenseful denouement could have easily occurred without the major plot upheaval; to avoid spoilers, I won’t say more here, though this severely limits my ability to say much more about the film. With that said, James Wong Howe’s cinematography is stunningly atmospheric throughout, and the “haunted” castle inhabited by Lugosi and Borland (the latter a clear inspiration for Vampira) is genuinely spooky. Mark of the Vampire is ultimately a visual treat that deserves a much better vehicle. Worth a look, but be prepared for narrative disappointment.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Effectively spooky sets
    Mark of the Vampire Sets
  • Some memorably haunting imagery
    Mark of the Vampire Imagery
  • James Wong Howe’s cinematography
    Mark of the Vampire Cinematography

Must See?
No, though most film fanatics (and fans of Tod Browning) will likely be curious to check out this follow-up to Dracula (1931). Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Mark of the Vampire (1935)”

  1. Not a must.

    In a sense, it’s hard to properly assess a film that has reportedly had 15-20 (apparently crucial) minutes cut from it prior to release. But the mere hour left to us is only somewhat admirable at best. I don’t personally find it wildly confusing; still, it doesn’t hold together well on its own terms and, no doubt, the question “Why…?” will begin in your head at various times.

    Though, indeed, elegantly shot by Wong Howe, the bulk of the extant film is such standard horror issue that we grow rather impatient for a unique thrust, and Browning’s work comes off as merely competent handling of ho-hum material. (One can see an occasional glimmer of what might have been, however: for example, Browning creates a stunning, brief visual of Borland descending from the sky, her large wings spread wide, as she touches down while transforming from bat to one of the undead.)

    The cast does what they can to earn their paychecks. It’s true – the film does look great; too bad it’s more or less asleep in its coffin.

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