Mark of the Vampire (1935)

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.”

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, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Bela Lugosi Films
  • Detectives and Private Eyes
  • Horror Films
  • Lionel Atwill Films
  • Lionel Barrymore Films
  • Murder Mystery
  • Old Dark House
  • Tod Browning Films
  • Vampires

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
  • Some memorably haunting imagery
  • James Wong Howe’s 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.


2 thoughts on “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.

  2. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    The big plot twist doesn’t make any sense and if you go back and watch the film again with it in mind it’s even more obvious. But, despite this it’s a well-produced, well made film and the production design, performances and stunning cinematography carry across the finish line. I first saw this at school in the ’70s when I lived in the USA; it was projected from 16mm if memory serves and it scared us kids to death!

    A remake of the sadly lost London After Midnight (1927) from the same director and it’s missing that films iconic makeup for the monster. Not a must see film but enjoyable none the less.

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