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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mark of the Vampire (1935) - Tod Browning

1927 saw London After Midnight, a movie starring Lon Chaney as a Vampire that's actually a detective in heavy disguise. This movie follows along the same path and is considered to be a remake of that long, lost, horror classic.This version stars Bela Lugosi and Lionel Berrymore, both turn in a usually decent performance that gets overshadowed by the fun and corniness that is packaged along with it.

After finding a few victims with bite marks on their necks, a rumor of a vampire starts to circulate. They instantly blame the weird ghoulish family Count Mora (Bela) and his daughter Luna (Caroll Borland) who are a bit close... if you get my drift. Apparently this caused a rift with the studio, MGM, which cut the movie down to a very shortened version. The movie is chock full of campy humor some of which still carries over  for today's audiences. 

No doubt this movie had really heavy cuts. Some ideas just seem to pop out of nowhere. Certain things don't make sense but you can still piece it together pretty easily. Left in tact however, is the twist ending that I feel is just shy of breaking the fourth wall. It turns out that the "Vampires" are actually just actors. It's a comedic scene that leaves many critics to believe this isn't actually a horror movie at all. I would have to disagree. 

This movie is horror through and through. One of the best I have seen up to this point. Visually, Mark of the Vampire is quite brilliant. The shots of Bela running at you in full death makeup is magnificent. The scenes of the 'undead' and the makeup used on them is incredible for such and early venture. Tod Browning always delivers quality work and this no omission. His characters are always lively and drive the story along with such incredible tact and professionalism. It's as if his actors have been in talkies for the past twenty years. 

Tod Browning is definitely among the greats of this time. He and James Whale are the true heavyweights turning in spectacular tales that stick with you through time. I profoundly advocate any of their movies for your enjoyment. I haven't been disappointed yet. 

Did you watch me? I gave all of me. I was greater than any real vampire!

  • The film was banned in Poland, and censors in Hungary excised the screams, shots of bats and other gruesome scenes.
  • There was a remarkable degree of difficulty in shooting the scene where Carroll Borland flies like a bat. A jockey initially doubled for her but became nauseated on the wires. A bar was placed down the back of her dress running from her neck to her ankles, but it took some time for her and the handlers to get this right. The single shot took three weeks to work (all of this for a scene where Borland is supposed to be an actress pretending to be flying).
  • When director Tod Browning revealed late in the filming process that the plot dictated that the vampires were really just actors pretending to be vampires, he met with much resistance from the cast and crew. Nobody was more incensed than Bela Lugosi, who pleaded with Browning to let him play a real vampire.



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