Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Mark of the Vampire (1935)


Mark of the Vampire (1935) also known as Vampires of Prague, directed by Tod Browning and was essentially a remake of Browning’s earlier silent film London After Midnight (1927), which featured had Lon Chaney.  This 1935 retelling starred Lionel Barrymore, Elizabeth Allan, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, Jean Hersholt and Carol Borland.
Despite the financial fiasco of Freaks (1932), (the film was actually banned in the United States until 1963), MGM was more than willing to back Browning’s Mark of the Vampire (1935). The horror genre had proven financially successful for Universal and RKO,  and MGM was eager to get their  
share of the market. Browning on the other hand saw the film as an opportunity to vindicate his previous failure with Freaks (1932) and perhaps gain back some of the prestige that the film had cost him.
Mark of the Vampire (1935) is another one of Browning’s Freudian inspired melodramas, involving murder, vampirism and incestuous relationships. It is also incorporates one of the first known examples of the 'cat scare', in which there is a strong buildup of tension followed by a scare from a harmless cat which was a forerunner to the "Lewton Bus”.

 Lionel Barrymore who plays Professor Zelen, an expert on the occult and vampires, and Lionel Atwill who plays the police inspector, carry the bulk of the film.  In fact Bela Lugosi had more dialogue in the trailer than in the final film. Apparently Lugosi, still riding on the success of Dracula (1931), was hired for the publicity his name would bring to the film rather than his acting abilities.

Carroll Borland who played Luna in the film, has been accused by some film historians of exaggerating her relationship/friendship with Bela Lugosi. Of Lugosi she once said;

"Let me admit with no apology that to me Dracula is Bela Lugosi, and Lugosi is Dracula. There is no separation of the two. Many have donned his nocturnal cloak, and some, like Christopher Lee, have presented most creditable representations of the great undead Count - but can never be Dracula. If not for Technicolor, I could say they are only pale imitations."

The film was cut from its original 75 minutes down to 61 minutes by the studio. It is reported that this was due to incestuous overtones between Count Mora (played by Lugosi) and his daughter Luna (played Carol Borland). In the original uncut script it is explained that Count Mora’s head wound was a result of a murder suicide brought on by the incestuous relationship. However with those scenes cut and as a result there is no satisfactory explanation as to why Lugosi’s character has a bullet wound to the head.

Director Tod Browning deliberately kept the last scenes of the film a secret because he wanted authenticity from his actors. The actors believed that they were making a conventional horror movie, and were totally unaware of the twist-ending until the last few days of shooting. When Bela Lugosi discovered the deception, he reportedly begged Browning to change the ending to allow him and Carroll Borland to be real vampires.

Mark of the Vampire (1935) was released on April 26, 1935. The film was banned in Sweden and in Poland, and censors in Hungary removed the screams and shots of bats. Yet many American viewers were disappointed in the climax of the film when they learned that the vampires were actually actors hired by the police to help trap a murderer. There are some horror fans who debate whether or not Mark of the Vampire (1935) should be considered a horror film at all. Mark of the Vampire (1935) is one of Tod Browning’s better films and is a favorite with many of his fans. The film is noted for its haunting scenes and artistic camerawork, horror film are not Mark of the Vampire (1935) is certainly a film worth watching.

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