Mark of the Vampire (MGM, R-1972). Photo (8" X 10").
Starring Bela Lugosi, Lionel Barrymore, Elizabeth Allan, Lionel Atwill, Jean Hersholt, and Michael Visaroff. Directed by Tod Browning.
Mark of the Vampire is Tod Browning's remake of his own 1927 thriller London After Midnight, which unfortunately no longer exists. The sudden appearance of ghostly vampires in a remote mittel-European community is seemingly tied in with an old, unsolved murder case. Police inspector Neumann (Lionel Atwill) and occult expert Prof. Zelen (Lionel Barrymore) investigate, with the full cooperation of leading citizen Baron Otto (Jean Hersholt). For awhile, it looks as though the vampires -- Count Mora (Bela Lugosi) and his chalky-faced daughter Luna (Carroll Borland) -- will continue to hold the community in thrall, but the truth behind their mysterious activities is revealed midway through the film, whereupon the story concentrates on identifying the well-concealed murderer. In the original London After Midnight, Lon Chaney played both Count Mora and Prof. Zelen, which should provide a clue as to the film's incredible outcome.
Director Tod Browning's 1935 murder mystery Mark of the Vampire is essentially a lesser remake of two of his earlier films: 1927's Lon Chaney silent London After Midnight and 1931's Dracula with Bela Lugosi. Originally titled The Vampires of Prague, the film is most notable for its stunning conclusion, which reveals that the various murders being blamed on the supernatural have been committed by a more natural source. The bloodsucker father and daughter, played by Lugosi and Carol Borland, are given minimal screen time, but provide the film's best chills and appear to be the inspiration for Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space. This picture originally insinuated that Lugosi's vampire had an incestuous affair with Borland that resulted in a murder-suicide, leaving them both undead. This explains the mysterious bullet wound on the side of Lugosi's head throughout the film. However, MGM was wary after Browning's Freaks spawned great controversy, so cuts were made to ensure that Mark of the Vampire was safe for public consumption. The barely feature-length production looks rather stagey and the special effects are typical of the time (bats on strings, fake rats, etc.), but Browning's atmospheric style and the great cast, including Lionel Barrymore, Elizabeth Allan, and Lionel Atwill, makes this good entertainment. Cinematographer James Wong Howe shot test footage of Rita Hayworth for Borland's part.