Mark of the Vampire (1935) can easily be considered one of the “lost” horror films of the 1930s. Although it is not quite as memorable as Dracula and Frankenstein, it certainly deserves much more attention than it has ever received.
Mark of the Vampire is set in a European town where the peasants still believe in vampires. Count Mora (Bela Lugosi) and his daughter Luna (Carroll Borland), the two local vampires, are blamed after Sir Karell Borotyn is found dead with two tiny wounds on his throat. The police inspector and a local doctor call in Professor Zelen (Lionel Barrymore) to help solve the case. However, although several other people are repeatedly attacked by the Count and his daughter, it soon becomes apparent that Sir Borotyn was, in fact, murdered by a human being.
Bela Lugosi is, of course, marvelous and Carroll Borland is perhaps the creepiest female vampire ever seen on film. Mark of the Vampire also captures a particularly fine performance by Lionel Barrymore. In fact, this movie will make you wish that Barrymore had been given a chance to play Van Helsing in one of the many Dracula films.
Mark of the Vampire is also significant to horror fans and movie historians from the standpoint that it is a “semi-remake” of the lost Lon Chaney Sr. film, London After Midnight. Elements in both films are quite similar and they were both directed by Tod Browning. Mark of the Vampire gives us at least a blurry view of a film that, perhaps, may never be found.
The movie’s running time is just over sixty minutes: a rather short time even for the 1930s. Originally, Mark of the Vampire was eighty minutes long. The extra twenty minutes told the story of Luna and Count Mora. Apparently, the two were having an incestuous relationship which ended with the Count’s suicide. Unfortunately, the Hays office pitched a fit and got out the scissors. The first twenty minutes of the film are now lost.
Consequently, the viewer, literally, enters during the middle of the movie. Although the remaining film is quite enjoyable, the plot seems rather undeveloped and there are several elements, such as Count Mora’s unexplained head wound, that simply make no sense.
Mark of the Vampire is, without a doubt, a must-see for all vampire lovers and Bela Lugosi fans. However, multiple viewings are definitely recommended! Even after watching it several times, you still may not be able to make heads or tails out of it.
Click here to watch the movie for free on YouTube.