Night #24: 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.” (Take that, Twilight fans)

Directed By: Tod Browning

So we’re taking a trip way back, to just a couple of years after Dracula was released. And we have kind of a mash-up of genres. This is set up as a mystery first and foremost, being as we have a murder in a small Bavarian town, where the owner of a castle is murdered, drained of blood.

Rather than drag it out with our intrepid heroes discovering that the cause of death is down to vampirism, it gets called out straight away. We’re in one of those movies where the backward village folk are fully aware that ‘something’ lives among them, and so no one has any doubts as soon as the V word is used. That is, except for those men in suits, who can’t accept that. The man, keeping people down since 1935.

This is kind of a weird one, and i’m fully convinced it’s because it seems to have been edited right down to just over 60 minutes, so the convoluted plot is rendered occasionally indecipherable. Characters come and go and to be honest I kind of lost track of who was who and what exactly they were doing.  It renders the movie with an occasional fever dream effect. On the one hand you get your mystery element (Though really it’s more like a police procedural) and then you suddenly get cuts to Bela Lugosi wandering a decrepit castle and being all moody. To be fair mind if you saw the castle you’d be in a mood too.

Mark Of The Vampire is atmospheric as…what? Fuck, I suppose. I couldn’t really think of a way to end that sentence. Nevertheless, there are some gorgeous shots, and as I mentioned previously, the black & white photography along with studio backlots just scream halloween to me.

We end the movie on a twist, and one that’s basically pretty ludicrous. The story is that director Tod Browning kept the twist from the cast until the last few days of filming, much to the chagrin of some of the actors, either because they didn’t like the twist or were worried about how their performances turned out. The twist, such as it is, is that the whole movie was a ruse devised to make a man confess to the death we saw in the opening. At the end it’s revealed that Bela Lugosi isn’t playing a vampire, but is instead an actor playing one. He gets just one, winking, line at the end and supposedly hated it. I can see why, and I can also see why Browning hid the twist from the actors. If they knew it they wouldn’t give such straight performances, and it’s that which makes the rest of the movie work as well as it does.

Part of the joy of doing this is that I get to catch up on movies that I know nothing about. Sure I could’ve watched this anytime, but why would I? I don’t mean that in a negative way, but who really sits down on a Monday and decides “Oh I know, I’ll throw on Mark Of The Vampire?”. But now I get to broaden my horror knowledge a little, and that’s what the season is all about.


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