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Mark of the Vampire(1935)

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Mark of the Vampire (1935)

After the enormous success of Dracula (1931), director Tod Browning was inclined to return to the vampire film. But making another vampire picture was no simple matter. Universal Studios owned the rights to the Dracula franchise and Browning had since left Universal for MGM. He maneuvered around this obstacle by remaking a vampire chiller he had shot in 1927: London After Midnight. Rather than depict the ghoul as he had in the silent movie (as a wide-eyed, razor-toothed hunched-over fiend in a tall beaver hat), he recruited Bela Lugosi and had him play the role in full Dracula regalia.

More whodunit than horror film, Mark of the Vampire (1935) belongs to the "Old Dark House" genre, in which a dilapidated manor hosts an array of seemingly supernatural threats. In keeping with the ODH formula, a beautiful maiden (Elizabeth Allan) is the target of the unnatural goings-on, and a clever detective (Lionel Barrymore) must root out the criminal culprit behind the hauntings. Intending to one-up his own definitive vampire film, Browning loaded Mark of the Vampire with horror movie iconography: hypnotic trances, flapping bats, spooky graveyards, moaning organs, cobwebs thick as curtains -- and bound it all together with bits of obscure Eastern European folklore about the proper care and destruction of the undead. But the film's crowning achievement is the elaborately twisted ending that Browning springs on the viewer like a diabolical jack-in-the-box.

Producer: E.J. Mannix
Director: Tod Browning
Screenplay: Guy Endore, Bernard Schubert
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Cinematography: James Wong Howe
Costume Design: Adrian
Film Editing: Ben Lewis
Original Music: Herbert Stothart, Edward Ward
Cast: Lionel Barrymore (Prof. Zelen), Bela Lugosi (Count Mora), Elizabeth Allan (Irena Borotyn), Lionel Atwill (Inspector Neumann), Carroll Borland (Luna Mora), Jean Hersholt (Baron Otto von Zinden), Donald Meek (Dr. Doskil), Henry Wadsworth (Fedor Vincente).
BW-61m. Closed captioning.

by Bret Wood

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Mark of the Vampire (1935)

Throughout production, Mark of the Vampire was known as Vampires of Prague.

For the role of Luna, the flying vampire girl, MGM screen tested numerous starlets -- including a young Rita Hayworth -- before settling upon the otherworldly Carroll Borland.

For her flying scene, Borland was rigged with mechanical wings. She later recalled, "Large bat wings were attached to my back and I was supposed to flap them up and down...I had a bar that went from the back of my neck to my ankles. Sometimes they would lower the tail wires first and I'd end up landing on my nose. Sometimes they did well and I landed on my stomach...Then, when they had just about got it right, Mr. Browning decided that he wanted me to fly in a different direction. So we had to wait while the construction team tore out a wall and rehung the track."

We only see Luna flying in one brief scene of Mark of the Vampire, but the film's theatrical trailer includes additional footage of her flapping about the haunted castle.

Mark of the Vampire was photographed by legendary cinematographer James Wong Howe.

Browning filled the decrepit Borotyn manor with a variety of vermin. In addition to the usual bats, spiders and rats, he expanded the haunted-house menagerie to include cockroaches, opossums and a peculiar "shaggy, wolf-like beast" that haunts the cemetery (and can be briefly glimpsed in one scene). The original screenplay called for lizards, but none are evidenced in the finished film.

When asked about working with Browning, Borland replied, "He was a great big negative. 'Carroll, I want you to walk in front of Lugosi. You're going to be holding a candle, so look out for your hair.' 'What am I supposed to do?' 'Walk over and down the steps and walk out.' That was it. He simply expected Lugosi and me to be vampires. Everybody asks me, 'What was it like working with Tod Browning?' The answer is, I didn't work with Tod Browning. Tod Browning told me to go out and go down the steps!"

Browning reportedly withheld the final pages of the screenplay from the actors, so they would not know the details of the surprise ending until it was time to film.

DELETED SCENES:

After the "old crone" (Jessie Ralph) is spooked by a bat in the cemetery in the opening sequence, she returns to her "tumbledown, weather-beaten shack" in a state of superstitious hysteria. There, she harangues and abuses her "thin...albino daughter" for letting her cauldron of herbs burn too long. Although deleted from the final cut of the film, the albino waif would return in Browning's following film, The Devil-Doll (1936).

The bloody wound on Count Mora's (Bela Lugosi) temple is never explained in the film. The screenplay features a scene in which a villager tells the coroner that, 300 years previously, Count Mora strangled his own daughter (Luna) and then shot himself in the head.

In one deleted scene, Professor Zelin (Barrymore) examines a sleeping bat... that might be a vampire. "He straightens up and brings his head on a level with the bat -- stands there, studying it... Slowly the little beady eyes of the bat open -- and stare at the Professor... He stares back at the bat... its eyes blazing... The pupils of his eyes dilate -- then grow filmy. Slowly his head moves forward -- nearer the bat... The Professor's face draws slowly closer and closer -- as if drawn by some hypnotic power... Professor: 'I wish I knew! Could it be!'"

Sources:
The Films of Bela Lugosi by Richard Bojarski
The Immortal Count: The Life and Films of Bela Lugosi by Arthur Lennig
Lugosi: The Man Behind the Cape by Robert Cremer
Hollywood Cameramen by Charles Higham
The Barrymores: The Royal Family in Hollywood by James Kotsilibas-Davis
The Horror People by John Brosnan

Compiled by Bret Wood

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Mark of the Vampire (1935)

Browning's other "Old Dark House" films include The Eyes of Mystery (1918), London After Midnight (1927) -- neither of which survives today -- and his first sound film The Thirteenth Chair (1929).

Prior to shooting Mark of the Vampire, Browning was collaborating with William Faulkner on a drama entitled Ruby (aka Dance Hall Daisy) that takes place on the Louisiana bayou. Both were removed from the project, which eventually reached the screen as Lazy River (1934).

To insure the secrecy of the climax, MGM forbade theater ushers to seat anyone during the last fifteen minutes of the picture.

It took three actors to play the roles that had been played by only one in London After Midnight. In Mark of the Vampire, Lugosi portrayed the creeping vampire, Lionel Atwill played the investigating officer, and Lionel Barrymore is the specialist in hypnosis and the supernatural. In London After Midnight, they were all played by Lon Chaney.

Lionel Atwill, who stars as Inspector Neumann, was a popular leading man in horror films of the period, in Doctor X (1932), The Vampire Bat (1933), Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), and Murders in the Zoo (1933). Atwill was embroiled in several Hollywood scandals over the course of his career. In his notoriously inflammatory book Hollywood Babylon II, Kenneth Anger devotes a remarkable eighteen pages to Atwill's proclivities and peccadilloes.

The innkeeper who discourages travelers from continuing their nocturnal journey was played by Michael Visaroff, who played virtually the same role in Dracula.

Jean Hersholt, who portrays the neighbor and guardian of the menaced Irene Borotyn (Allan), had a long career as a character actor (including Erich von Stroheim's Greed [1924]). He helped established the Motion Picture Relief Fund in 1939 (to benefit industry employees who had fallen on hard times). This eventually begat the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital (a retirement home for Hollywood professionals). He also served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for several years. Today, Hersholt is best known for the honorary Academy Award that bears his name, given to an "individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry."

Upon the film's release, it was angrily attacked by a medical doctor: "There is a good deal of criticism of obscene and vulgar movies. Many of them are bad enough. But a dozen of the worst obscene pictures cannot equal the damage that is done by such films as The Mark of the Vampire [sic]. "I do not refer to the senselessness of the picture. I do not even refer to the effect in spreading and fostering the most obnoxious superstitions. I refer to the terrible effect that it has on the mental and nervous systems of not only unstable, but even normal men, women and children."I am not speaking in the abstract; I am basing myself on facts. Several people have come to my notice who, after seeing that horrible picture, suffered nervous shock, were attacked with insomnia, and those who did fall asleep were tortured by the most horrible nightmares."In my opinion, it is a crime to produce and to present such films. We must guard not only our people's morals -- we must be as careful with their physical and mental health." -- William J. Robinson, M.D., printed in The New York Times.

The Production Code Administration had few problems with Mark of the Vampire, but other censor boards required certain cuts, including: the scene in which Otto pulls at Sir Karell's neck in preparation for puncturing the skin with scissors (Pennsylvania); a shot of "vermin crawling over girl's robe -- and rats across path" (Alberta, Canada); the image of a "Roman Catholic cross on the spire of a church" (Austria); and footage of "methods showing how murder was committed" (England). Hungary, Poland and Italy rejected the film altogether, though Hungary later permitted the film to be shown, after the wholesale removal of "all the 'horror' shots [including] all screams throughout the picture... shots of bats and spiders, and the more gruesome shots of the vampire."

The hollow-eyed gypsy woman in the opening sequence was portrayed by Louise Emmons, a character actress who frequently appeared (without credit) as an old hag in Hollywood. She was a favorite of Browning's and can also be glimpsed in his films The Blackbird (1926), The Unknown (1927), West of Zanzibar (1928). Mark of the Vampire was her last screen appearance.

Sources:
The Films of Bela Lugosi by Richard Bojarski
The Immortal Count: The Life and Films of Bela Lugosi by Arthur Lennig
Lugosi: The Man Behind the Cape by Robert Cremer
Hollywood Cameramen by Charles Higham
The Barrymores: The Royal Family in Hollywood by James Kotsilibas-Davis
The Horror People by John Brosnan

Compiled by Bret Wood

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Mark of the Vampire (1935)

"Horror being a precious commodity in the cinema and a potent lure to the box-office, it is not altogether surprising this week to discover that two Broadway houses -- the Mayfair and the Rialto -- have avidly laid claims to the same picture. Its name is Mark of the Vampire and it manages, through use of every device seen in Dracula and one or two besides, to lay a sound foundation for childish nightmares... For all its inconsistencies, Mark of the Vampire should catch the beholder's attention and hold it, through chills and thrills, right up to the moment when the mystery of the vampires of Visoka is solved. Like most good ghost stories, it's a lot of fun, even though you don't believe a word of it."
The New York Times

"While horror is on, it's done with a capital 'H'... It's all well-produced, well-acted, well-directed by that old master of the screaming thrill Tod Browning."
Hollywood Reporter

"The daddy of all the thrill pictures. It is the horror film to end all horror films."
Los Angeles Times

"Beginning where most thrill pictures leave off, killing entertainment is ladled out in good measure in this one."
Motion Picture Daily

"Chiller that turns out to be a first class mystery full of suspense."
Film Daily

"This is a picture which should give the 'horror' fans all they want. It's full of shrieks and screams, gasps and shudders. The stuff commonly supposed to change red blood to ice water starts right at the beginning; a little slowly, perhaps, as the explanatory groundwork is being laid. When the film really gets down to cases, attempting to demonstrate how completely it can scare folks with devilish melodrama, the shivers and shakes should come thick and fast. Approaching the climax, weird and eerie suspense supercharging all action and reaction, audiences are likely to be nervously perched on chair edges."
Motion Picture Herald

Compiled by Bret Wood

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teaser Mark of the Vampire (1935)

Film archivists and scholars are still out there trying to track down Tod Browning's 1927 silent thriller, London After Midnight, a film long reputed to be "lost," but until that one shows up in someone's basement in Budapest or an equally unlikely place, you should check out Mark of the Vampire - Browning's almost scene for scene remake from 1935. Set in a small Czechoslovakian village, Mark of the Vampire teams up Lionel Barrymore (as a professor of demonology) and Lionel Atwill (as a police inspector) for a murder investigation which appears to be the work of vampires. The scene of the crime is an eerie castle previously owned by the late Count Mora (Bela Lugosi), who was rumored to have murdered his own daughter (Carroll Borland) before committing suicide. Ever since that tragedy, the villagers have noticed strange sights and sounds in the vicinity of the Count's estate, leading everyone to suspect that the place is haunted.

The working title for Mark of the Vampire was Vampires of Prague but it's obvious from the first scene that we're deep in Transylvania territory and not the capitol of the Czech Republic. The influence of Browning's previous ode to the undead - Dracula (1931) - is felt in every scene, from the vampire mythology to the cobweb-covered crypts to the use of Bela Lugosi as the suspected bloodsucker. But Browning also adds some new twists like the introduction of a female vampire named Luna. Intimations of an incestuous relationship between Luna and Count Mora, however, proved to be too much for MGM, which had the references removed from the script. There is also that surprise ending which some horror fans feel negates the supernatural qualities of the film. What most everyone agrees on, however, is the haunting, black and white cinematography of James Wong Howe, which glides over gypsy encampments, foggy graveyards, and rat-infested tombs, as if airborne. The makeup effects are equally superb and you won't soon forget Carroll Borland's startling first appearance in the film or her strange pallid face in the moonlight.

Bill Tuttle, the makeup artist on the film, later admitted in The Films of Bela Lugosi by Richard Bojarski, "The crew and I didn't like to work for director Tod Browning. We would try to escape being assigned to one of his productions because he would overwork us until we were ready to drop from exhaustion...he was ruthless. He was determined to get everything he could on film. If the crew didn't do something right, Browning would grumble: 'Mr. Chaney would have done it better.' He was hard to please. I remember he gave the special effects men a hard time because they weren't working the mechanical bats properly. Though he didn't drive his actors as hard, he gave Lionel Barrymore a difficult time during a scene. Lugosi's performance, however, satisfied Browning."

Lugosi was also greatly admired by his co-star, a young Berkeley drama student named Carroll Borland who was making her film debut. Borland had actually met Lugosi a few years earlier when she showed him a Dracula sequel she had written entitled Countess Dracula. Lugosi was impressed and eventually recruited her for his leading lady in a California touring company of Dracula. By sheer coincidence, Borland later answered a casting call ad for Mark of the Vampire in the newspaper without being aware of Lugosi's involvement in it. Once the studio heads saw her screen test which showcased her unique, synchronized movements as the vampire - gestures which were identical to Lugosi's - she won the role without anyone realizing she had been Lugosi's protege.

During the filming of Mark of the Vampire, an amusing incident involving Lugosi and Borland occurred off the set. According to Arthur Lennig in The Count: The Live and Films of Bela "Dracula" Lugosi: "At the end of each working day Bela's wife, Lillian, would pick them up in the car. They would merely change their clothes and ride home without removing their makeup. Lugosi had a large bullet hole on the side of his temple; and Carroll had her hair pasted down. Driving down Sunset Boulevard, Bela in the front seat and Carroll in the back, the car stopped at a light. Bela turned to say something to her, and she leaned forward. Next to them, driving a truck full of chickens, was a farmer. He took one look at the two vampires leaning close to each other, with their eye shadow, bullet hole, pasted-down hair, and white faces, and did the most perfect double take Carroll had ever seen and promptly drove up on the sidewalk!"

Producer: E.J. Mannix
Director: Tod Browning
Screenplay: Guy Endore, Bernard Schubert
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Cinematography: James Wong Howe
Costume Design: Adrian
Film Editing: Ben Lewis
Original Music: Herbert Stothart, Edward Ward
Cast: Lionel Barrymore (Prof. Zelen), Bela Lugosi (Count Mora), Elizabeth Allan (Irena Borotyn), Lionel Atwill (Inspector Neumann), Carroll Borland (Luna Mora), Jean Hersholt (Baron Otto von Zinden), Donald Meek (Dr. Doskil), Henry Wadsworth (Fedor Vincente).
BW-61m. Closed captioning.

by Jeff Stafford

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Mark of the Vampire (1935)

"Fancy, Ronny! Vampires in the twentieth century!"
"Ripping! They'll never believe that at the club."

"Superstitious twaddle!"

"Forget your absurd superstitions. This is 1934!"

"There is no more foul or relentless enemy of man in the occult world than this dead alive creature spewed up from the grave!"

"We must all die. There is nothing terrible about death. But -- to live on after death -- a soul earthbound -- a vampire. You don't wish any such fate for your beloved."

"Their heads must be severed with one clean stroke and a sprig of batthorn placed within the gaping wound!"

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

Compiled by Bret Wood

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