Mark of the Vampire is remake of the 1927 movie London After Midnight (now considered to be a lost film). Tod Browning directed both movies and although London After Midnight was a silent movie, things had changed a lot in the eight years between the two movies, so Mark of the Vampire has the benefit of sound.
The movie is set in a village community where the residents are very superstitious and live in fear of the vampire Count Mora (Bela Lugosi) and his daughter Luna, who is also a vampire.
There are, of course, a few members of the community who consider the idea of vampires to be absurd, but when a local dignitary, Sir Karell Borotyn, is found slumped over his desk, dead, with two pinpricks in his neck, even the most level-headed of them finds it hard to come up with a rational explanation. Sir Karrell’s close friend Baron Otto has no doubt a vampire is responsible and the local doctor is in agreement, but Prague police officer, Inspector Neumann, refuses to accept the idea. With so much confusion about Sir Karell’s death, and with Sir Karell’s daughter in imminent danger of being the next victim, expert help is needed; and who better to help than Professor Zelin?
Zelin is very knowledgeable about the occult and about vampires in particular, but even with his expert help keeping Irena Borotyn safe proves to be very difficult indeed.
Mark of the Vampire is just an hour long, but it is generally believed the movie was originally fifteen minutes longer, and MGM cut out much of the material because they considered it to be unsuitable. It is, however, hard to say for sure what the real problem was with the cut material. Some sources claim the cut scenes were considered to be too comical, but it is also rumored that the cut material referred to an incestuous relationship between the Count and his daughter, and certain on screen evidence makes it seem likely that this was the real reason behind at least some of the cuts.
All through the movie Count Mora has a bloody mark on his right temple. It looks suspiciously like a bullet wound and there seems no reasonable explanation as to why a vampire should be walking around with a hole in his head. Until, that is, you become aware that it is rumored that, in the original scrip, Count Mora killed himself because of his incestuous relationship with Luna.
The most controversial thing about Mark of the Vampire is not the reason for the cut material. It is the way the movie ends. Mark of the Vampire begins as a horror movie and, with plenty of drifting fog and flying bats, it is a good fit for the genre. Lugosi is, as always, the epitome of all things vampire and it has to be said that Carol Borland was very well cast as Luna. She remains silent throughout most of the movie, but presents an intimidating on screen presence. The scenes where Luna is shown peering in through the windows are particularly chilling.
However, in the last few minutes of the movie there is a complete about face and the viewer realizes that they have not been watching a horror movie at all, but a murder mystery. This is a very disappointing way to end the movie and I was left feeling like I had been slapped in the face. From what I have read many horror fans feel the same way and even Bela Lugosi stated he found the ending ludicrous.
Ivan F. Simpson