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Mark of the Vampire

USA 1935
produced by
Tod Browning, E.J. Mannix for MGM
directed by Tod Browning
starring Lionel Barrymore, Elizabeth Allan, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, Jean Hersholt, Henry Wadsworth, Donald Meek, Ivan F. Simpson, Franklyn Ardell, Leila Bennett, June Gittelson, Carroll Borland, Holmes Herbert, Michael Visaroff, Guy Bellis, Clare Verdara
screenplay by Guy Endore, Bernard Schubert, based on the story The Hypnotist by Tod Browning

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Ok, I can only try to make this one comprehensible, and if I fail, it's not my fault for a change:

Sir Karell Borotyn (Holmes Herbert) is murdered in some Czech village, and everybody, even the local Doctor (Donald Meek), thinks it's the work of vampires, a popular superstition in the region - much to the dismay of investigating inspector Neumann (Lionel Atwill) of course, who can't pin a murder on supernatural beings, now can he? So he calls in a scientist from Prague, Professor Zelen (Lionel Barrymore), who he hopes will shed a different light on the investigations - but far from it, Professor Zelen actually backs the vampire story and claims that a certain Count Mora (Bela Lugosi) and his daughter Luna (Caroll Borland) are actually living in the now abandoned mansion of the dead man. On top of that, it seems that Sir Borodyn's daughter Irena (Elizabeth Allan), now living at her guardian Baron Otto's (Jean Hersholt) place, is now under attack from Mora and daughter, who even have brought her father back to (vampiric) life. Eventually, the professor has persuaded the inspector to believe his vampire tales, and the two of them together with Baron Otto go vampire hunting - and suddenly they put the Baron under hypnosis, because you know, the whole vampire set-up was just an elaborate ploy to lure Baron Otto, chief suspect in the murder of Sir Borotyn, back to the deceased's castle, where he is now hypnotized into recreating what happened in the murder night - and it turns out that after a quarrel about Borotyn's daughter, whom the Baron wanted to marry but whom her father intended to give to another man (Henry Wadsworth), the Baron poisoned Borotyn, then sucked out all of his blood to make him look like a vampire victim, and used local superstition to divert suspicion from himself. When all of this is properly recreated to everyone's satisfaction, the Baron is arrested, the Professor turns out to be a police inspector. And the vampires? They were mere actors ...

 

With all respect to the silent classic this movie was based on, London After Midnight starring Lon Chaney and also directed by Tod Browning, I can't help but state that Mark of the Vampire is probably the worst written horror film of the whole black and white era - and yes, that specifically includes the many ill-conceived clunkers that e.g. Monogram tried to sell us as shockers in the 1940's.

There is nothing, I repeat, nothing in this film that's even remotely believable, from the set-up (a man trying to blame a murder on vampires and almost succceeding - in the 1930's, as it is at one point pointed out) to the elaborate ploy (lifted straight out of Browning's Dracula) to lure the Baron back to the castle, to the pay-off via hypnotism (why not just hypnotize him to tell the truth in the first place?). On top of that, Tod Browning's direction is utterly uninspired this time around. Sure, he creates a certain creepy atmosphere the old-fashioned way, but he was capable of so much more, just compare his scare tactics here to the first half of Dracula, and you'll see what I mean. And speaking of Dracula: Bela Lugosi, the main attraction of this film, as it was his first appearance as a vampire in four years, does little more than a tired recreation of the role that made him famous, and he is not helped by the script either that not only underuses him but doesn't give him any dialogue until the film's final punchline. And to once again compare this film to London After Midnight: Several of the plot elements have been changed or moved around - including splitting Lon Chaney's character into two (Lionel Barrymore and Bela Lugosi) - here, and always for the worse.

In all, pretty much a trainwreck of a movie, one all vintage horror lovers will want to see that's for sure, and many will even call a classic just because of the cast and the fact that it was produced by a big studio - but boy, this film really sucks.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.

 

There's No Such Thing as Zombies
starring
Luana Ribeira, Rudy Barrow and Rami Hilmi
special appearances by
Debra Lamb and Lynn Lowry

 

directed by
Eddie Bammeke

written by
Michael Haberfelner

produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke

 

now streaming at

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
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shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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