“We must all die. There's nothing terrible about death, but to live on after death, a soul earth-bound, a vampire.”
Nowadays it seems that people forget that vampires were supposed to be scary monsters. Vampires used to be dead, pale white people who roamed the nights looking for blood to drink. They would terrorize small towns and villages. Vampires were not out looking for sex and able to live on just synthetic blood like True Blood. And neither were they annoying as hell emo teenagers in love with an even more annoying human teenager like Twilight. The original 1931 Dracula with Bela Lugosi as the undead character and Universal set the tone for how vampires would be shown for the next several decades. Lugosi repeated his most famous character to a certain extent excellent made Mark of the Vampire in 1935.
A small town is terribly superstitious. The people are so superstitious that no one travels by night. A count has been murdered. He has been found with bite marks on his neck. The doctor tells the inspector Neumann (Lionel Atwill) that such things as vampire bites have been recorded. Inspector Neumann refuses to believe this vampires are not real. The count left behind a daughter named Irene and is now under the care of her guardian Baron Otto (Jean Hersholt). Neumann is suspicious of Otto because now that the count is dead Otto will come into a lot of money.
The doctor is still convinced the count was killed by a vampire. He is completely drained of blood. The official cause of death stated by the coroner is unknown. Irene’s fiancée Fedor comes stumbling into the house. He was somewhere for what felt to him like hours but he was able to get away. Now the whole house is in an uproar over this incident.
That night there are two vampires, male and female, in the graveyard behind the house. They manage to lure Irene out to them. They do not do anything too bad to her. A Professor (Lionel Barrymore) has come to the house. He looks at Irene and confirms the doctor’s theory about vampires is correct. He mentions the legend of the castle and the name of a Count Moro. The Professor thinks that Count Mora is the vampire. He explains to Otto and Neumann that the victims of the vampire become vampires themselves. Against the orders of the Professor Irene comes downstairs. She says she heard someone calling to her and it the voice sounded like her father’s. Inspector Neumann and Otto go to the graveyard to see if Irene’s father is still in his coffin. The body was not there. The audience is show the count standing next to the vampire Mora.
The butler and the maid are told to put a plant called bat thorn around the house. The window at the end of the hall was open. They see a bat come in through the window then turn into a man. They identify him as Count Mora.
Nuemann thinks the Professor is crazy. He takes Otto to Count Mora’s old castle. They see Mora with Irene’s father and they also see Mora’s female companion ,Luna, turn from a bat into a human. The Professor tells both men that vampires can only be killed in their original burial places by the clean swipe of their head and placing bat thorn in the wound. As the Professor and Otto go to Fedor. He was in a deep sleep. The Professor looks at the bite marks on his neck and he finds they are deep. Irene has had a curse placed upon her. The Professor says the curse needs to be broken. The Professor, Otto, and Neumann go to the old castle to find the vampire lair.
Irene had been terrified the night everything with her father and being lured by the vampire happened. The next night she is not afraid and goes with Luna when she is lured from her room. Luna was just about Irene in the neck when Fedor breaks the window and chases after her.
I dare not give away the ending to this film. It has two of the best twists I have seen in a film, especially older films.
You will see that the vampire of Count Mora has a bullet hole in head that is never explained. Originally there had been a back story of how Count Mora became a vampire but of course it was considered too much was taken out of the film. According to IMDB Count Mora was supposed to have had an incestuous relationship with his daughter Luna. MGM took twenty minutes out of the film that dealt with that storyline and director Todd Browning could not object to these cuts because his previous film Freaks had failed so badly.
I really enjoyed Mark of the Vampire. The story held my attention and kept me on my toes. The twist ending really does leave you thinking about everything that happened and how they could happen. Mark of the Vampire is available on DVD in a park of “horror” films. Unfortunately it is not available in full or in parts on Youtube. I watch Mark of the Vampire through TCM. If the channel airs the film again definitely watch it.