Mark of the Vampire (1935) is a great movie. Bela Lugosi is great as always but the stand out performance of this movie is really Carroll Borland as the vampiress Luna. We will get to her in a bit but first I want to briefly touch on the four actors were have seen before. This movie is a remake of the silent London After Midnight (1927) starring Lon Chaney Sr.
Lionel Barrymore played the role of investigator Professor Zelin. We introduced Barrymore in Episode 25 – Key Largo (1948).
Lionel Atwill, the master of authority roles, played Inspector Neumann. Atwill was first covered in Episode 09 – Son of Frankenstein (1939).
Donald Meek played the role of Dr. Doskil the local medical professional. This wonderful actor was recently introduced in Episode 61 – Stagecoach (1939).
Jean Hersholt played the role of Baron Otto, the warden of Irena (Elizabeth Allan) after the death of her father Sir Karell Borotyn (Holmes Herbert). Hersholt was Danish and started making films in Germany by 1906. In 1913, he immigrated to the US. He moved to Hollywood the next year and never bothered to work on Broadway. Through the teens, he was a bit player in silent movies. By the 1920s he was getting bigger roles. Some of his earlier films include The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) and Greed (1924). His first sound film was The Climax (1930), this was followed Grand Hotel (1932), The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) with Boris Karloff and a hot young and evil Myrna Loy, and Dinner at Eight (1933). Of course, he played a creepy role in Mark of the Vampire (1935).
He was a veteran actor and was in many roles such as authority figures and doctors. He acted with Sonja Henie in her first Hollywood film One in a Million (1936), and played the grandfather in Heidi (1937) opposite Shirley Temple. He stumbled into a couple of roles where he was a country doctor in The Country Doctor (1936) and Five of a Kind (1938). He gave generously to support actors that were not as fortunate as himself. He died in 1956.
Carroll Borland played the role of vampires Luna. Before I go any further I want to say that you have most likely seen a picture of Broland from this role and may not know where it came from. Borland’s look for this movie was the inspiration for future female vampires with her waist-length raven hair, designer shroud, pale flesh, and bright lips. Lily Munster, Elvira, and the Plan 9 from Outer Space Vampira (Maila Nurmi) vampires were all modeled on her.
Borland was born in 1914 and only have five film credits and these were decades apart. It has been reported that she meet Bela Lugosi in a play where she was one of the generic victims. Based on this meet she received this role. She was great in this role but had very few speaking lines. She wrote a book on her life and it came out in 1994, a month after she died.
The story is a fairly simple tale. It begins with a group of gypsies huddling around a fire outside a church as they gather apply bat thorn. An old crone picking bat thorn in the cemetery is frightened by a bat. It switches to a tavern where the owner is advising a middle-aged couple to spend the night. The local doctor, Dr. Doskil (Donald Meek) comes flying into the tavern at full speed. The tavern owners finally drop the bomb that vampires are in the old castle and kill at night.
It is two weeks before Irena Borotyn (Elizabeth Allan) is to marry he fiancé Fedor Vincenti (Henry Wadsworth). Irena’s father Sir Karell Borotyn (Holmes Herbert) is found murdered with two puncture wounds in the neck and all of the blood drained from his body.
Dr. Doskil stands over the body of Sir Karell and tries to convince Police Inspector Neumann (Lionel Atwill) that the death is the work of vampires. Neumann is not buying it. The butler says a bat woke him before he found the body.
The now guardian of Irena, Baron Otto von Zinden (Jean Hersholt) consoles her about the death. He fiancé Fedor arrives at the murder scene as well. They have a coroner inquest and the local villages are content to blame the death on the vampires living in the old castle, Count Mora (Bela Lugosi) and his daughter Luna (Carroll Borland).
The cause of death is ruled as unknown and Irene goes to live in the house of Baron Otto. After some months the wedding plans are resumed. One morning Fedor staggers in with two marks on his neck that he got when he fell by the castle.
The Count and Luna are shown walking around the abandon castle and estate. She is followed closely by a bat. People begin seeing Luna and the hysteria increases. Luna draws Irena out onto the patio and attacks her But she is not bitten.
Inspector Neumann calls in noted vampire expert Professor Zelin (Lionel Barrymore). Zelin confirms the vampire attacks to Dr. Doskil and Baron Otto. Zellen orders bat thorn to be placed on the doors and windows.
Baron Otto finds a lease for the castle that was recently signed by Sir Karell even though he has been dead a year. Zelin explains that everyone killed by a vampire becomes one. Irena comes downstairs and says she heard her fathers voice calling her.
That night Baron Otto and Inspector Neumann go to the crypt of Sir Karell. They are followed by a bat. In the crypt, they find that Sir Karell is not in his coffin. Zellen explains the vampire problem to Fedor and tries to send him away.
As the maid and butler are spreading the bat thorn they see Count Mora in the house As he transforms from a bat. Zelin, Count Otto, and the inspector see Count Mora, Luna, and Sir Karell walking in the mist.
At the castle Sir Karell plays his organ while Count Mora and another man watch and a bat flies overhead. The inspector and Count Otto look into the window in time to see Luna descending on bat wings. That night Irena is attacked again.
The next day the Inspector, Count Otto, and Zellen go to the castle to find the vampires. They see a bat and the inspector starts blazing away at it. As they search the lower part of the castle and find The body of Sir Karell. Baron Otto tries to kill Sir Karell. Zellen explains that they must all be killed at once or the others will fall on them. The trio loses their light and get trapped in the castle.
Irena acts like she has something to tell Fedor but she says she can’t. That night Luna leads Irena to the castle as well. Fedor follows her to the castle. At the castle, Irena sees all of the vampires including her dead father. Zelin and Count Otto hear Sir Karell playing the organ. They have lost the inspector somewhere. Luna is about to bite Irena’s neck when Fedor breaks in through a window. Count Mora grabs Fedor and pushes him away.
In the basement, Zellen hypnotized Baron Otto. He tells him it is a year earlier on the night of Sir Karell’s murder. Irena goes and sits by her father who is playing the organ. Then she says she can’t do it. Her “father” says Mrs. Borotyn you must. The inspector pops up and says they actor looks so much like her father. The inspector talks her into continuing their secret plan. They also remind her that Baron Otto was behind the first attack on Fedor.
Professor Zelin is really the Chief Inspector of the Prague Police. Baron Otto reenacts the murder. It is revealed that Baron Otto wanted to marry Irena. Also, Otto spikes Karell’s medicine. Otto prepares to cut Karell’s neck with a pin knife and heats a glass to suction the blood. The inspector and Zellen arrest Otto and dehypnotize him. Irena explains to Fedor that she could tell him about the trick.
Upstairs Count Mora and Luna are packing their trunk. It turns out that they were actors from Luna’s Bat Woman Theatre, hired by the police to trap Otto. Count Mora decides to add vampires to their act.
World-Famous Short Summary – Be careful with vampires because they may be part of a troop
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Beware the moors