Saturday, October 08, 2005

Dracula Wannabees, Part 1

There are several movies that might qualify as "Dracula Wannabees."
The first is the lost "London After Midnight" (1927) starring Lon Chaney, Sr. I'm putting it in the wannabee department since it doesn't quite pull off the "vampire thing."
(Left to right, Conrad Nagel, Polly Moran,
Henry B. Walthall, and Bela Lugosi)
The only available version is a "still restoration" that Turner Classic Movies cable channel did in 2003 using photographs taken during the actual filming of the movie. If these pictures in the restoration are any indication then "London After Midnight" is a tremendous loss to movie lovers.
(Lon Chaney, Jr., ironically made "Son of Dracula" in 1943.)
(Carol Borland, Holmes Herbert, [unknown], and Bela Lugosi)
You can see the story, albeit in altered form, in "Mark of the Vampire" 1935). Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer had turned to the earlier "London . . ." when they wanted to reunited Tod Browning and Bela Lugosi from Universal's "Dracula" and didn't want to be caught with charges of plagiarising the 1931 movie.
"Mark . . ." looks to be as top-notch a production as "London . . ." which you would expect with the likes of Lionel Barrymore, Jean Hersholt and Lionel Atwill among others.
[Spoiler]
The story is good and keeps you riveted until you get to the ending.
In "London After Midnight," Lon Chaney turns out to be both the Scotland Yard investigator and the vampire wannabee where Bela Lugosi is the (surprise!) vampire-on-the-make and Lionel Atwill is the policeman.
Miss Maven enjoys the movies and rates them gottahaves. She just wonders how so many people could believe all the trouble just a few people went to just to catch the bad guy.
Then Miss Maven remembers that Orson Welles did it for real and with just a radio play in his "War of the Worlds" four years after "Mark of the Vampire."
You go, Orson!
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