Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Mark of the Vampire The Mask of Fu Manchu|
Directors: Tod Browning, Charles Vidor, King Vidor
This is a double feature. Two films are on one disc. Extras include commentary for each film.
More historically interesting than genuinely satisfying
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 12/03/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The Mask of Fu Manchu, like most Fu Manchu films, has always been a bit of a disappointment to me, especially in light of the potential the character and stories offered. Yet in its uncut, restored and very politically incorrect version recently released on DVD it plays considerably better, if only because the stereotyping adds a historical interest to the piece. Curiously there's very little belittling of Chinese beyond the odd line like "They have ways in the East..." Mostly it's Karloff's Fu belittling the Westerners and promising to send them to their Christian heaven - after he and his perverted daughter Myrna Loy have had their way with them. For Karloff that means feeding salt water to a parched man tied under an endlessly ringing bell while to Loy that means whipping the best looking hostages before getting down and dirty with them. Some dodgy English accents and bad Chinese make-up highlight the unreality, but there's also some striking production design and the film at least taps into the sado-masochistic attraction/revulsion that is such a key part of Sax Rohmer's original novels.
Mark of the Vampire may have lavish MGM production values and Bela Lugosi reprising his vampire shtick, but it's all too typical hackwork from Tod Browning. Unlike his Dracula, this moves at a lightning pace - too fast, in fact, for us to ever get involved in the characters or plot or for it to conjure up any atmosphere - but still manages to be dull and uninvolving, with the typical 30s trick ending just adding to the general air of disappointment. The main remaining point of interest is Lionel Barrymore's performance, which seems to have served as a template for every vocal inflection and mannerism Jack Nicholson has inflicted on unfortunate audiences for the past quarter of a century since giving up acting for panto. Still, it does include a historical audio commentary and a trailer featuring Bela Lugosi summoning the audience to their local movie house that's far more fun than the movie itself.
Mark of the Vampire/The Mask of Fu Manchu
Wayne Jefferies | UK | 09/22/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Mark of the Vampire
This 1935 Universal movie directed by Tod Browning is one that i've been curious about for a long time, particularly after having seen various classic stills of Bela Lugosi & Carol Borland many times in various horror film books over the years.
At only 1hr long, it's a short movie which was apparently quite heavily edited, but he basic plot takes place in a village near Prague, & concerns the murder of a nobleman, who's death is believed by many of the villagers to've been caused by legendary vampires Count Morla (Lugosi) & his daughter Luna, (Borland) from the local castle. This belief is dismissed by the authorities, but after the nobleman's daughter Irena is attacked by Luna, further suspicion is cast, which is fuelled further by a local Van Helsing-esque Professor.
The great strength of this movie lies in it's iconic imagery, particularly evident in 'Luna' who was quite clearly the model for later 'daughters of darkness' from 'Vampira' to 'Morticia'. And also for it's superb cinematography, which IMO is far superior to both Browning's 1931 Dracula, & it's spanish made companion. The scenes featuring Borland look really good. Even today they're fabulously eerie. The first scene with Lugosi, where Count Morla & Luna are walking silently, almost as if hynotised, through the ancient ruins of the castle are very remeniscent of 'Dracula', complete with cobwebs, insects, & bats & so on, & it's further enhanced by some great spooky sound effects. This effect is further augmented in the follwing scenes where Luna encounters travellers in a horse drawn carriage on her way to attack Irena. Borland looks the very epitome of the gothic vampiress. In the light of the Addams Family, i can see why many people would find it totally corny, but i think it really works. Even though we see several examples of Lugosi's famous malevolent leer during their scenes together, it's the ghostly, hypnotic Luna that i'm drawn to when they're on screen. There's another effective moment later when we see Morla transform from a bat out the swirling mist, before advancing menacingly on the servants. Later, when the Professor & the police inspector investigate the castle, backed by some highly atmospheric organ music which is incorporated into the scene, the film pre-empts Stephen Somers by 70yrs, when we see Luna descend from above with giant bat like wings, like the 3 brides of Dracula in 'Van Helsing'. Obviously, there was no CGI in 1935, but cleverly photograhed as it is, as a fairly long shot, it looks pretty damn good for it's time! Luna even hisses like Christopher Lee's Dracula in one scene!
But despite all the supernatural ambiance that makes this a recommended film for anyone interested in the vampire movie genre, IMO the plot resolution at the end, seriously spoils everything that makes this film so watchable.......
The whole thing turns out to be an elaborate sham set up by the Inspector & the Professor to catch the murderer. In the final scene we even Lugosi & Borland as the hired actors that were employed by the police inspector.
This 'rational' explanation really degrades the film for me. It goes even further than Universal's 'Dracula's Daughter' (see the 'Dracula Movies' thread) in debunking the possibility that vampires might exist. It annoys me because it's so patronizing & condescending to the viewer. Surely even in 1935, Hollywood didn't really imagine that people actually really believed in vampires did it? It makes the film such a cop out for those who enjoy the escapism that the fantasy provides. I had no idea that the film was going to end this way, & i was disappointed!
However, despite such an anaemic ending, i liked the film a lot for the other reasons that i've outlined, but all things considered, it does make it difficult to rate. I would've given it a 7.5/10, but it has to lose at least a point for the ending, so i ultimately award 6.5/10.
The Mask of Fu Manchu
'The Mask of Fu Manchu'. (1932)
Somewhere beneath the sands of the Gobi Desert lies the Orient's greatest treasure - the grave & relics of Genghis Khan. Ancient legend says that whoever possesses his sword, scepter & mask will lead the East in the conquest of the world. The insidious Dr. Fu Manchu, Asia's most evil criminal genius, does not know the location of the hoard, but he knows how to set a cunning trap to lure specialists from the British Museum who do know the secret. With his wicked daughter by his side, he plans to stop at nothing in his quest for world domination, once Genghis' mask becomes The Mask of Fu Manchu.
Sax Rhomer's Fu Manchu stories are very much fantasy/adventure rather than fantasy/horror, & the character was brought to life for me by Christopher Lee, who starred as Fu Manchu is a series of films during the 60's, which i remember watching when i was a kid. I bought the films on dvd a few years ago & i was delighted that they still stood up as good entertainment.
This is a film that i was previously unaware of, & i probably wouldnt've bought it on it's own, but as it's part of a double bill with 'Mark of the Vampire', i thought of it as a bonus, especially as it stars my favourite actor from the Universal films; Boris Karloff as Fu Manchu.
Karloff's not bad as Fu Manchu, but IMO even he pales into relative insignificance at the side of Christopher Lee's portrayal. He doesn't have the starch, ruthless quality that Lee brings to the role, & doesn't look the part in the same way that Lee with his slightly devilish appearance does. Karloff's portrayal is ok, but it leans more towards an Emporer Ming type of villian, & edges into the panto-esque just that little bit too much for my taste.
It's still a watchable film even though it does come across a bit old fashioned, but it's not something i'll probably watch many times in the future. There's nothing really wrong with it, but it's no more than average entertainment. Ok for a lazy Sunday afternoon, or something. 5/10
One good, one awful
Douglas M | 08/17/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD set consists of 2 horror films from MGM who were not famous for their products in this genre.
The first is "The Mark of the Vampire", a remake of a lost Lon Chaney film called "London after Midnight". If ever a film was butchered between preview and release, this is it. It was cut from 80 to 60 minutes and there are so many holes in the continuity that it becomes a farcical mess. To top it off, it switches from horror to detective story in the blink of an absurd eye and the resolution is nonsense. Lionel Barrymore is the star and he gives a rich display of familiar mannerisms. When he was good, he was great, but when he was bad, ugh... The DVD comes with a rotten commentary with 2 enthusiasts vying for who can interrupt the other the most. They speculate endlessly about the film and provide very little facts except the obvious. At least we have consistency - poor film, poor comments. The best bit in fact, is the trailer, which promises so much more than is delivered. Poor Bela Lugosi has more dialogue in the trailer than he does in the film!
"The Mask of Fu Manchu" is a masterful pre code production full of racist slurs, perverted sex and masochistic cruelties. Boris Karloff plays Manchu and is a model of inscrutable evil. Myrna Loy provides solid support as his perverted daughter. Best of all, this print has been cut from the original negative so the film survives in its original version with all cuts, dialogue or otherwise, restored in a pristine print. A masterful commentary is included and the commentator is able to tell us about the cuts, the production problems and many first hand comments from the cast about their involvement. He does a superb job.
The production values of both films are excellent for these are MGM products. The set is only OK value because one film is as poor as the other is good."
Atmosphere Matches Universal Studio's
Buster49 | Utica, NY | 10/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I found MGM's "Mark of the Vampire" to be a terrific film of its genre and loaded with atmosphere to rival any of the great Universal films of that early to mid 1930s era. Bela Lugosi and Carol Borland were superb as the vampires. Yes Lionel Barrymore chewed the scenery but it was all part of the fun of this highly entertaining film. If you enjoy the genre, and haven't seen this movie, get it and watch it before someone unwittingly blabs the outcome especially since Turner Classic Movie airs it from time to time, making it easily available for viewing."