director Tod Browning
For Bela Lugosi and Tod Browning, the distance from vamp to camp was a mere four years. In 1931, they made movie history with Dracula, which for all his life was Lugosi’s image and character forever combined. By 1935, we’ve got this “talkie” re-make of Browning’s famed “lost film” London After Midnight (1927), this time with Lugosi as the vampire in question, with a straight-up goth-tacular daughter. But the icons evoked in Dracula are already played for evocative thrills but also a certain level of parody.
It starts like a vampire movie, and it’s got some lovely campy effects and the vampire’s daughter Luna (Carroll Borland), a spook that could have launched a thousand goths. The real star of the film is Lionel Barrymore, who is swimmingly fun as the doctor of the occult, Professor Zelen.
Only the film turns out to not really be a vampire movie. Apparently, like London After Midnight the vampire turns out to be a ruse by the police to catch a killer. In this case, the very last scene shows Lugosi and Borland hanging up their capes and announcing their schtick. Ironically, this fact seems to suggest that maybe London After Midnight might also not be the lost “classic” as suggested, but rather iconic and interesting because of Lon Chaney’s amazing make-up crafted for it. An image is worth a thousand speculations and projections?
Still, it has its charms.