Hollywood loves remakes right now. Never mind why. They do. Given that, here is the first in a series of suggestions offered up into the aether. I claim no credit. Anyone who wants to use any of these ideas has my absolute, unfettered permission to do so with no requirements whatsoever.
Mark of the Vampire (1935) was a remake of the lost silent Lon Chaney vehicle London After Midnight. While no print of the latter exists, the screenplay as well as lots of production stills do, which allows us some idea of differences between the two. Essentially, the story is a murder mystery. A wealthy man with a pretty young daughter is murdered. Years later, a nearby mansion/castle becomes the abode of a man and woman who seem to be vampires. More, the murdered man is seen in their company! It all turns out to be a scheme by the police inspector to trick the murderer into revealing himself. Very old school Mission: Impossible when you think about it.
Many fans of this film note that in this instance director Tod Browning hinted what he might have done a few years earlier with Dracula. Bela Lugosi again played a vampire, but with an overall much stronger supporting cast. The atmosphere permeated things with much greater effect, and the humor (of which there is still too much) certainly better integrated into the story.
So why a remake? Well, the film retains a lot of lost opportunities, some no doubt the result of censorship. For one thing, locals insist the vampires are Count Mora and his daughter. At this point you may well ask “Who?” The movie never explains, but a back story did exist. A mighty scandalous one. Count Mora it seems was a nobleman who committed incest with his daughter Luna, then killed himself (hence Lugosi’s bullet wound in the temple). He then preyed upon Luna transforming her into one of the undead. Fairly racy stuff even now, much less in 1935! But maybe omitting that allowed them to get another element past the keepers of the Code? Whereas in Dracula and most other vampire films of the era the lead vampire was male, in this film Count Mora never bites anyone. Yet here Luna bites the ingenue lead, who in turn finds herself mesmerized and going into the vampire’s arms again and again.
Seems like a new version might highlight all this instead of glossing over it. Put in the whole incest story (which matches up with folklore, not incidentally) . In fact, it could even come out as a counterpoint to Irena’s grief over her father’s suicide–as well as the real murderer’s motives (her father’s friend who has lecherous designs on the girl half his age). People could go on and on about the legend of Count Mora and his daughter Luna, especially if (as in London After Midnight) Irena’s father’s death was made to look like a suicide. Perhaps the local priest insisted he not receive burial in unconsecrated ground!
Likewise do a twist on the twist at the end. Clearly the biggest complaint about Mark of the Vampire then and now remains how it all turns out to be smoke and mirrors. Nothing but actors and special effects. But–what if the Inspector’s actors arrived at the Mora Castle only to become victims of the real vampires? Maybe they accidentally awoke the Count and Luna while setting up their props and the like? How much more interesting if Irena really does feel the bite of Luna, really does fall under her spell? Under this scenario, the two might have a lot in common. One wonders what might actually happen in the climax?
While we’re at it, consider possible cast members. Essentially we have:
- Sir Karol (murder victim)
- Irena (his daughter)
- Baron (Sir Karol’s murderer and Irena’s guardian)
- Inspector Newmann (the police inspector out to catch the Baron)
- Count Mora (the vampire)
- Luna (his daughter, also a vampire)
- Professor (expert of vampires who helps “set the stage”)
Who would you like to see in these roles? Perhaps Ian McClellan and Angelina Jolie as Count Mora and Luna? Who for Irena? Keira Knightly? Amanda Seifried? Emma Watson? Patrick Steward at the Van Helsing-esque Professor? David Suchet as the quietly ruthless and lecherous Baron?
For that matter, what changes would you make if a remake of Mark of the Vampire were put into your hands?