Film (1933). Majestic Pictures Inc. Produced by Phil Goldstone and Larry Darmour. Directed by Frank R Strayer. Written by Edward T Lowe. Cast includes Lionel Atwill, Melvyn Douglas, Maude Eburne, Robert Frazer, Dwight Frye and Fay Wray. 63 minutes. Black and white.
In the village of Kleinschloss somewhere in central Europe, there is a rash of mysterious deaths in which the blood is drained from victims' bodies. Two small puncture marks are found on each throat, as if made by needle-sharp teeth, leading to speculation that a Vampire is loose. Police inspector Karl Brettschneider (Douglas) is sceptical, though the town fathers take the idea seriously. So apparently does Dr Otto von Neimann (Atwill), the most prominent local medical doctor. Mentally-challenged misfit Herman Glieb falls under suspicion as the killer, since he is fascinated by bats and often keeps them as pets. Ruth Bertin (Wray) is Karl's apparently American girlfriend, who is also familiar with von Neimann, as the doctor is often called to "treat" her hypochondriac aunt Gussie (Eburne). More killings follow; a mob chases Herman into a cave outside the village, where he falls to his death in a deep pit. To be certain, a wooden stake is driven through his heart. By this point, Karl himself is considering the possibility of vampirism: but it proves that Herman was killed before the latest "vampire" death took place. Realizing Karl is now suspicious of him, von Niemann gives him sleeping pills, then sends his mesmerized servant Emil Borst (Frazer) to kill him with a special instrument which drains blood from the victim's neck. Overhearing von Niemann's plans, Ruth is captured and taken to his private laboratory where she learns that he has created artificial life and has been feeding it large amounts of blood. He and Emil (Frazer) carried out the murders to obtain the necessary supplies, using the vampire legend as a cover. Karl, however, did not take the pills; he returns with Emil to the doctor's laboratory in time to save Ruth. In the struggle that follows Emil kills von Niemann, who at the fade-out attempts to place the blame for the murders on him.
This early Horror in SF effort was the second teaming of Atwill and Wray (though the latter has relatively little to do), following Doctor X (1932). Atwill plays one of the first of his patented Mad Scientist roles, which he performed so capably through the 1930s and 1940s until his death. [GSt]
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