London After Midnight (1927) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

London After Midnight (1927) Review

Horrorific content by TE Simmons on November 19th, 2021 | Movie Review | Vampire, Cult Classic, Mystery, Police, Classic Mystery, Classic Vampire

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It’s about a mysterious death and a series of vampire sightings.

London After Midnight (also marketed as “The Hypnotist”) was directed by the consistently-excellent American horror director Tod Browning (Dracula, Freaks, The Unknown, West of Zanzibar (1928)) and stars the always-superb Lon Chaney (The Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Monster) alongside heartthrob Conrad Nagel (West of Zanzibar (1932)), Henry B. Walthall (the ‘Little Colonel’ from The Birth of the Nation (a/k/a “The Clansman” [sic]) and Marceline Day (The Cameraman (not to be confused with the Clansman)).

LON CHANEY in a great Scotland Yard Mystery

London after Midnight Review

London After Midnight is a lost film, destroyed in the MGM vault fire of 1967. Incredibly, no other copies existed. Just the one. It was lost forever. And yet, its triangle-toothed villain remains today perhaps the most indelible image of any horror film ever made. 

The film originally ran 69 minutes. On Halloween night, 2002, Turner Classic Movies aired a much-praised 40-minute reconstruction using still photographs. That – combined with director Tod Browning’s 1935 talkie remake of the film starring Bela Lugosi titled Mark of the Vampire and recorded recollections of the film – are the only ways of indirectly experiencing it today. 

The plot, in a nutshell, follows. It’s actually more mystery than horror. But here it is:

London (obviously): A man, Roger Balfour, is found dead in his home. A suspiciously hasty Scottland Yard representative, Inspector Burke, quickly rules the death a suicide. 

Fast forward five years: Amid the forsaken Balfour mansion, strange lights – a slim, gothic gal with perfect skin and center-parted hair alongside a sharp-toothed, Beaver-skin-top-hatted gent (also played by Lon Chaney). Suspicions naturally follow – was Balfour the victim of a vampire conspiracy? 

Or murder?  

A lease is examined; Balfour’s crypt is opened and revealed to be empty. Balfour’s daughter, now married to a Sir James, is overcome. Inspector Burke deploys his hypnotism skills. The vampire and his goth-companion remain in the shadows. Even the butler acts like he has something to hide.

London After Midnight falls within a sub-genre almost unknown today. Many viewers are disappointed with its talkie remake and would probably be disappointed with London After Midnight for the same reasons. But the chance to compare the films directly was lost in 1967.

Worth Watching?

Yes. Its worth is almost incalculable. Chaney with teeth! Sadly, you never will watch it. It’s lost. The best one can do is the TCM-reconstruction of stills.

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