London After Midnight (1927)

65 mins | Drama, Horror | 3 December 1927

Director:

Tod Browning

Writer:

Waldemar Young

Cinematographer:

Merritt Gerstad

Editor:

Harry Reynolds

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures
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HISTORY

The 31 Jul 1927 FD noted that filming on The Hypnotist, the working title, had begun four days earlier, on 27 Jul 1927. Three months later, production was in “the final stages,” according to the 28 Oct 1927 Motion Picture News.
       London After Midnight was director-writer Tod Browning’s first attempt to tell a vampire story, and it bore many of the hallmarks of his later classic, Dracula (1931, see entry), which might have also starred Lon Chaney if he had not died in 1930. Browning remade London After Midnight in 1935 as Mark of the Vampire (see entry), with Dracula star Bela Lugosi as the vampire. All characters from London After Midnight were renamed, except “Lunette,” the “bat girl.”
       According to modern sources, the only known surviving print of London After Midnight was destroyed in a fire in the 1960s. In 2002, Rick Schmidlin reconstructed the film for its owner, Turner Broadcasting System, using original title art and still photographs. Credits and Summary for this record were obtained from that reconstruction, which was available on YouTube in ... More Less

The 31 Jul 1927 FD noted that filming on The Hypnotist, the working title, had begun four days earlier, on 27 Jul 1927. Three months later, production was in “the final stages,” according to the 28 Oct 1927 Motion Picture News.
       London After Midnight was director-writer Tod Browning’s first attempt to tell a vampire story, and it bore many of the hallmarks of his later classic, Dracula (1931, see entry), which might have also starred Lon Chaney if he had not died in 1930. Browning remade London After Midnight in 1935 as Mark of the Vampire (see entry), with Dracula star Bela Lugosi as the vampire. All characters from London After Midnight were renamed, except “Lunette,” the “bat girl.”
       According to modern sources, the only known surviving print of London After Midnight was destroyed in a fire in the 1960s. In 2002, Rick Schmidlin reconstructed the film for its owner, Turner Broadcasting System, using original title art and still photographs. Credits and Summary for this record were obtained from that reconstruction, which was available on YouTube in 2016. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
31 Jul 1927
p. 6.
Film Daily
17 Dec 1927
p. 7.
Motion Picture News
28 Oct 1927
p. 1327.
Moving Picture World
17 Dec 1927
p. 25.
New York Times
31 Dec 1927
p. 31.
Variety
14 Dec 1927
p. 18.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Hypnotist
Release Date:
3 December 1927
Production Date:
27 July - October 1927
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.
Copyright Date:
3 December 1927
Copyright Number:
LP25289
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
65
Length(in feet):
5,687
Length(in reels):
7
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Just after one o’clock in the morning, Williams, the butler, finds his employer, Sir Roger Balfour, dead from a gunshot wound in his London home, and a handwritten suicide note—“I am taking my own life. Forgive me, Lucille”–-addressed to his daughter. When Inspector Professor Edward C. Burke of Scotland Yard arrives around 1:08 a.m., Sir James Hamlin, the victim’s neighbor and closest friend, is already there, as is Hamlin’s nephew, Arthur Hibbs, and Lucille Balfour. Sir James last saw the victim around eleven o’clock, and Arthur had been reading in the house next door until the inspector arrived. Burke is convinced the death is not suicide, but has no evidence of murder. Five years later, shortly after midnight, Miss Smithson, Sir James Hamlin’s new maid, and the Hamlin coachman see lights in the abandoned Balfour house next door, and two dark and mysterious characters: a young “Bat Girl” with dark eyes and an older, skeletal-faced man wearing a cape and tall beaver hat. There are two real estate men with them, for the couple is renting the house. A distressed Miss Smithson reports to Sir James that vampires have moved into the old Balfour place. Sir James telephones Burke, now a private investigator, and invites him to the house. When Burke arrives, Sir James shows him Balfour’s suicide note, which Burke claims was stolen from his desk at Scotland Yard. When nephew Arthur shows them the new lease signed by Roger Balfour, Sir James recognizes the signature as belonging to his late friend. Lucille Balfour, who is now living at the Hamlin house, reveals that she has heard her father’s voice calling her name from the garden. Burke and ... +


Just after one o’clock in the morning, Williams, the butler, finds his employer, Sir Roger Balfour, dead from a gunshot wound in his London home, and a handwritten suicide note—“I am taking my own life. Forgive me, Lucille”–-addressed to his daughter. When Inspector Professor Edward C. Burke of Scotland Yard arrives around 1:08 a.m., Sir James Hamlin, the victim’s neighbor and closest friend, is already there, as is Hamlin’s nephew, Arthur Hibbs, and Lucille Balfour. Sir James last saw the victim around eleven o’clock, and Arthur had been reading in the house next door until the inspector arrived. Burke is convinced the death is not suicide, but has no evidence of murder. Five years later, shortly after midnight, Miss Smithson, Sir James Hamlin’s new maid, and the Hamlin coachman see lights in the abandoned Balfour house next door, and two dark and mysterious characters: a young “Bat Girl” with dark eyes and an older, skeletal-faced man wearing a cape and tall beaver hat. There are two real estate men with them, for the couple is renting the house. A distressed Miss Smithson reports to Sir James that vampires have moved into the old Balfour place. Sir James telephones Burke, now a private investigator, and invites him to the house. When Burke arrives, Sir James shows him Balfour’s suicide note, which Burke claims was stolen from his desk at Scotland Yard. When nephew Arthur shows them the new lease signed by Roger Balfour, Sir James recognizes the signature as belonging to his late friend. Lucille Balfour, who is now living at the Hamlin house, reveals that she has heard her father’s voice calling her name from the garden. Burke and Sir James go to the cemetery with a lantern and find Roger Balfour’s tomb empty. Later, Arthur Hibbs shows them a 1721 book titled The Undead: The True History of Vampyrs, Being a Compilation from Authentic sources of quaint and curious phenomena, which describes “vampyrs” as “dead bodies that leave their graves at night.” Arthur tells Burke that Miss Smithson lent the book to him, and that it explains the empty tomb and other strange goings-on next door. Hearing a scream, they rush to find an hysterical Miss Smithson, claiming she had just seen a vampyr in the hallway, but he flew out the window. Looking out toward the Balfour house, they see the bat girl standing in the yard next door. Sir James wants to call the police, but Burke convinces him to hold off until morning. As Lucille clings to Arthur for support, he tells her it must be love. In the morning, Burke and Sir James, both armed, go next door and find the house empty except for musty furniture and cobwebs. Later, Burke privately tells Lucille her father was murdered. He asks her to do whatever he says if she wants the murderer caught, and to tell no one of his suspicions. However, Arthur becomes suspicious of Burke, and convinces Lucille to admit the inspector’s belief. That night, hearing noises, Burke and Sir James return to the Balfour house, and, looking through the window, see Roger Balfour sitting in a chair in the darkened room, apparently in conversation with the man in the beaver hat. Frightened, Sir James begs Burke to hurry away from the house. In accordance with the book’s instructions about repelling vampyrs, Burke places garlic wreaths pierced with sharp knives around Lucille’s windows and doors. In the bedroom that Williams has prepared for him, Burke invites Arthur Hibbs to his room for a private chat, and admits he suspected him for a long time. He hypnotizes the young man and asks him to think back to the night of Roger Balfour’s death. When Arthur falls asleep, Burke goes to the young man’s bedroom to act as a decoy in his bed. During the night, someone tries to kill Burke, mistaking him for Arthur, but he chases off the figure. Hurrying to Sir James’s room, he claims that someone is after Hamlin’s nephew. When Williams the butler appears, Burke questions him too. They go into Arthur’s bedroom and find him gone. Burke returns to his own room, where Arthur is sleeping, and awakens him. Arthur thinks he dozed off while reading, just as he did five years earlier. Hearing a scream, they run to Lucille’s room. Miss Smithson was looking after the girl, but both women are gone. Arthur demands that Burke tell them where Lucille is hiding. Burke gives Sir James a gun and tells him to go next door to the Balfour house, demand to see Roger Balfour, and stare whoever answers the door in the eye. Before Sir James leaves, Burke hurries next door in time to catch Arthur climbing through the window, and locks the young man in a room. By the time Sir James knocks, the man with the beaver hat meets him at the door, meets his stare, and hypnotizes him. He tells Sir James to recall what happened five years ago. Reliving that night, Sir James recounts that he was invited to the house because Roger Balfour wanted to make him the executor of his estate, and Lucille’s guardian. Flattered, Sir James confides to his longtime friend that he will be a perfect protector for Lucille, because he hopes to make her his wife. Balfour is outraged, because Lucille is “only a child,” and swears to prevent the marriage. Still hypnotized, Sir James goes home, but returns at 1:10 a.m. with two pistols. He orders Balfour to write the suicide note. Burke and other police arrest him. Actress Lunette, the “bat girl,” and her accomplice leave, thankful for being paid much more for their impersonation than for their theater work. Burke tells Arthur that he was in danger the moment he and Lucille expressed their love for each other, which is why he took his place in the bedroom. Burke further explains that he was the man in the beaver hat, although one of his officers also wore the costume, and that Miss Smithson and a Roger Balfour look-alike were in on the ruse.
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GENRE
Genres:
Sub-genre:
Detective


Subject

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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