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Home > Movies > 31 Monstrous Failures #30: The Man In The Beaver Hat

31 Monstrous Failures #30: The Man In The Beaver Hat

October 30th, 2011

It’s one of the iconic images of filmic horror: Lon Chaney’s grotesque, vampiric makeup from his 1927 silent film London After Midnight. However, Chicago-area kids of the ’70s such as myself knew it from the title card of WGN-TV’s late-night monster movie series, Creature Features.

Chaney’s giant, hypnotic eyes–achieving through specially-made wire fittings–and wide array of pointed teeth were pure nightmare fuel. So, why is he the penultimate entry in my lineup of the lame?

That’s because his London After Midnight character, known only as…

The Man in the Beaver Hat!

…was a total fraud. A Scotland Yard investigator, frustrated by his inability to solve the Balfour murder case, decided to haunt the man’s former residence in disguise as part of an elaborate ruse to trap the killer. So, one of the most famous movie vampires wasn’t a vampire at all.

In 1967, the last known print of the film was destroyed by a fire in an MGM vault. While Turner Classic Movies has aired a “reconstruction” built from the script and surviving publicity stills, London After Midnight may well be lost forever. Which might be just as well; the context-free images of Chaney’s makeup are likely better than the movie itself.

In 1935, director Tod Browning (better known for the 1931 Dracula and 1932’s Freaks) remade his previous work as Mark of the Vampire.* In that one, Bela Lugosi played an actor hired by Lionel Barrymore’s investigator to portray the vampire Count Mora, once again to lure the story’s actual villain into the open.

*Take a second look at the slightly-ironic second feature of the double-bill in that Creature Features advertisement.

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