“Then, you both believe that this monster is a bat?”
After a pregnant woman is bitten by a vampire bat her son grows up suffering from an illness where he experiences blackouts at times. During these times he is unaware of where he is or what he is doing. As an adult he is a well respected professor in a small European village. Professor Paul Kristan (Ralph Morgan) is also betrothed to a young woman, Marguerite Mane (Maxine Doyle).
In the village a series of unusual murders are plaguing the town. The villagers believe that a giant bat is responsible for the murders. They seek advice from the learned Kristan. Kristan tells them how to keep safe. Since all of the murders have happened at night, in the dark, he recommends they keep lights on at night at all times. He believes there is a scientific explanation for what is happening but as of yet does not know what it is.
Kristan doesn’t realize that he himself is the murderer. Triggered by darkness he goes into a trance and turns into a vampire-like creature. When he awakens he has no memory of what he has done. Kristan's tracks are being covered by his servant, the hunchbacked Zan (Mischa Auer) who is aware of his condition and follows Kristan when he is in his trances to ensuring he is not discovered. Kristan’s old friend Dr. Anders Bizet (Pedro de Cordoba) arrives and after learning of what is going on convinces Kristan the he is the vampire.
“Condemned to Live” was released in 1935 and was directed by Frank R. Strayer. It is also a poverty row film. Many of the sets used were left over from the filming of “Bride of Frankenstein” 1935. The reason I was interested in this movie was because it had a more sympathetic view of the vampire. It illustrated vampirism as an illness instead of as a monster. This vampire does not turn into a bat, nor does he fly. There are as many similarities to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as to vampires since Kristan is not aware of what he does when he is in the throws of his illness.
The film also has some similarities to “The Vampire Bat” 1933. (Also directed by Strayer.) A rich well respected guy is the bad guy, a simple minded poor man is blamed for the murders by stupid villagers. Complete with torches.
I was mostly annoyed than anything else. Marguerite was as dumb as dirt. (Not to mention too young for a forty year old professor.) To prove to Kristan that he is not the monster she puts out all the lights. He even told her he was the monster but she doesn’t believe him. The villagers too were annoyingly dense. First off they think the killer is a bat. How big a bat would it have to be to rip a throat out and carry off a person? Then they blame Zan because he is a hunchback and with absolutely no evidence pointing to him. Poor pathetic hunchback means killer. I would have been OK if they all died. Actually Zan was the only character I liked.
As for the movie itself, it was OK but I found it a little slow and mostly uneventful. The acting was also OK but, other than my fondness for the dedicated Zan, nothing that impressed me. Even the title seemed a little strange. I would expect that kind of a title to be attached to a film noir, or crime drama, not a horror movie.