Cursed Before Birth – Condemned to Live (1935)

People in a small village are being killed off, drained of blood and it is all very mysterious. Could it be a vampire bat or a man cursed with the unquenchable need for that life-giving fluid?

Condemned to Live is a post-Nosferatu, post-Dracula film about vampires that may not be the best of the genre, but is entertaining nonetheless. Vampires aside, one knows almost immediately that the film is firmly set within the realm of horror as it features a hunchback – a sure-fire staple that screams of scares to come. That being said, the movie is not all that frightening, it being far more dramatic with just a touch of the supernatural. It is an interesting exercise to observe, not really advancing the vampire mythos in any way, but trying to do something just a little bit different than those films which came before. There is no outright villain, just a man that is oblivious to what is happening to him late at night. While it eventually comes to light that the main character is indeed the vampire in question, it is entrancing to see the man go through his Jekyll and Hyde-like transformation, a truth seen and known only to one person – Zan, the aforementioned hunchback.

The leads of the film as played by Ralph Morgan and Maxine Doyle are a little stiff at times, but they do a serviceable job and are lucky to find themselves surrounded by a cast that helps to carry them through the movie’s sixty-five minute running time. To reiterate, while there is nothing that can be called creepy or horrifying in the slightest, there are some moody scenes present and director Frank R. Strayer makes good use of lighting to set the stage for those particular times when Morgan sets out as the vampire. It is suspenseful at the very least and is enough to keep the picture moving along at a decent pace.

As it is, Condemned to Live is a short venture into the realm of that nocturnal feeder called the vampire. It is not so much a memorable movie as it is interesting and is a somewhat enjoyable outing that manages to be compelling nonetheless.

3 out of 5

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