Condemned to Live

Condemned to Live is a 1935 American horror film starring Ralph Morgan and Maxine Doyle, and directed by Frank R. Strayer. The film is unusual for its time, as it approaches the topic of vampirism from a sympathetic standpoint and presents it as if it were an illness.[1]

Condemned to Live
Directed byFrank R. Strayer
Produced byMaury M. Cohen
Written byKaren DeWolf
StarringRalph Morgan
Maxine Doyle
Russell Gleason
Music byAbe Meyer
Distributed byInvincible Pictures
Release date
Chesterfield Pictures
Running time
65 min
CountryUnited States


The film opens with a trio of explorers in Africa who are hiding in a cave. One of the explorers, a pregnant woman, is bitten by a vampire bat.

The film then cuts forward in time to a small European village where a series of mysterious murders are taking place. The villagers readily assemble in mob form, with torches, at the house of Professor Kristan (Ralph Morgan) after every murder. The villagers suspect that a giant bat is to blame for the murders. Kristan gives the villagers advice on staying safe, and assures them a scientific explanation exists.

However, in subsequent scenes, Kristan himself is revealed to be the murderer. He is seized by attacks (triggered by darkness) which transform him into a trance-like state of murderousness. After he commits a murder, he awakens from the trance with no memory of the deed, believing himself merely to have fainted. Kristan's obliviousness is further enabled by the intervention of his loyal hunchback Zan, the only person aware of Kristan's condition. Zan follows Kristan when he is in his trances, ensuring the professor is not discovered.

An old friend of Kristan's, Dr. Bizet, arrives to visit, and soon suspects what is happening. Bizet discloses to Kristan that his mother was bitten by a vampire bat, and that traits of vampirism have likely been passed down to him per Lamarckism. (The audience now understands the pregnant explorer in the opening flashback to have been Kristan's mother.)

After Kristan's fiance (Maxine Doyle) is attacked by an entranced Kristan, the mob of villagers assumes Zan is culpable and chases him to the edge of a cliff inside a cave. Kristan arrives and confesses to the murders, despite Zan's protestations (aimed at saving the professor) that he, the hunchback, is in fact the murderer. As the mob watches, Kristan throws himself over the edge of the cliff and Zan follows.


Memorable Quotes

"What good can there be in a hunchback?" - Mob member

"We can never be afraid of what we love." -Prof. Paul Kristan

"If we love our brother, how can we fear him?" -Prof. Paul Kristan


  1. Hardy, Phil, ed. (1995), The Overlook Film Encyclopedia, 3, Overlook Press, p. 61, ISBN 0-87951-624-0


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