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Vampyr: The Criterion Collection
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In this chilling, atmospheric German film from 1932, director Carl Theodor Dreyer favors style over story, offering a minimal plot that draws only partially from established vampire folklore. Instead, Dreyer emphasizes an utterly dreamlike visual approach, using trick photography (double exposures, etc.) and a fog-like effect created by allowing additional light to leak onto the exposed film. The result is an unsettling film that seems to spring literally from the subconscious, freely adapted from the Victorian short story Carmilla by noted horror author Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, about a young man who discovers the presence of a female vampire in a mysterious European castle. There's more to the story, of course, but it's the ghostly, otherworldly tone of the film that lingers powerfully in the memory. Dreyer maintains this eerie mood by suggesting horror and impending doom as opposed to any overt displays of terrifying imagery. Watching Vampyr is like being placed under a hypnotic trance, where the rules of everyday reality no longer apply. As a splendid bonus, the DVD includes The Mascot, a delightful 26-minute animated film from 1934. Created by pioneering animator Wladyslaw Starewicz, this clever film--in which a menagerie of toys and dolls springs to life--serves as an impressive precursor to the popular Wallace & Gromit films of the 1990s. --Jeff Shannon --This text refers to an alternate DVD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
"Vampyr" is a very atmospheric and expressionistic film that follows more the logic of dreams than reality. Shadows dance on walls, or pass on the grass, like phantoms, detached from anything real. Ghostly images of Allan Gray drift off from his sitting body walking around the grounds and the building's interiors. It has been said that the film is somewhat autobiographical and reflected Dreyer's own drifting into insanity. Soon after making this film Dreyer had a mental collapse and entered himself into a sanitarium for rehabilitation. Dreyer wasn't to make another film until eleven years later in 1943, when he made "Day of Wrath".
This Criterion set is quite marvelous. It has a 214 page book with the Fanu's sotry "Camilla", the screenplay by Theodor and Christen Jul, another booklet with critical essays by Mark Le Fanu, Kim Newman, and Koerber, and a 1964 interview with Nicolas de Gunzburg. There are two discs. On Disc One is the original German version with a HD digital transfer from the 1998 restoration by Martin Koerber and the Cineteca di Bologna with English subtitles and audio commentary by scholar Tony Rayns.Read more ›
Early in the story, protagonist Allan Gray stops in a country house. 'Guten Abend,' says the young housekeeper, to which Gray immediately responds, 'Guten Abend.' The housekeeper's dialogue is subtitled, 'Good evening.' The subtitles do not repeat the banality when Gray speaks the same line of dialogue. It would be pointless. The audience has heard this common phrase and read the translation when first spoken. Nothing else is necessary. This subtitling choice is used again when the young heroine Gisele sees her sister Leone from the window. 'There, outside,' she cries. 'Leone, Leone!' The initial translation was necessary to communicate to viewers that the dialogue was actually a name, but when Gisele runs outside calling Leone's name over and over, there are no subtitles. The lush imagery of Gisele running through the forest would be marred by subtitles that hammer the obvious. When Gisele and Gray are fog-bound in their little boat, they yell, 'Hallo!' and are guided by answering cries from the opposite bank. The dialogue and context are absolutely clear without subtitles. This technique was used to poignant effect when Leone rests in bed. 'I am damned,' she says. 'Mein Gott, mein Gott... mein Gott.Read more ›
But more often than not, "Vampyr" gets passed over when you talk about early vampire movies -- and that's a shame. Carl Th. Dreyer's masterpiece (loosely based on the works of J. Sheridan Le Fanu) is a straightforward little story wrapped in a hazy cocoon of dreamlike imagery and haunting direction. From the very beginning, this movie clings to you like a spiderweb.
Occult student Allan Gray is staying at a hotel in the French countryside. But after being woken by a strange old man's cryptic warning, he finds that the inn is swarming with eerie supernatural happenings, including shadows that move independently. After he departs, a strange old man lets an ancient crone out of a closet.
And when Allan arrives at a nearby chateau, he finds that the owner has been murdered, and his daughter Leone is suffering from mysterious wounds. After the girl is rescued from a strange old crone, she begins acting predatory toward her sister Gisele -- and the weird old doctor says that only a transfusion will save her. But the doctor is in league with the vampire -- and is working to destroy Leone...
"Vampyr" has a pretty simple storyline, loosely based on a couple of J. Sheridan Le Fanu's short stories (including the classic "Carmilla"). But it's not the plot that makes this movie a classic -- it's the powerful, ghostly visuals that permeate it. And the beautiful real-life settings (the inn, chateau and church) don't hurt the atmosphere of it all.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Vampyr: The Criterion Collection is another in a series of restored films by Criterion. The quality of the DVD is excellent given the age of the original print. Read morePublished on April 18 2012 by Scott Fairgrieve
After making his masterpiece, The Passion of Joan Of Arc, Dreyer made another impressive work, one which deals with the paranormal universe of the vampire. Read morePublished on Feb. 16 2010 by Omnes
The rat-toothed Nosferatu and the charming Transylvanian Count are the best known examples of early vampire movies, mostly because there weren't very many others at the time. Read morePublished on April 29 2008 by EA Solinas
Allan Grey (Julian West) has a fertile imagination and we get to fertile along with him. He is on vacation. He chooses a strange building to vacate in. Read morePublished on June 30 2007 by B. Chandler
In a small French town, a man named Allen Gray (Julian West) takes a room at an inn. His sleep is interrupted when a strange man (Maurice Shutz) comes into his room speaking... Read morePublished on Jan. 13 2004 by mirasreviews
Carl Dreyer, one of Scandinavia's finest directors, brought this film to the screen in 1932. It is image driven, with not a lot of dialog. Read morePublished on Dec 12 2002 by Zev Bazarov
This is a great film, but sadly an awful print has been used as the master copy, and makes the viewing of this classic horror film, a real nightmare. Read morePublished on Oct. 11 2002 by craig j gilmour
Whereas Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc, 4 years this film's senior, is obsessed with showing the audience through close-ups and inventive framing, Vampyr is a film possessed... Read morePublished on May 15 2002 by Sean Gill
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