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Vampyr: The Criterion Collection

36 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Julian West, Maurice Schutz, Rena Mandel, Sybille Schmitz, Jan Hieronimko
  • Directors: Carl Theodor Dreyer
  • Writers: Carl Theodor Dreyer, Christen Jul, Sheridan Le Fanu
  • Producers: Julian West, Carl Theodor Dreyer
  • Format: Black & White, DVD-Video, Silent, Special Edition, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: July 22 2008
  • Run Time: 75 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00180R06I
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #40,576 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Product Description

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.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G. Edmonson TOP 500 REVIEWER on Sept. 24 2010
Format: DVD
"Vampyr"(1932) is Theodor Dreyer's (a Danish director) first talkie film based loosely on the book "Camilla"(1872) by Sheridan Le Fanu. Fanu's novel is notable for introducing females into the Vampire genre. The movie, though in sound, is still largely a silent picture with little actual talking and features the haunting music of Wolgang Zeller. This particular film was restored using French and German prints. There are some sequences, or images, missing from the final film, such as the one on the front cover of the Criterion box, which is part a pan shot that was later cut.

"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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Bannon on June 18 2010
Format: DVD
Criterion's 2008 release of Carl Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr (1932) illustrates how subtitles may integrate within a film to improve the whole. Translator John Gudelj and the Criterion spotting/timecoding staff provided subtitles that effortlessly blend with the dialogue. This artistry makes their unique choices even harder to spot. For years translating every word as spoken has been de rigueur. This is desirable for clarity. But with repetitive dialogue, equally repetitive subtitles fail to trust the audience, detracting from rather than enhancing the film.

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.
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Format: DVD
What stood out for me as I began to watch is firstly the great restoration done. And secondly, the brilliant camera work in many tracking, panning, and static shots. The commentary points out how Dreyer wanted to be unique and disturbing in comparison to other films of the genre. But I immediately got the sense that it was to make the viewer feel like an ageless ghost in the scenes. And made me sympathetic to the souls in limbo, both good and evil. Relying on the intentions and desires of the characters both good and evil, and having little interaction unless the will is overwhelming. And even then, one is unsure who or what is intervening at the critical moments. Viewer empathy, or evil spirit? And in the end the viewer is questioning their inner justifications, and with the sad sense that they themselves will forever be in the purgatory that the innocents have been freed from. A terrific film for fans of the genre, or just film making and new takes of the form outside of the mainstream. A little bit TOO labored in it's dissecting via essays and commentary. But is insightful and intriguing to have on hand. And for all the restorative efforts, I was a bit dismayed at some of the abrupt cuts in the soundtrack still. Yet, if completely polished - it may have detracted from the authenticity and historical aspect of the film as well. So thus the 5th star will forever remain a ghost in my review.
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By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on May 10 2008
Format: DVD
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.

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.
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