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Vampyr: The Criterion Collection

3.9 out of 5 stars 38 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 38 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B00180R06I
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #41,734 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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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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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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
Made in 1932 this black and white chiller from acclaimed director Carl Theodore Dreyer (‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’) is considered by some to be the best horror film of all time. I think it is up there but there are others of more merit – ‘Nosferatu’ being a classic example. This is all about a young man Alan Grey who is obsessed with the supernatural. He turns up at some eerily old World boarding house in the village of Courtempierre, where an old man enters his room, leaves a parcel and goes away.

He then follows some ghostly shadows to an old castle where he uncovers evidence that vampires do exist and they feel one is active in that area and in that house from there on things get more macabre but.

Now this not only ticks all the boxes needed for classic horror but it’s fair to say it probably invented a few of the boxes in the first place. The use of reverse camera techniques, the shadows that tell the story, the overlaying of pictures for ghostly effect and repeat imagery to heighten the senses are all here. The use of lighting is phenomenal and the acting is just the right side of spooky to have you on the edge of your seat without appearing to be hammy. Most of the actors only ever appeared in this film – they were not professionals. Julian West who played Alan Grey was actually minor Russian nobility who funded the film on the proviso that he got to star in it. His real name was Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg.

This was made just at the end of the silent era and so you still have great facial acting and brilliant use of the eyes to convey emotions – mostly fear. It is in German with good sub titles and it’s just over an hour long – this is one of the greats and should be on your must see at least once list if you are a true cinephile.
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