View Full Version : Vampyr (1931)

03-30-2002, 09:08 PM
Oh man, I can't get enough of this one. I've had the Image DVD for many months now, and though it is typical of Image to release essentially a bare-bones release with maybe an added featurette tagged on (see also, The Bells (1926)) This is what I appreciate the most is the main content, granted an audio essay would be superb, Criterion recently released a Dreyer box-set, but in actuality there are really only two films in Dreyer's catalog that stand out, Vampyr (obviously) and The Passion of Joan of Arc (Criterion did a bang up job on this one, unfortunatly the disc won't play on my player, will on EVERY OTHER DAMN PLAYER though:mad: ) To the point, Vampyr has stood out over the years in my life as truly a nightmare on film, like a dram trip gone bad. It moves at a very slow pace and the atmosphere drips like syrup, and though not what I would call a terrifying film, it is insidious enough to find a home beneath your skin where it squirms just enough to remind you that you're not in Kansas anymore. I'm not sure if this film was done in response to the German Expressionist movement, as Siegfried Kracauer stated that the films of that period were a precursor to fascism, this film was made right as the nazi machine was gaining speed and the emotion of the time could be seen in the very disjointed reality. In other words, you can't beat the classics... Give me Nosferatu and Vampyr anyday, its creepier and more frightning than so-called modern Hollywood classics.

03-30-2002, 09:58 PM
Also bought the Image release recently and wish there were a bit more, beit audio essay or a little background info (like why the heck the mega-subtitles ;)), but won't complain about what's there. A sidenote, the featurette included is pretty incredible in terms of animation, it's a true joy.

On to the subject, agreed 'terrifying' is not the term to use, though there are moments that must have been at the time just that; certainly some of the imagery is startling and nightmarish: the daughter tied, kneeling, to the bed; the disfigured old man on the stairs of the Inn; the old woman vampyre in the field, her victim laying back across her legs; the shadow-vampyres; and the lord of the manor lying on the floor, lips moving as he dies...there are moments of sheer poetry in the film.

Oddly it feels as though it should have been a silent film, and not knowing the background but noting the date, I can't help but wonder if it wasn't planned as such. I would dearly like to see Criterion re-release this and tinker with the sound so the German dialogue is more audible and possibly add a second set of subtitles: difficult with the full-frame film, but not undoable.

It really is one of those films you almost have to watch a second time and which seems to grow on you with each viewing.

03-31-2002, 08:02 AM
A friend of mine once commented that this is an anti-film film and a slow boring mess. He didn't get it, to him slow pacing equals bad movie. It's a marvellous unconventional film, and I love that it doesn't follow any rules but plays like a dream. It does have the feel of a silent movie, and the fact that there's only sparse dialogue add to the strangeness. I enjoy watching it late at night, all lights out, laying on the floor and headphones on. Not that I'm weird or anything, it's just that certain movies are worth the extra attention and I find this is a good way to see it. I'd also love to see the footage Dreyer filmed with the old female vampire and the wolfs but left out, alas, no doubt it's no more. I'm sure this film must've been an inspiration to other directors like, say, Polanski, whose own later cinematic oddness at times echo that of "Vampyr". (-Like "The Tenant" which is pretty weird, and the Professor Abronsius character in "The Fearless Vampire Killers".) I have a feeling we haven't seen the last DVD of "Vampyr" yet, and that's a mighty good feeling.

11-13-2004, 12:58 PM
Hi Folks,

To all of you that have posted about "Vampyr" on this thread so far - I couldn't agree more. It does deserve a "Special Edition" type of treatment.

One of the things I like best about this movie is that nothing is really "proven", it's just "implied". With this type of horror film, it really lets your imagination wander. Another element that I think adds to this films "oddness" is that the characters seem to be "reacting" to a situation they don't really understand. Also, the camera itself plays "the storyteller" in this movie - the angles and shots that the camera uses really pulls you into the story in a very "human" way. What I mean by that is (and this happens a few times in the movie) you will see an ordinary camera angle and then it will do something unexpected, like pan up quickly to the ceiling, as if you were actually there, and you decided to look at the ceiling for whatever reason.

I agree with McChrist about the fantastic horror movies of yesteryear, about thier atmosphere and moodiness. I don't think that we will see horror movies like this anytime soon from hollywood. Partly because I don't believe that audiences will have the patience for the "art statements" that Murnau and Dreyer were making with thier masterpieces ("Not enough special effects"!). There is more imagination and creativity in "Nosferatu" and "Vampyr" than anything hollywood has done in a long time. Both "Nosferatu" and "Vampyr" leave you with the feeling of "there's something wrong here", and isn't that the whole point of horror?

I could talk for days about "Vampyr"!

04-17-2008, 10:27 PM
Criterion will be releasing this on 7/15.


Apparently Eureka will be using the same transfer for their Masters of Cinema line in either July or August although I have no real source for that information.

Shock Waves
04-18-2008, 02:12 AM
Criterion will be releasing this on 7/15.


This is great news! The old VHS dupe I had was better than the Image DVD.

I really dig this dreamy, surreal movie.

The Chaostar
04-18-2008, 02:27 AM
Criterion will be releasing this on 7/15.

Best thing I've heard this month!!!!!

04-18-2008, 06:27 PM
This is great news! The old VHS dupe I had was better than the Image DVD.

I bought this film several months ago but haven't yet watched it. However as Friday evening is here with the customary (for Manchester, UK) torrential rain and dark skies, I am just about to watch for the first time.

The Image disk cost me 20 - after a lot of searching - so I hope it is not as bad as you say!!

04-19-2008, 11:39 PM
MoC will be releasing a straight telecine of Koerber's 1999 film restoration, which was only a chemical restoration itself. There will be no digital restoration;We're aiming for a release probably in May or June.


This is the key point. This film was shot through smoke and gauze to -- it seems -- obscure the imagery to some extent.

Removing damage from the film restoration of VAMPYR is incredibly difficult if you want to maintain other aspects of the image's texture. It's Brakhage-like in places.

Herrschreck, you're going to get the full 'Decasia' version from MoC (ie. same as the MK2, but in 1.19:1). I like your "seasonings" approach to the problem.http://www.criterionforum.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=158515#158515

They mention doing a true digital restoration with a new HD master in a few years on Blu-ray, but for now they've spent too much time and money investing in this transfer.

05-30-2008, 04:12 PM
The cover art to this release is perhaps one of the coolest I've ever seen.

07-23-2008, 04:22 PM
Just picked up the Criterion DVD yesterday and I must say that the packaging is wonderful :)
A nice touch to add the script & Sheridan Le Fanu's "Carmilla" as part of the extras.
I couldn't see this film get a better DVD release than what Criterion did.

07-23-2008, 10:36 PM
The R2 release is gearing up to make or exceed the Criterion. We don't get it until August 25th though. I'll hang on for that.

The Chaostar
07-23-2008, 11:26 PM
The R2 has a commentary from Guillermo Del Toro. That's something... But I bought the Criterion - I'm a collection-freak.

07-29-2008, 05:42 AM
I love Vampyr, its a great horror film itself, and its cinematography is just simply incredible.

i love it so much that, its my username!!
i really cannot wait to get my hands on the Criterion release!

08-15-2008, 03:02 AM
DVD Beaver has posted the comparison to Eureka:In comparison to the Criterion - it appears as though MoC did not undertake any visual digital restoration attempting to preserve the unique "sfumato" look of the film. This is comparative to watching an old 35mm film presentation and I, personally, felt this transports a far more theatrical 'feel' to the DVD viewing than I found with the Criterion. There is still a large amount of damage, speckles, and scratches but the contrast levels seemed more consistent without the fluctuations used to minimize the inherent negative damage. In one sense, this gives a cleaner, more accurate, visage of Dreyer's film - especially those who do not have an adverse reaction to the weaknesses that time has rendered upon Dreyer's Vampyr.http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/dvdcompare/vampyr-maybe.htm

Looking at the screen captures some times the Eureka comes out on top, some times the Criterion does.

08-15-2008, 03:12 AM
So with the extra commentary - the Eureka wins for me.

08-28-2008, 10:21 AM
Well, I got this DVD (R2 MoC Version) - and gave it a longish spin last night. Given the number of extras I couldn't get through it all in a single sitting - so I'll revisit today probably.

Anyway - the print looks as good as it ever will, probably. It's a long way from perfect, but that's par for the course with titles such as this. Definitely decent (and Criterion are using the same print, so we know we're getting the best possible - albeit with the DVDBeaver comments taken into account).

Firstly I watched the film with the restored soundtrack (an unrestored version is on the disc too). There's still some hiss, but when you take into account the history of this film, that's to be expected. For those that don't know, the film was shot silent, and then sounds were post-synced in three languages - English, German, and French. Only the German and French tracks remain - this disc uses the German version. Dialog is minimal.

As for the film, it's a classic, and so needs no hyping from someone like myself. My love of cinema from the the dawn of the medium to the 30's and 40's is well documented, and this is an essential purchase and watch. It's a fantastic counterpoint to the Universal titles released around the same time. The Universal titles are hailed as classics (and they are), but they also gave us some of the first sound glimpses into what would become the customs and norms of narrative story telling, and of the language of film. However, there were alternative methods offered up, and cinema could have been quite different - Vampyr is as example of one of these alternatives (Un Chien Andalou offers a more radical approach from the surrealists). Vampyr plays with narrative structure quite a bit, and breaks all kinds of screen boundaries. Along with this we have a rather interesting and straight forward tale of a Vampire - so the film can satisfy both fans of straight up horror, and those interested in critical analysis and study.

Anyway, enough of all that, otherwise I'll be writing a full length review.

After watching the film I immediately put it on again, this time with the first of two commentary tracks. First up was the track from Tony Rayns. This track also appears on the Criterion disc.

It's a decent commentary, jam-packed with information. It's a tad dry and it's clear that Tony is a film scholar. He guides you through the various techniques and decisions made, and the history of the film. There are no pauses, and Tony fills in the time well. It is definitely worth listening to this one.

Did I like this film? Well, it's rare I watch a film, and then watch it right away with the commentary in order to learn more. So you can imagine how rare it is for me to sit and immediately watch and listen with a second commentary track - this time an exclusive for the MoC disc. It's with Guillermo del Tore, director of Pans Labyrinth and Hellboy.

This commentary track is the better of the two. It's quite a scoop that MoC got the guy to do this track, but it goes one better and introduces a boatload of new ideas, interesting discussion, and opportunities to think about the film itself. This track is the more essential of the two. No information is repeated between commentary tracks.

If you want to know the differences between the two, I'd put it this way: Tony Rayns is clearly a scholar, he's very interested in the details, and dissecting the skills involved. But it comes across as more of a lecture, academic in tone. Tony doesn't sound like he loves film (though I'm sure he does). He's doesn't come across as being excited by it. He knows a lot, but there seems to be a lack of passion. On the other hand the del Toro track is the effort of a man in love with cinema, in love with this film, and with unique ideas about what it's trying to say to us. del Toro is in awe, but never gushing - he just has a passion as a filmmaker that Rayns doesn't seem to have. Both tracks are a pleasure and worthy inclusions - but the Criterion missing out on the del Toro track is a bit of a tragedy.

I wasn't sure going in whether this additional exclusive for Moc would truly be worthy - but now I've heard both I'd say they offer a wonderful counterpoint, and if I had to choose (and thank goodness I don't) I'd go with the del Toro. The del Toro track spends a lot of time discussing the lead as a Jesus figure, and the film's many Memento Mori allusions. Brilliant. He even throws in a couple of moments from Vampyr that he stole for his own films.

I then watched the two deleted scenes (sound issues prevented the scenes being added back into the film). They're short, and definitely worth watching. It was the German censor who snipped these, and by todays standards they're not shocking. Nice to see them here though.

Along with all this I read the 80 page booklet. What can you say about that? If you bought MoC's Nosferatu disc (and if you haven't, why not?!?!) then you know what to expect. It's packed with lots of articles and pictures - and is worth the price of this DVD alone.

There are other extras, another approximately 90 minutes or so - featurettes on Carl Th. Dreyer (Director), one on the lead (who was a Baron!), and one on the films influences. I'll hopefully get to them soon.

One final extra - there is a PDF on the disc with the original stories that inspired Dreyer to make the film (Sheridan's Le Fanu's Carmilla). It's 124 pages long should you want to print it out. Nice addition that.

The film is 72 minutes in length, and a real joy. MoC have put out a stellar DVD. I can't imagine what else they could have put on it. There's a choice between this edition and the Criterion - but the exclusive inclusion of the del Toro track means the MoC edition is the better of the two from my own standpoint. Having heard both commentary tracks, the del Toro one offers the more interesting discussion (though both are worthy - if very different).

Essential this - and I just had a terrific nights entertainment. That I watched it, back-to-back, three times consecutively, says it all.

Buy it!

08-28-2008, 06:37 PM
I got the MOC yesterday. The booklet is gorgeous.


08-28-2008, 07:29 PM
Yah! Yeah - the whole package is a work of art, mate. Lots of love went into this.

09-29-2008, 09:12 AM
I picked up the Criterion version of this and it's awesome. I love the book containing Le Fanu's "Carmilla" and also the screenplay for the movie. The box itself is gorgeous. The movie is (obviously) incredible. Initially I was worried about not having the deleted scenes but they are supposedly included in a documentary on disc 2, but I haven't seen it yet.

Highly recommended.

11-11-2008, 07:58 PM
Give me Nosferatu and Vampyr anyday, its creepier and more frightning than so-called modern Hollywood classics.

Bravo! My sentiments exactly.