View Full Version : "Strangler Of The Swamp" & "Vampyr"

05-11-2002, 12:47 AM
Sat down the other night to watch these two classic films on DVD, each making my top 5 list from their representative decades, and really enjoyed them both. A few thoughts on each:

"Strangler Of The Swamp" - This is a quick little film from PRC studios running a swift 58 minutes. Produced in 1946, the film is generally regarded as the crowning jewel from PRC, notorious for lousy low grade B and Z fare. I really like this film because it drips of dreamlike atmosphere. Basically, a swampland ferryman is hung for killing a man even though he was innocent. His ghost comes back to haunt those who sentenced him to die as well as their decendents. The ghost is played by Charles Middleton, who played Ming in the Flash Gordon series. Of interest here is that Middleton's ghost appears and disappears without the use of special effects. He just seems to blend in and out of the fog and swampland and it is very effective. The lead is Rosemary La Planche who comes to the swamp land to run the ferry for her deceased grandfather, a victim of the avenging phantom. Of interesting note is that Rosemary's boyfriend is played by none other then Blake Edwards in a rare acting role before becoming a famous director. The director is Frank Wisbar who also helmed "The Devil Bats Daughter" and "Fahrmann Maria" in Germany before coming to the States. Extremely short on budget and utilizing just a couple of studio bound sets, Wisbar turns this into a spooky, atmospheric tale with a dreamlike quailty aided by shadows and a persistent fog. If you like classic genre films, check this out. Vastly underrated and one of the best horror films I have seen from the 1940's. Too bad Image couldn't give us a better transfer. I guess it's the best they can do but film damage is quite evident even though it adds to the films charm in a strange way.

"Vampyr" - What more can be said about Carl Dreyer's 1932 nightmare classic? Yes, it is slow and yes, it can be confusing but we all know that was Dreyer's intent as he desired to make a cryptic nightmare on film and brother, did he succeed. Probably quite scary in it's day, it is more a visual feast for the eyes now though it still has the power to get under your skin. Bizarre images and shadows abound with abrupt, almost nonsensical cuts adding to the surreal and bizarre nature of the film. Still hard to forget the policeman who's shadow detaches itself from his body and the shadow of a gravedigger who's motions tell us he is shoveling dirt yet instead of the dirts shadow leaving the shovel, it finds it's way back instead. It's these strange, odd happenings that make you stop and take notice. A terrific little film that rightly deserves it's place in horror history. Image's DVD is pretty good. A nice transfer for a film 70+ years old. The subtitles are large and appear in a black box that takes up a third of the screen but it is really not a big deal because there is so little dialogue spoken in the film. As a matter of fact, it can almost pass for a silent film or a silent/talkie hybrid. Excellent film and great for late night, out with the lights entertainment.

The films may not have much in common, but one thing they do have is ATMOSPHERE! :)

05-12-2002, 12:35 AM
Vampyr is one of my all time favorites. The scenes you mentioned are brilliant simply through their simplicity. I made a few homages towards the shadow sequences in my feature Oubliette, once I have the promo ready I'll post it.

05-16-2002, 06:35 AM
There's another thread on this I've responded to, so I won't repeat myself here. But the subtitles, I'm really curious when that was done. I say this only because before buying the DVD (and btw--the short subject is pretty wierd too, ain't it?) I rented a VHS version and it had the same outragously large subtitles. I wonder if a print even exists without 'em?

05-16-2002, 08:14 PM
I remember several years ago watching the copy of Vampyr that's at the University of Virginia and it didn't have the english subs. The german subs were there, certainly, theyare embedde in the original print, that's why I say that the outragious english subs were someone's half-assed attempt to cover them. Oh well.

05-16-2002, 09:34 PM
The subs have never really bothered me on the video or DVD. They only pop up like a handful of times and basically doesn't interfere with anything crucial to the film.

05-19-2002, 02:19 AM
Thanks for the info, mcchrist. I'll have to talk to my local shop and see if they can come up with the non-english subbed print.