Vampyr (1932) (Blu-ray Review)
Directed By: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Starring: Julian West, Maurice Schutz, Rena Mandel
Rated: UR/Region A/1:19/1080p/Number of Discs 1
Available from The Criterion Collection
With Vampyr, Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer channeled his genius for creating mesmerizing atmosphere and austere, unsettling imagery into the horror genre. The result a chilling film about a student of the occult who encounters supernatural haunts and local evildoers in a village outside Paris is nearly unclassifiable. A host of stunning camera and editing tricks and densely layered sounds creates a mood of dreamlike terror. With its roiling fogs, ominous scythes, and foreboding echoes, Vampyr is one of cinema’s greatest nightmares.
Vampyr comes to us from 1932 and was the very first speaking film for director Carl Theodor Dreyer. The cast was mostly made up of people the director met on the street and now here we are in 2017 with the film getting listed on the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die” list and now getting a fantastic Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection. While you can watch a movie and call it dated, this might be a time when the film in question is improved upon from the dated look. Don’t get me wrong, Criterion manages to pull out every ounce of detail one could hope for in this transfer and it looks great, but the dated look of the film overall adds an unquestionable amount of errie and spooky to the film when you watch it. The film follows our lead as he ventures into a village and finds a lot more than he bargains for. This leads to a series of weird and strange things as well as some of the erriest scenes you’ll probably ever find on film. Perfect for viewing this time of the year.
This is a move full of gloom, death, and vampires of course. I enjoyed the film way more than I figured I’d enjoy a film of this age. I admit I’m hit and miss when it comes to such titles like this but this one really won me over and was a whole lot of fun to see in the middle of the night when I watched it. The release comes in a cool package with a big slipcase that holds both the film in a digipack and a thick booklet. This is a film you’ll both notice in your Blu-ray player for the scan it has as well as notice it on the shelf due to how cool the release looks overall. Criterion always goes above and beyond with their releases but this one might be their release of the year and comes with some extras that make you really enjoy spending your time on this release.
– High-definition digital transfer of the original German version of the film, from the 1998 restoration by Martin Koerber and the Cineteca di Bologna, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
– Alternate version with English text
– Audio commentary featuring film scholar Tony Rayns
– Carl Th. Dreyer, a 1966 documentary by Jorgen Roos chronicling Dreyer’s career
– Video essay by scholar Casper Tybjerg on Dreyer’s influences in creating Vampyr
– Radio broadcast from 1958 of Dreyer reading an essay about filmmaking
– PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by critics Mark Le Fanu and Kim Newman, a piece by Koerber on the restoration, and a 1964 interview with producer and actor Nicolas de Gunzburg
– AND: A book featuring Dreyer and Christen Jul’s original screenplay and Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 story ‘Carmilla,’; a source for the film
Quality of Transfer: 100%