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Vampyr: The Criterion Collection (1932) - Blu-ray Review

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Vampyre: The Criterion Collection - Blu-ray

5 beersThe river appears cold and an old man – silent and sullen – has a weighty expression drawing his lips together into a fierce single line as he tolls a forlorn bell. His eyes are full of the bleak landscape; immediate and mean.  His is a face dirty and grim with the soiled handiwork of time itself.  He casts his view off in the distance; even further still. 

And beyond his gaze, along the same shore, stands a decrepit castle.  Its walls are spider veined with cracks.  There is a presence there, though.  And it is one of supremacy, matched only in muscle by the strength of the images assembled and sustained throughout Vampyr, a film that opens with this haunting hymn.   

There is no denying the ongoing power of this horror film from 1932.  Vampyr transcends the ages with its dedication to the surreal.  This was always Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer’s intention with the striking images haunting almost every frame of this masterpiece; he wanted to unmask fear and dread and welcome that which disturbs us the most.

Criterion honors this film with a very striking 1080p release.  The black and white images absolutely crackle with an intensity best reserved for our nightmares.  It’s not just the film alone that the Criterion Collection blesses us with in this thick release.  No, there is so much more as fans will receive a collection of essays by film critics Mark Le Fanu and Kim Newman, a detailed explanation of the many film sources used for this restoration, a 1964 interview with the film’s lead, and a book – seriously, a BOOK – featuring the original screenplay and an 1872 story by Sheridan Le Fanu which served as the film’s origin.  Vampyr is a stunning Blu-ray release.

Starring the film’s main producer, Baron Nicolas de Gunzberg (but listed in the credits as Julian West), the horror film is definitely not a vanity piece.  No, Gunzberg absolutely nails his performance as Allan Grey, an occult investigator, who stumbles upon an old riverside inn that is situated next to an even older castle where a scraggily doctor assist a vampire in draining the blood of two beauties and Dreyer fills the moving lens with a roving madness in order to build the dreamlike quality that permeates his film. 

Cinematographer Rudolph Maté (who would go on to shoot DOA) assists the film’s nonlinear ways with some camera tricks – involving gauze – and keeps things wickedly morose and hauntingly beautiful.  His approach aids Dreyer in keeping the audience’s attention on the visuals, where shadows become ghosts and skulls turn to motion itself for life after death, as the film builds to its fever pitch.  There is a beauty in the breakdown and, for cinema lovers, there is much to pick apart here as Dreyer dares us to dream with eyes wide open.

Vampyr, even if sound was added during the production, remains a poetic meditation on our silent subconscious fears.

Vampyre: The Criterion Collection - Blu-ray

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
75 mins
Director
: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Writer:
Christen Jul
Cast:
Julian West, Maurice Schutz, Rena Mandel
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
A film by Carl Theodor Dreyer.
Memorable Movie Quote: "She has another of those marks on her neck."
Theatrical Distributor:
General Foreign Sales Corp.
Official Site: https://www.criterion.com/films/661-vampyr
Release Date:
May 6, 1932 (Germany)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 3, 2017
Synopsis: 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 of Paris—is nearly unclassifiable. A host of stunning camera and editing tricks and densely layered sounds create a mood of dreamlike terror. With its roiling fogs, ominous scythes, and foreboding echoes, Vampyr is one of cinema’s great nightmares.

Vampyre: The Criterion Collection - Blu-ray

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- October 3, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.2:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
German: LPCM Mono; German: Dolby Digital Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Criterion Collection’s high-definition digital transfer of the original German-language version of Vampyr is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.19:1.  The transfer of the film is culled from the 1998 restoration by Martin Koerber and the Cineteca di Bologna, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack.  Thousands of instances of dirt and debris were removed from the 53mm fine-grain master positive.  An alternate English text version of the film is also provided by Criterion.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  •  The film’s commentary is provided by film scholar Tony Rayns and was originally recorded in 2008.

Special Features:

Criterion delivers the goods with a hefty serving of supplemental items, including the film’s original screenplay, a short story that served as the film’s basis, and a booklet featuring essays, interviews, and restoration notes.  A1966 documentary by Jørgen Roos chronicling Dreyer’s career and influence of Vampyr, scholar Casper Tybjerg video essay, and a radio broadcast of Dreyer reading an essay about filmmaking (from 1958) is also included.

  • Carl Th. Dreyer Documentary
  • Video Essay
  • 1958 Dreyer Radio Broadcast

Vampyre: The Criterion Collection - Blu-ray

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