Including among the '1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die', edited by Steven Jay Schneider. See more »
The same furniture appears in the different houses throughout the film. See more »
[note to Irma Vep, who is on a prison-bound ship]
Fake a sprain when you embark. You will be sent to the infirmary in the stern. The explosion will take place at the bow. If you survive, come to Paris. Otherwise, death will be better than perpetual detention.
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Feuillade has become much more popular abroad than in his native France where his movies are seldom screened on "cultural TV ,the Arte Channel or the "Cinema De Minuit".Some critics call "Les Vampires" brainwashing at a time when France was at war .Some critics praise it to the skies.I'm for the golden middle .Feuillade was certainly important in the shaping of the serial (along "the perils of Pauline" in America)but he was not as great a director as his contemporaries David Wark Griffith and Abel Gance (whose career did not begin with "Napoleon" in 1926).
The screenplay of "Les Vampires" is pretty silly,definitely weaker than that of "Fantomas" and it is sure easy to see why: "Fantomas " was first a set of volumes written by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain -and Feuillade botched the first chapters which were the best of the saga :see Paul Fejos's "Fantomas" (1932) for that matter.But the rest was quite acceptable,some movies(the third episode :"Le Mort Qui Tue" notably) highly commendable.
"Les Vampires" was a different matter ,because it was an original screenplay and the writer/director had to kill the "Chef Des Vampires" ,not because he thought the audience needed change ,but because it was the war and the actors were mobilized.That's why Feuillade gave up making "lEs Vampires" after 10 episodes and opted for a "good " hero ,Judex ,a conjurer fighting against the villains.The stories are far-fetched to a fault ,pleasant to watch,but not particularly memorable (Maurice Leblanc was writing much more brilliant stories at the time featuring his hero Arsene Lupin who is much more exciting than his bland hero Philippe Guérande and his mate/undertaker.
Much more than the stories,it's the details that are interesting: the maid Mrs Guerande hires is a Girl from Britanny ,and at the time most of the servants came from that region:this was the subject of Becassine ,a comic strip of the era;it's interesting to note that whereas the villains have lovers,the hero,after losing his fiancée in the second chapter-and he doesn't even shed a tear-,remains chaste till the ...ninth episode in which he finds another one.Musidora's famous black tight caused an outcry : the series remained famous for her but she only appears in her outfit in two brief moments: one when she's scrawling on the roofs and the other one in a hotel where she also appears (that crowns it!) dressed as a young man complete with mustache .
Feuillade's most salutary quality was story -telling :even if the plot seems too often too much ,we can't help but admire the way he uses the pictures and thus keeps his lines to the minimum -a thing many of his colleagues could not do-.
Feuillade's influence in France?One sees little of it in the great directors of the Golden Era (Carné,Renoir,Guitry,Duvivier,Et Al). Feuillade's influence shows ,however,in one of Duvivier's silent films " Le Mystere De La Tour Eiffel" or even in Clair's "Le Fantome Du Moulin Rouge" .
Feuillade 's most dedicated follower was Georges Franju who made a remake of "Judex"(1963) and "Les Nuits Rouges"(1973) ,a failed attempt at a seventies "Vampires".Most of this director's works have something of Feuillade : "Les Yeux Sans Visage"(1959) "La Tête Contre Les Murs" (1960)"Pleins Feux Sur L'Assassin".(1961)
In the seventies,Feuillade's touch appeared again in Rivette's stuff ,but it's reserved for intellectuals.What was once the most popular French cinema of an era became one inspiration for the most cerebral (who said boring?) art.
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