A bag full of symbolic folklore about werewolves, or, rather, their sexual connotation. Granny tells her granddaughter Rosaleen strange, disturbing tales about innocent maidens falling in ... See full summary »
Inspired by fairy-tales such as Alice in Wonderland and Little Red-Riding Hood, "Valerie and her Week of Wonders" is a surreal tale in which love, fear, sex and religion merge into one fantastic world.
This film contains four distinct, separate stories. "Black Hair": A poor samurai who divorces his true love to marry for money, but finds the marriage disastrous and returns to his old wife... See full summary »
An old Gothic cathedral, built over a mass grave, develops strange powers which trap a number of people inside with ghosts from a 12th Century massacre seeking to resurrect an ancient demon from the bowels of the Earth.
Feodor Chaliapin Jr.
A village in Nineteenth Century Europe is at first relieved when a circus breaks through the quarantine to take the local's minds off the plague. But their troubles are only beginning as ... See full summary »
Young traveller Allan Grey arrives in a remote castle and starts seeing weird, inexplicable sights (a man whose shadow has a life of its own, a mysterious scythe-bearing figure tolling a bell, a terrifying dream of his own burial). Things come to a head when one of the daughters of the lord of the castle succumbs to anaemia - or is it something more sinister? Written by
Michael Brooke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
For much of the cast, this was there only film appearance since they were not professional actors. Henriette Gérard who played the vampire was a French widow, Jan Hieronimko who played the village doctor was a Polish journalist, Rena Mandel who played Gisèle was an artist's model. Even "Julian West", (real name: Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg) who played Allan Grey, was French-born member of Russian nobility who agreed to finance the film in exchange for the leading part. (He later emigrated to America where he became a powerful fashion journalist and mentor to designers like Calvin Klein.) See more »
At exactly 16 minutes (in the Criterion DVD) as the camera pans right, there is a reflection in a glass window of the camera operator cranking the camera. See more »
Not your usual romp with the un-dead, but for a particular brand of movie-geek, there are some extraordinary things going for it
Carl Theodor Dreyer will always be a household name among directors for me after viewing his Passion of Joan of Arc, one of the most emotionally wrenching, stylistically groundbreaking, and thoughtful of religious treatises. There not only did he reveal the eye of a cinematic genius, but he also had Renee Falconetti, one of only several people to truly pull off a performance by using the eyes to talk more than the voice. So, I read up on Dreyer and found that he also directed several sound films after the tragedy that was the butchering and loss of Joan of Arc. One of them was this film, a piece of experimental horror/mystery dealing with the supernatural, the occult, the damned- Vampires.
The story at times becomes a little too hard to follow, even beside the point that the film is meant to be surreal or nightmarish or what-have-you. What I did make out of it was that a man named Allan Gray (Julian West) somehow gets lured by his own curiosity comes upon a chateau where an old man (Maurice Schultz, one of the finest hair/face-styling jobs I've seen in an old-style horror movie) and his two daughters reside. Inter-cutting between excerpts of a book detailing the ABC's of vampire facts, bizarre and sad occurrences go on in the chateau, both to Alan and one of the daughters.
I suppose saying that the film at times veers off into haunting imagery is almost a compliment, but for some audiences this could be a turn off. On top of the fact that the film contains fewer lines than in any other vampire film I can think of, the whole tone and look of the film is, not to put a snob touch on it, unique. This would not likely be the kind of film to hang out with adolescent friends and drink beers to (that kind of film in the genre would be From Dusk Till Dawn). The one minor flaw in the film as well is, unlike Joan of Arc, the performances are less than brilliant, outside of the girl in the bed and at times West (Schultz, while believable in the look of the character, is a little too 'shocked' in most scenes).
But what the film has going for it are two main elements- Dreyer and Joan of Arc cinematographer Rudolph Mate. Despite the film, when being viewed today on video and DVD, having a low-quality transfer with specks and scratches and all, nearly every image and camera move is perfect. For this kind of film, Dreyer takes an approach that lends the story and characters to another plane- these are people caught in the grip of a force that only has one purpose, to kill in a controlled state. Certain scenes are like terrifying little masterpieces of gothic torture- the droplets of blood falling onto the ground from the bed; the coffin point of view of the world; the close-ups; the way Dreyer moves around the chateau and outside; the creepy, somehow appropriate over/under exposure of shots. Overall, this is definitely a horror film with a an artist that doesn't sell himself short of the goods in his arsenal.
Vampyr is recommendable, if for nothing else (however the story seems like it would be easier to figure out on a repeat viewing, it would lessen the effect it leaves the first time), for the sheer vision. Although it has dated, Dreyer's take on the myths and terror of a group of citizens held in the grip of a vampire's grip is a technical landmark, and one of the early essentials alongside Nosferatu and Dracula. The dreadful score by Zeller is a good touch as well. A
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