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Vampyr (The Criterion Collection)

4.0 out of 5 stars 118 customer reviews

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(Aug 26, 2009)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A young man meets two sisters, a one-legged man and an old vampire. Directed by Carl Dreyer.

In this chilling, atmospheric film from 1932, Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer favors style over story, offering a minimal plot that draws only partially from established vampire folklore. Instead, Dreyer emphasizes an utterly dreamlike visual approach, using trick photography (double exposures, etc.) and a fog-like effect created by allowing additional light to leak onto the exposed film. The result is an unsettling film that seems to spring literally from the subconscious, freely adapted from the Victorian short story Carmilla by noted horror author Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, about a young man who discovers the presence of a female vampire in a mysterious European castle. There's more to the story, of course, but it's the ghostly, otherworldly tone of the film that lingers powerfully in the memory. Dreyer maintains this eerie mood by suggesting horror and impending doom as opposed to any overt displays of terrifying imagery. Watching Vampyr is like being placed under a hypnotic trance, where the rules of everyday reality no longer apply. As a splendid bonus, the DVD includes The Mascot, a delightful 26-minute animated film from 1934. Created by pioneering animator Wladyslaw Starewicz, this clever film--in which a menagerie of toys and dolls springs to life--serves as an impressive precursor to the popular Wallace & Gromit films of the 1990s. --Jeff Shannon

Stills from Vampyr (Click for larger image)

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: N. Babanini, Albert Bras, Baron Nicolas de Gunzberg, Henriette Gerard, Jan Hieronimko
  • Directors: Carl Theodor Dreyer
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC, Silent, Special Edition, Subtitled
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: July 22, 2008
  • Run Time: 75 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00180R06I
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,091 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Vampyr (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jack Rice on July 20, 2000
Format: DVD
I can't improve on the fine reviews of the movie itself, but there are two major factors connected with the making of the film that may have been overlooked.
If by "poor quality," the reference is to the washed out, somewhat spotty look of the print, please be aware that this was deliberate. Cinematographer Matté had accidently opened a can of exposed film, and when Dreyer saw the result, he was delighted. It was just the effect he had been looking for.
This film was originally shot as a silent. It was only later half-dubbed with voice-overs. Again, however, like the fortuitous "damage" to the print, the sparse and somewhat vague, even incoherent, dialogue contributes to the sense of dislocation which, I believe, is one of the great virtues of this genre masterpiece.
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Format: DVD
Another release from the same folks who produced "Nosferatu" (Film Preservation Assosiates/Blackhawk Films). Excellent print transfer to DVD (and VHS)! I have seen several versions of VAMPYR and this DVD (and VHS version) are by far the best available. Much of VAMPYRS' "poor production" IS intentional, so consider this fact when reading other comments regarding print quality. This is about as good as it's gonna get! BUT I'd like to know who in the F.P.A. is responsible for allowing the atrocious subtitles (same is true for NOSFERATU)????!!! They should be taken out and covered in flour or fully exposed to the sun on a hot summer day! The gothic fonts are not easy to read and Dryer is Danish NOT German! The original (and very cool) opening titles have been replaced with a psuedo aged effect that is not necessary and in some scenes, the subtitles are really huge and also not necessary. What were they thinking??? Obviously, not much! Hey guys, leave the cutesy stuff for another day and just give up the facts! So for you, dear reader: if you can forgive them for annoying subtitles, then this version is well worth the investment!
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Format: DVD
This is a great film, one of the most spectral and haunting of all vampire movies. Admittedly, the available prints have been spotty at best. There was a restoration back in the late '60 that took the best footage from a German print and an English language dub print. Truly that effort did justice to Rudolph Matte's imaginative photography. Sadly, this is not that print. By far it's the worst transfer to DVD I've seen yet. The subtitles take up the lower half of the image, and they are gothic German letters on a black masked background! Who's guilty for that? It's become clear that old classics like this are getting rushed into release with little regard for quality, so buyer beware. With a hack job like this out in the market it'll be a long time (if ever) till we see a beautifully restored version of Carl Dreyer's masterpiece on DVD. If you're looking for quality check out Criterion's release of Dreyer's "Passion of Joan of Arc". It's a model of what can be accomplished on the restoration of an old film. With Richard Einhorn's score "The Passion of Joan of Arc" is as fresh and alive as any movie currently in theaters.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Carl Theodor Dreyer's VAMPYR has long been one of my favorite early horror films but until just a few years ago it was impossible to see it in a decent print. The old Image DVD had the best picture quality but was marred by black box subtitles in Gothic script. Still it was the best there was until now. This new Criterion transfer is not only the best so far it will probably be the best from now on as I can't see anyone else wanting to redo it. It's not everyone's idea of a horror film especially today when poetry and atmosphere are not high on the list of priorities for most horror movies (or most movies in general). The film was not a success in 1932 causing the director to abandon filmmaking for 11 years although it quickly developed a cult following.

The scenario inspired by Irish Huguenot writer Sheridan Le Fanu's novella CARMILLA and influenced by F.W. Murnau's NOSFERATU is probably the closest cinematic equivalent of a dream captured on film. It certainly influenced Cocteau's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST which was 14 years later. The film is actually more of a nightmare as it follows a young protagonist through village inns and country estates on the trail of a female vampire who against conventional tradition is old and wizened rather than young and beautiful. Strange things happen. Shadows have a life of their own, the hero watches himself from above as he is buried alive, and it contains one of the strangest death scenes ever filmed which was borrowed from D.W. Griffith's A CORNER IN WHEAT. The entire film was designed to be pale with lots of fog and scenes shot through gauze over the camera lens. It was photographed by Rudolph Mate' who had done Dreyer's previous film THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC. Once seen it cannot be forgotten.
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Format: VHS Tape
This film is truly outstanding. It's possible to even go so far as to call 'Vampyr' the last in the line of German cinema expressionist movies; evidence to suggest the influences of 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' and 'Nosferatu' certainly abounds throughout.
First things first; the film has no tangible plot to follow except that the storyline is loosely strung on a young man's attempt to fight vampirism in a small (Danish?) town. While the lack of plot sounds bad in the abstract, there is so much strength in the movie's other attributes that the issue of story structure soon fades in the viewer's mind. Imagery provides 'Vampyr' with its rasion d'etre. One haunting, shadowy image segues into the next to make for a horror experience that's far subtler than what Universal Studios was starting to crank out at the time of this film's release. Director Carl Dreyer apparently shot some of the scenes through gauze to enhance the ghost-like wispiness of the sequences.
The effect is utterly magical. Combine that with kinks like reverse filming (man 'digging' the grave), an eerie cello/clarinet-led score as well as a virtually absent dialogue and you've got a film that addresses horror on a high level.
It's important to understand this as you watch, although the scenes are consistently textured enough to remind you that you're trapped in a black and white nightmare experience for the entire duration of the picture. The film seems to become more ethereal every minute and by the time the vampiric crone is done away with, the viewer has been through too harrowing an affair to be able to see how a semi-happy ending can make those feelings of disquiet ebb away. It must be said that it took guts to produce this film.
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