VAMPYR BLU RAY REVIEW

90 years ago, along came VAMPYR. Since then, hundreds of film fans and millions of words have been spilled all over this. I am not going to pretend that I have any really deep extrapolations of this utter masterpiece, that mixes the supernatural and deeply sinister. Carl Theodor Dreyer was not alien to film but for his first sound film, he crafted VAMPYR. Adapting the haunted stories of Sheridan Le Fanu, Dreyer immerses us in the dreamlike world of occult-obsessed student Allan Gray (Nicolas de Gunzburg). He is on holiday to a small French village that seems to have an unnatural feel to it. Exploring its darker recesses he find strange, sprit like shadows. Haunted people and a world that is far from the one that he lives in. The unsettling mystery around a stricken family’s struggle with malevolent forces, draws him ever deeper into the nightmarish world. Leaving Gray at the very edge of despair. 

I personally love Dreyer’s work. He has a broad but quite fixed subject matter that he explores and thematically at least, VAMPYR is connected to it. The problem was and still is that it came off of the back of THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, his unrelenting masterpiece. That film revelaed the brutality of passion and equally its disturbing idiom. The interesting thing about his later work is that it often lived in the shadow of the film but where the later film was equal to any and more so, so was VAMPYR. It probes the  supernatural phantasmagoria and creeping unease within inter war society, with a sense of austerity. Audacious camerawork and sound design aside, it is the very textual feel that is supplanted into its fibres. The all-new 2K restoration, by the Danish Film Institute who have been supported by the MEDIA program Creative Europe ( which includes the BFI, CNC and DFI), reclaims it from decay and dismantling. The return of key scenes, restored to at least a viewing level that is satisfactory, is worth your time and money. 

The extras are thin but its worth noting three of them here. The commentary from VAMPRY fan Guillermo del Toro, is new to me and its a fine adulation piece, if not much else. Rayns commentary, I believe is from the Criterion collection version and is the scholar conversation. But it is the Visual essay by scholar Casper Tybjerg on Dreyer’s Vampyr influences, that is illuminating and also appeared on the Criterion collection version. The booklet has not been seen but looks great as well.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Limited Edition Hardbound Slipcase [3000 copies]
  • All-new 2K digital restoration of the German version by the Danish Film Institute, completed in 2020 after an extensive decade-long restoration process, with uncompressed mono soundtrack
  • Optional unrestored audio track
  • Two audio commentaries: one by critic and programmer Tony Rayns; the second by filmmaker and Vampyr fan Guillermo del Toro
  • Visual essay by scholar Casper Tybjerg on Dreyer’s Vampyr influences
  • New video interview with author and critic Kim Newman on Vampyr’s unique place within vampire cinema
  • Two new video interviews with music and cultural historian David Huckvale on the film’s score and its adaptation of Sheridan Le Fanu
  • Carl Th. Dreyer (1966) – a documentary by Jörgen Roos
  • Two deleted scenes, removed by the German censor in 1932
  • The Baron – a short MoC documentary about Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg
  • Optional English subtitles
  • A 100-PAGE BOOK – featuring rare production stills, location photography, posters, the 1932 Danish film programme, a 1964 interview with Baron Nicolas de Gunzberg (producer and actor “Allan Gray”), an essay by Dreyer on film style, and writing by Tom Milne, Jean and Dale Drum, and film restorer Martin Koerber [3000 copies]

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