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Blu-ray Review

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Vampyr (1932)
(2022 2K Restoration)


Starring: Julian West, Maurice Schutz, Rena Mandel, Jan Hieronimko, Sybille Schmitz and Henriette Gerard
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £21.78


Certificate: PG
Release Date: 20 May 2022

To tie-in with and celebrate the 90th anniversary of one of the earliest surrealistic horror films, Eureka Entertainment releases a 2K restoration of director Carl Theodor Dreyer’s (The Passion of Joan of Arc) Vampyr. The first time on Blu-ray in the UK, it is presented as a part of The Masters of Cinema Series in a Limited Edition set of 3000 copies, featuring a Hardbound Slipcase and 100-page Collector’s Booklet. The restoration comes courtesy of the Danish Film Institute and took nearly a decade to complete, incorporating material from the British Film Institute, the DFI and CNC)...

There is a plethora of extras, including: a restoration of the German version of the film with uncompressed mono soundtrack and optional unrestored audio track; an audio commentary by critic and programmer Tony Rayns, and another by my favourite film director (after John Carpenter) Guillermo del Toro, who is a Vampyr fan; a visual essay on Dreyer’s Vampyr influences; an entertaining 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; a documentary on the director by Jorgen Roos; two deleted scenes removed by the German censor in 1932; The Baron – a short MoC documentary about Baron Nicholas de Gunzburg; optional English subtitles; and a 100-page book featuring rare production stills, location photography, posters, the 1932 Danish film programme, a 1964 interview with Baron Nicholas de Gunzburg (producer and actor ‘Alan Gray’), an essay by Dreyer on film style, and writing by Tom Milne, Jean and Dale Drum, and film restorer Martin Koerber.

So, we get to enjoy the German, English and Danish versions of this classic surrealistic horror. The tale follows the visit of an occult-obsessed student to a small French village. Right from the start some of the characters pass by like wraiths with no acknowledgment of the presence of our protagonist, who looks for all the world like the photos of weird fiction/cosmic horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. This aids the uneasiness of events, and everything thereafter floats by as if we witnessing an off-kilter dream. When our hero goes exploring, he passes through buildings and rooms unseen as he hears gathered voices and spies creeping shadows, conspiracies and dark figures. The viewer is so used to this third-party aspect of being removed from events that, when an old man converses with him, it is a shock to the system.

Subsequently, he is very quickly drawn into a family’s events. A young woman is seriously ill in bed; they say she is cursed and will die. As the protagonist attempts to help where he can, the entire family becomes suspicious in his eyes. Both the remote setting and the period in which it was filmed offer the whole a slow-motion effect of creeping malaise and frightening uncertainly. There is a feeling that some of the events could well be in the key character’s head. If you give it a chance, you’ll find it a beguiling and compelling backdrop, which stays purposefully clear of Stoker’s overpowering presence of Dracula and instead builds suspense as a whodunnit. It’s surprisingly effective for its time, and no doubt scared the living daylights out of cinema goers upon its original release. Today, it is the removed aspect of unreality which will unnerve.


Ty Power

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