This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Vampyr (1932)

"Come with me. We will be one body...death is waiting."
-Marguerite Chopin

Just one year after the release of Dracula(1931), Danish director Carl Dryer made this vampire flick. Like Bram Stoker, Dryer was a fan of the Joseph Le Fanu novel Carmilla. That story, about a female vampire's obsesssion with a woman, became the basis for Dryer's film.

A traveler named Allan Gray(Nicolas de Gunzburg) arrives at an inn for the evening. He is awakened that night when a man enters his room and leaves a packet with instructions for it not to be opened until his death. Gray takes the packet and journeys to a castle, where he encounters the village doctor (Jan Hieronimko). He is startled by what appears to be shadows dancing. Eventually, Gray sees the man again at a manor before he is killed by gunfire. Grey agrees to stay the night and is startled to find Leone (Sybille Schmitz), a daughter of the Lord of the Manor(Maurice Schutz), wandering outside, despite being gravely ill. After she collapses, she is brought back inside by Gray and her sister Gisele(Rena Mandel). They then find bite marks on Leone. Gray then remembers the packet the old man gave him and opens it to find it is a book on demons (known in the region as Vampyrs).

A doctor visits the manor, whom Gray recognizes from his journey to the castle. The doctor says that Leone needs a blood transfusion to survive and Gray volunteers. However, Gray is left exhausted by the procedure. He senses danger and finds that the doctor has taken Gisele and left. Tracking him to the castle, Gray discovers that a woman named Marguerite Chopin(Henriette GĂ©rard) is a vampyr. With the help of a servant(Albert Bras), they open her grave and drive a metal bar through her heart, killing her. The doctor makes his way to an old mill. The servant then activates the mill, burying the doctor in huge amounts of flour.

Dryer was known for bringing excellent work from actors who did not have much experience, and this film is no exception. For example, Gunzburg was a magazine editor who agreed to help Dryer with financing if he could have a part in the film(he was credited in the film as Julian West).

Vampyr was, however, his first sound film. Technical difficulties with recordings in different languages led to minimal use of dialogue in this film. Much like Nosferatu (1922), this film's greatness lies in its visual moments, such as Gray dreaming that he'll be buried alive.

Sadly, this film was initially a failure. As a result, Dryer wouldn't make another film until 1943 with Day of Wrath, a film about witchcraft. Chillingly, by that time, Dryer's native Denmark had been annexed by Nazi Germany, which could be seen as life imitating art.

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