Vampyr (1932) (NTSC)

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Released 25-Aug-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Cult Booklet
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1932
Running Time 62:50
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Carl Theodor Dreyer
Studio
Distributor
Gryphon Entertainment Starring Julian West
Maurice Schutz
Rena Mandel
Sybille Schmitz
Jan Hieronimko
Henriette Gerard
Albert Bras
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI ? Music Wolfgang Zeller


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame German Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 mono (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.19:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Vampyr (or Vampyr – Der Traum des Allan Grey to give it its full title) is a 1932 German expressionist horror film from director Carl Theodor Dreyer. The film was made as a silent movie and voices overdubbed in post-production, so there is little dialogue and the film retains title cards except for dialogue. This is just as well. Without the cards it would be pretty much impossible to work out what is going on, as in the main we have no idea who many of the characters are, or what they are doing. The fact that the print is so soft and lacking in detail or that the subtitles are occasionally unreadable does not help. In fact in many instances I had no idea what was going on, even though (and just as well) I did read a plot synopsis before I watched the film.

     Allan Grey (Julian West) is a researcher into Satanism and vampirism. Staying at an inn one night, a man comes into his room says “she mustn’t die” and leaves Grey a parcel on which is inscribed “to be opened after my death”. Grey goes wandering, as you do, and comes across the town doctor (Jan Hieronimko) up to no good; further on he arrives at the mansion of the man who had given him the parcel, whose two daughters are ill. When the man is shot dead, Grey opens the parcel: it is a book about vampires, their deeds and how to destroy them. Grey gives some of his blood as a transfusion for one of the daughters: afterwards he has an out of body experience, including seeing his own dead body in a coffin being buried. A servant also reads the vampire book, and he and Grey exhume the suspected vampire and drive a stake through it, freeing the daughters. The doctor, who had aided the vampire, comes to a floury end.

     To say that Vampyr is an unusual film is a gross understatement! It is full of shadows, unusual and fluid camera angles and a disjointed dream-like quality matched by a disorientating sound design, with voices and snatches of conversation seeming coming at random. We are never too sure about Grey’s sanity; even before the out of body experience he sees a shadow of a man who was not there as well as a figure with a scythe, who may be death. The cast, almost without exception, were not professional actors including the leading man who, credited as Julian West, was in fact Dutch aristocrat Nicholas De Gunzberg who financed the picture!

     Vampyr was loosely based on the 1872 novel Carmilla by Sheridan LeFanu. Director Carl Theodor Dreyer, who had a critical and commercial success with his acclaimed silent film the Passion of Joan of Arc in 1927, was reported as saying that in Vampyr he “wanted to create a visual daydream to demonstrate the psychological dimensions of horror”. He probably succeeded all too well, in a way that alienated his audience, for Vampyr was not a commercial success which caused Dreyer to suffer a nervous breakdown that kept him from filmmaking for a decade.

     Seen today, Vampyr is an audacious film, a mesmerising psychological horror film, where the boundary between reality and the imaginings of a seriously disturbed mind is always in question. Parts of the film are visually stunning, but it is spoiled by the very poor presentation on this DVD; on many occasions it was impossible to see what is going on. However, I did see enough to be interested in seeking this film out in a better presentation; I have a feeling it would be quite special.

     Vampyr is included in the six film, three DVD collection Blood Suckers, a set from Gryphon of vampire tales from around the world, Germany, Spain, Italy and England, from 1922 to 1974. The full list is Nosferatu (1922) and Vampyr (1932) on disc 1, Atom Age Vampire (1960) and Fangs of the Living Dead (1969) on disc 2 and Vampire Night Orgy (1974) and Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride (1973) on disc 3. The set also includes an informative 8 page booklet.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Vampyr is presented in a ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. The original ratio is listed as 1.19:1. The print is NTSC format.

     This black and white print is so soft and detail so indistinct that on occasion it is impossible to see what is happening. The opening credit sequence is almost unreadable, and see 10:47, 26:21 or 55:00 for only a few examples of places lacking detail. Blacks are anything but black, contrast and brightness vary considerably. There are a number of scratches and dirt marks, but artefacts are not as prevalent as I expected and macro blocking was not an issue. But of course we are talking about an unrestored 80 year old film here!

     There are burnt in subtitles for the infrequent German dialogue; some can be read, others are pretty much unreadable. The English text cards were obviously added some time later as they are much cleaner and easy to read; the contrast with the German opening credits is very marked.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is a German Linear PCM track at 1536 Kbps, although in a couple of sections the dialogue is in English for a sentence or two; strange, maybe a couple of different sources were used. The limited dialogue could be heard OK, effects were pretty much non-existent as befitting a film originally made as a silent. Hiss, hum and crackles were a loud constant and are distracting. There is obviously no surround or sub-woofer use.

     The score by Wolfgang Zeller is reasonably effective, but is always in competition with the hiss and hum.

     With so little dialogue, it was difficult to judge lip synchronization, even where the dialogue switched to English. Not a distraction anyway.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Booklet

     A booklet provides some interesting information and a summary for all the films in this box set.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There have been a couple of excellent restored releases of Vampyr including a Region 1 US Criterion Collection and a Region 2 UK release from Eureka that include commentaries and decent extras. For a fairly comprehensive listing of the differences see the dvdcompare site here. A previous release of the film in Australia in a double feature with Nosteratu was reviewed by a reader of the site here.

     Fans of the film will no doubt already have one of the better releases if their system will support other regions. However, if you are just interested in seeing this gem, even in this poor presentation, the Blood Suckers package for a RRP of $19.95 for six films is a bargain. Indeed, I cannot find an equivalent of this three disc, six film package in any other region.

Summary

     Vampyr, is an audacious film, a mesmerising psychological horror film where the boundary between reality and the imaginings of a seriously disturbed mind is always in question. Parts of the film are quite visually stunning but it is very much spoiled by the poor presentation on this DVD. The video and audio are poor, but of course we are talking about an unrestored 80 year old film here!

     Vampyr is included in the six film, three DVD collection Blood Suckers, a set from Gryphon of vampire tales from around the world from 1922 to 1974.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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