Monday, April 03, 2006

The Oldest of Vampire Films

The oldest vampire film listed is “Le Manoir du Diable” by Georges Melies dated at 1896 – 1 year before the publication of “Dracula”.

Probably the best description I ever found of it is on the missing Link Website:

"In a medieval hall a bat circles and transforms into Mephistopheles, (Melies), who waves his hand and a large cauldron appears. At another wave of his hand a beautiful woman emerges from a puff of smoke and an old man appears from the floor carrying a book. Everything disappears at a sign from the evil one then a cavalier arrives holding a cross causes the Devil to throw up his arms and disappear in a cloud of smoke.

"A rapid action film that lasts less than three minutes. This was Melies last film of the year, his first big production and the first film with a vampiric theme."

As you will tell, by the description this could easily drop into the “Vamp or Not?” section of the blog. However, I’ve never been able to find a copy of the film digitized, in order to be able to view it. There is a 9 second clip in realplayer format here for those interested.

A little plee is that if anyone knows if the full version of the film is still in existence, or more importantly where it can be viewed, then please leave a comment with details.


Anthony Hogg said...

I'd say this film would easily fit into the Not Vamp category for four reasons:

1) The villain is named Mephistopheles; a demon from the legends of Faust.

2) Warding the demon off with a cross is equally applicable to demonic literature. In fact, it is from such a background that the vampire's fear of the cross is derived.

3) The transformation of vampires into bats was invented by Stoker in Dracula (1897); which, as revealed, was published a year after this film.

4) No descriptions of this film make reference to any acts of vampirism - that is, the drinking of blood from a victim.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

undoubtedly good points Anthony, however... wouldn't it be wonderful to see it just to check?

Anthony Hogg said...

Oh, I'm not challenging your right to find out for yourself, of course.

It was great even seeing that snippet of film at all. It's amazing to think that it is 112 years old!

Anyway, to tide you over a bit till you come across the rest of that film, here's a brief correspondence between myself and the webmaster of the webpage you linked to.

I sent this e-mail off on Saturday, April 26, 2008 at 18:52:09:


"I'm writing in regards to your listing for "Le Manoir du Diable", which can be found here:

"I have two questions regarding it:

"1) Where is the rest of the film? Only 9 seconds are available from your website for viewing, but the listing cites it as lasting for 3.

"2) Its listing states that it displayed the "first hints of the vampire film". On what grounds is this claim made? If I'm not mistaken, the devil character in the title is listed as "Mephistopheles".

"Hope to hear back from you soon on this matter."

Here's what I got back (Thursday, 1 May 2008 3:41:18 AM):

"Hi Anthony.
Thanks for getting touch and for your thought provoking questions.
Firstly that brief clip is all that I have managed to come across and it was from a segment that I found on an old videotape that my brother had from somewhere. I believe it was from a documentary, although not sure which one.
I have never seen the rest of the missing footage, although there is plenty of write ups as to what it was about.
The "vampire" reference is due to a Mephistopheles appearence and the fact the he is vanquished with the time-tested use of a cross. OK the link may be a bit tenuous, but elements of this have been a staple of every vampire film since.
Hope this helps. If I find any more of the footage, I'll let you know."

Here's hoping!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Anthony, sometimes I am concerned that, because text has no timbre, people might take things the wrong way. Let me assure you I was in no way thinking that you were challenging my right to find out.

My last sentence was actually written with something akin to swchoolboy glee! :)

Let me know if you get anything back further from the site - your comment has kindled a little spark of hope