Saturday, December 27, 2008

Vampyr – Masters of Cinema Edition – review

Masters of Cinema DVDMany of you may have already read my review of the film Vampyr – the Strange Adventure of Allan Gray. My review of the film, as a piece of cinema, remains the same. The film, which Hitchcock suggested was “the only film worth watching… twice” remains at 9 out of 10. This review is about the Masters of Cinema edition and is a review of the edition itself. Many thanks to Ian who bought me this edition for Christmas.

The film itself is much more of a joy to watch, it has been restored in its original aspect ratio (1.19:1) and is a “new, high-definition transfer” that is not to suggest that the film is perfect but it is as good as you are going to get. More important is the work done on the sound. It is in the German – rather than a mismatch of languages from different versions – and has a choice of restored or unrestored sound. The restored sound still has some hiss issues but you can now hear the film properly.

the scythe is a recurring imageOn to the abundance of special features. The film has an 80 page booklet, which is a joy and gives the box the weight impression of a half-brick. It includes rare production stills, location photography, posters, the 1932 Danish film programme and writings by Tom Milne, Jean and Dale Drum and Martin Koerber. The disc itself contains a pdf of Carmilla.

the vampyr herselfThere are two deleted scenes, without sound, that were cut due to the censors. The scene of the staking of the vampire (Henriette Gérard) is astounding, much longer and visceral, with the intimated pounding of the stake into the corpse and through into the ground, and Allan Grey (Julian West) taking on a much more proactive role. I should note that having looked through the extras I have concluded that we should settle on Allan as the name of the protagonist rather than David – cf. my earlier review of the film.

Dreyer uses shadow as characters themselvesThere is a documentary by Jørgen Roos on Director Carl Th. Dreyer, a visual essay by Casper Tybjerg on Dreyer’s Vampyr influences and a documentary looking at Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg – the true identity of actor Julian West, who received the lead role due to his financing of the film.

Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg or H.P. Lovecraft?There are two audio commentaries. One by Tony Rayns and the second by Guillermo del Toro. Of course, del Toro is no stranger to the vampire genre – having directed both Cronos and Blade 2 as well as being due to write a series of vampire novels. More importantly he is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest living directors. His contribution is fascinating as he looks at the film and sees it very much as a memento mori. He also points out the physical similarity between Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg and H P Lovecraft, as an aside.

The DoctorAll in all this is a fine set for a fine film. There is a criterion edition (US), which in itself seems like it might be fine also – having read a list of its contents – however the commentary by Rayns is on both editions but only the Masters of Cinema edition has the Del Toro commentary. Score for this as a DVD edition, 10 out of 10.


Ian said...

Glad you enjoyed it mate. Hope you had a Merry Yule and we wish you and your a very happy new year. All the best.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cheers matey, same to you

OllieMugwump said...

A classic indeed.

I got this after reading an article in SFX special horror edition, where Dario Argento listed his favourites.

You can certainly see its influence on "Inferno" - my favourite film of his - the book of "The Three Mothers" like the book of vampires, Leigh McCloskey's disconnected, wandering performance as Mark Elliot like Baron Nicolas de Gunzberg as Julian West as Allan Gray.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Ollie, I;ve not seen Inferno - I must keep an eye out for it.

OllieMugwump said...

The new DVD's out this August.

"Inferno" is definately a modern Gothic masterpiece - no doubt largely due to the fact that it was the last film Mario Bava (though uncredited) worked on; doing a fair few FX (the climactic mirror sequence in particular), plus there are plenty of nods to him throughout the film; the gloved hand through the curtain from "Black Sunday", the flashing-lights and cats passing the window from "Black Sabbath" ('The Drop of Water') among others.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I will definitely keep an eye out