Vampyr (German: Vampyr – Der Traum des Allan Grey) is a 1932 French-German horror film directed by Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer. The film was written by Dreyer and Christen Jul based on elements from J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s collection of supernatural stories In a Glass Darkly. An alternate English version was released as Castle of Doom.
The production was funded by Nicolas de Gunzburg who starred in the film under the name of Julian West among a mostly non-professional cast. Gunzburg plays the role of Allan Grey, a student of the occult who enters the village of Courtempierre, which is under the curse of a vampire.
Vampyr was challenging for Dreyer to make as it was his first sound film and had to be recorded in three languages. To overcome this, very little dialogue was used in the film and much of the story is told with silent film-styled title cards.
The film was shot entirely on location and to enhance the atmospheric content, Dreyer opted for a washed out, fuzzy appearing photographic technique. The audio editing was done in Berlin where the character’s voices, sound effects, and score were added to the film.
Vampyr had a delayed release in Germany and opened to a generally negative reception from audiences and critics. Dreyer edited the film after its German premiere and it opened to more mixed opinions at its French debut.
The film was long considered as a low part in Dreyer’s career, but modern critical reception to the film has become much more favourable with critics praising the film’s disorienting visual effects and atmosphere.
On October 3, 2017, The Criterion Collection is releasing Vampyr on Blu-ray.
- High-definition digital transfer of the original German version of the film, from the 1998 restoration by Martin Koerber and the Cineteca di Bologna, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Alternate version with English text
- Audio commentary featuring film scholar Tony Rayns
- Carl Th. Dreyer, a 1966 documentary by Jørgen Roos chronicling Dreyer’s career
- Video essay by scholar Casper Tybjerg on Dreyer’s influences in creating Vampyr
- Radio broadcast from 1958 of Dreyer reading an essay about filmmaking
- A booklet featuring essays by critics Mark Le Fanu and Kim Newman, a piece by Koerber on the restoration, and a 1964 interview with producer and actor Nicolas de Gunzburg
- A book featuring Dreyer and Christen Jul’s original screenplay and Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 story “Carmilla,” a source for the film
Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.com
“In every sense, Vampyr is a moody piece of horror. As Dreyer says, his ambition was to affect those changes in attitude that come about by subtle and uneasy queues of death and the supernatural. He succeeds as few directors ever have. It will be stated now and again before this review is out: Vampyr constitutes, in the opinion of this reviewer, the finest horror film ever made.” Voyages Extraordinaires
“..one of the four or five greatest horror films, but also as one of the greatest films ever made, regardless of genre. It’s a masterpiece that gives me the chills.” Combustible Celluloid
“The oneiric haze perfected by Dreyer and cinematographer Rudolph Maté was laid down on the opening page of the script – “The landscape is bathed in a grey, dim twilight” – and, as was the case in Epstein’s Usher, it seems to impregnate the very film stock. Anaemic and impalable, it parallels the ebbing life of the vampire’s victim, particularly in a stunning shot, reminiscent of Fuseli’s The Nightmare, in which the old lady hovers over the swooned heroine in a stretch of parkland outside the château.” Jonathan Rigby, Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema
“A nearly irrational, mood-based horror gem with imagery that verges on the surreal, Vampyr is a grim and restless death parable made in the brief age when the melodramatic structures of silent films were slowly being fleshed out with the new colors and textures afforded by sound.” 366 Weird Movies