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Blu Vamp

Newly released on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber is Louis Feuillade’s Les Vampires (1915-1916), one of the greatest and most influential works of the early narrative cinema. Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray is made from a new HD transfer of a photochemical restoration that was overseen by Jacques Champreux, the director’s grandson, in 1996. This release is massively significant because, unlike most Kino releases of silent French movies, which usually port over the intact (or in some cases truncated) contents of pre-existing region-locked French discs, this is the true world premiere of Les Vampires, or any Feuillade for that matter, in 1080p. It is, as one might expect, a marvel to behold and should be considered a must-own for cinephiles. For those unfamiliar with it, Les Vampires was the result of Feuillade provocatively combining contemporary French pulp fiction with the Balzac-ian notion of secret societies, and then refracting it through his own unique and highly moral sensibility. The finished product is an insanely entertaining mystery serial that went on to exert an explicit influence on everyone from Fritz Lang and Luis Bunuel to George Franju and Jacques Rivette to Olivier Assayas in the present day (and this is to say nothing of the hundreds of directors who were influenced by it indirectly). In short, Les Vampires is the very essence of cinema. To paraphrase something Martin Scorsese said about Sam Fuller, if you don’t love it, then you just don’t love movies.

The most significant directors in the development of cinema prior to 1920 were D.W. Griffith in the United States and Louis Feuillade in France. Like Griffith, the brilliant Feuillade was incredibly prolific; he directed over 600 films, many of them multi-part serials, before his premature death at 52. Unlike Griffith, Feuillade may not have been a pioneer in terms of the specific techniques he employed in lighting, shooting or cutting his movies. (One can find instances of tracking, panning and tilt shots, as well as close-ups of actors’ faces, in Les Vampires but they are used far more sparingly than in Griffith. More often than not, Feuillade preferred to let his scenes unfold in long shots and long takes, a style that used to invite accusations of “theatricality” in some quarters; but, in light of certain European art film trends beginning in the 1960s, his use of depth staging now arguably looks stunning in its modernity.) Feuillade was unquestionably, however, an innovator in terms of his approach to narrative structure. His 1913 release Fantomas, for instance, is credited with being the first “cliffhanger” serial. While the serial format already existed before Feuillade came along, he is believed to be the first filmmaker to wed that particular form with the high concept of suspenseful, “open” endings in an attempt to lure viewers back to the theater week after week to see future serial installments.

Les Vampires, which originally ran in France from November of 1915 through June of 1916 in ten episodes of varying length, has always been Feuillade’s most popular work. It was first famously revived by Henri Langlois at the French Cinematheque in the mid-1940s. Jacques Rivette paid homage to it in his two best films, Out 1 (1971) and Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974). And it again piqued international interest in the mid-1990s after Olivier Assayas used it as a major reference point in Irma Vep (where he drew intriguing parallels between Feuillade’s serial and contemporary Hong Kong action films). The perennial popularity of Les Vampires probably stems from its subject: not literal vampires as the title has led many to believe but rather a gang of nocturnal thieves who call themselves “The Vampires.” The leader of the gang is a woman named Irma Vep (played by the ferocious, outrageously sexy actress Musidora) who finds herself matching wits with ace investigative newspaper reporter Philippe Guérande (Édouard Mathé) and his comical sidekick Oscar Mazamette (Marcel Levesque). The bad guys, unsurprisingly, have long been the biggest appeal factor; the serial was much beloved by the Surrealists in the 1920s for its evocation of what seemed like an elaborate criminal network festering beneath the surface of mainstream bourgeois society, as well as, one presumes, a capture-and-escape narrative loop structure that stands in opposition to the typical closure of Hollywood cinema. These are qualities that come through amazingly loud and clear on Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray, which proves that Les Vampires has lost none of its power to entertain for the entire duration of its nearly 7 hour running time.

The plot of Les Vampires is virtually impossible to summarize because the story of each episode is crammed with plentiful twists and turns and the sprawling, overarching master narrative was not worked out in advance but improvised by the filmmakers as they went along instead. Andre Bazin, in a typically lovely and incisive piece of writing, noted that “(Feuillade) had no idea what would happen next and filmed step by step as the morning’s inspiration came. Both the author and the spectator were in the same situation, namely, that of the King and Scheherazade; the repeated intervals of darkness in the cinema paralleled the separating off of the Thousand and One Nights.” Suffice to say, the narrative ingredients of Les Vampires are quintessential Feuillade: murders, hypnotism, cryptograms, disguises, kidnaps, rescues and escapes. A character known as the “Grand Vampire” murders a wealthy doctor and then assumes his place, entertaining a guest by day but infiltrating his room by night through a secret passageway hidden behind a painting. Similarly, Irma Vep dons many disguises including that of a maid and an office clerk, and even dresses up in drag as a “Viscount” (Musidora was fittingly rediscovered by feminist critics in the 1970s) in order to gain access to different levels of society so that the Vampires can execute their various dastardly schemes. The Vampires ultimately find themselves pitted against not only Guérande and Mazamette but also a rival gang headed by a Spaniard named Juan-José Moréno (who is himself a master of disguise). As the serial progresses, more and more characters are piled on, including wealthy American victims (two of whom, I’m happy to point out, hail from Chicago), as well as love interests for our journalist-heroes.

What is probably the most outrageous narrative contrivance, however, involves a character who (while in disguise, of course) regales a roomful of people by reading aloud from the memoirs of his grandfather, an adventurer who had spent time in Spain a hundred years ago. This allows Feuillade to insert a flashback scene, one that notoriously consisted of bullfight footage from an abandoned movie project that the director had shot in Spain not long before. Adding to all of this nuttiness is the fact that Les Vampires has probably the highest sex and violence quotient of any Feuillade serial; a typical episode contains at least two murders. The first episode is titled “The Severed Head” and includes the grisly discovery of the title body part inside of a hatbox. Another episode contains a scene where a man is killed by being stabbed in the neck with a hairpin before his body is tossed off of a moving train. As for the sex, Irma Vep’s frequent nighttime prowls see her donning a skin-tight black body stocking that, in addition to being fetish-worthy in itself, leaves nothing to the viewer’s imagination concerning what’s underneath in certain lighting conditions. Unsurprisingly, Feuillade was severely criticized for romanticizing his criminal characters by both the wartime French government and the press. Consequently, many commentators feel that he intentionally toned down the explicit content and ratcheted up the moralism for Judex (1916) and other subsequent serials.

I think my personal favorite aspect of Les Vampires may be the performance of Marcel Levesque as Mazamette, which is saying a lot given my boundless enthusiasm for Musidora. Alone among the performers of the film’s ensemble cast, Levesque repeatedly and hilariously breaks the fourth wall by playing directly to the camera (and, by extension, the viewer). Levesque continually winks, nods and smiles in the direction of the camera, as if to say “get a load of this!,” all more than forty years before the filmmakers of the Nouvelle Vague were credited with introducing similar self-reflexive techniques with their direction of actors. What I find particularly endearing about Levesque’s mugging though is the way that it increases in frequency as the series unfolds. It’s probably the best example of how Feuillade tailored later episodes of his serial to what audiences had responded to positively in the earliest episodes. It’s also a good example of how the joyous nature of cinematic storytelling itself can be seen as Feuillade’s true subject. (Other examples would include scenes where the film’s characters go to the movies: once to a “Gaumont Palace,” a theater owned by the studio that produced Les Vampires, and once to see a documentary that the film’s heroes are stunned to find features their nemeses, the Vampires.) In the end, it is hard not to find infectious one character’s exclamation of “I am a movie fanatic!,” surely one of the most charming intertitles of the entire silent cinema.

What I’ve come to expect from, and love about, Kino Lorber is their resistance to manipulating the image quality of their silent movie releases. While many of their DVDs were problematic in the pre-HD era, the label has really come into its own on Blu-ray. Nothing they do is “over-restored,” a charge that can definitely be leveled against rival labels. Instead, Kino Lorber presents high-quality hi-def transfers of the best surviving silent film elements with flaws intact, just the way they would look if seen projected in 35mm. Fortunately, Les Vampires is in exceptionally good shape for a movie from 1915-1916. This is the third time I’ve seen it in full (following its releases on VHS and DVD from Image Entertainment) and I’ve been increasingly impressed by each upgrade in presentation. Two areas in which the Kino Blu-ray trumps the Image DVD in particular are in its more restrained use of color tinting (the entire film is seen in true black and white with only a sparing use of blue for night sequences) and in a vastly improved English subtitle translation. To be fully candid, the score on the Image DVD by the esteemed Robert Israel is probably superior to the serviceable job by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra included on the Kino, but this is not a big deal. All of the composers, musicians and engineers responsible for writing, compiling, performing and recording these scores have been tasked with the unenviable job of producing 7 hours worth of music for what is probably little to no pay, and so I feel grateful for even serviceable work. My fondest hope is that this Kino Lorber Blu-ray will sell like gangbusters and encourage the label to acquire and release my favorite Feuillade serial: 1919’s Tih-Minh, which I’ve only seen on a bootleg DVD-R taken from fuzzy French VHS tapes with fan-created English subtitles. Even under those less than optimum conditions though, Tih-Minh just might be the only film I’ve seen that I can say is more entertaining than Les Vapmires. Are you listening Kino?

The Blu-ray set of Les Vampires, 6 hours and fifty seven minutes (or the equivalent of at least three feature-length films) spread over two platters, can be purchased for a very reasonable price on amazon here.

Works Cited

Bazin, André. “In Defense of Mixed Cinema.” What Is Cinema?. Vol. 1. Berkeley: University of California, 2005. pg. 32.

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About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

29 responses to “Blu Vamp

  • Mitchell Brown

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks so much for the Vampires review. It brought back fond memories of watching it one long Saturday afternoon at the New York Film Festival some 25 years ago. In typical ‘movie fanatic’ fashion, they decided to show it all in one fell swoop. I will admit that after about 4 hours or so, I was done, not due to any fault of Feuillades but just by the sheer overwhelming of plot and character. (I felt the same way when I saw a double bill of Godfather and Godfather II – it sure was heaven on earth but my brain began to stop processing plot about 1/2 hour before the end.) This raises all kinds of questions about the proper way to watch this kind of thing. Should it be watched in episodes as intended? That viewing form is long dead (unless one considers soap operas). Same question arises about reading Dickens’ novels, too, I guess

    I am also a huge fan of Kino. Recently bought the restored Metropolis as well as the Nibelungenlied. A few years ago I bought their edition of Foolish Wives. This was a transformative experience for me when I saw it in the theater years ago and I am happy to say it held up very will at home. I even showed it to my film group with surprising success. It was the first silent I had shown them and I was apprehensive. I have since learned that if I love the material, some of that love should trickle down to the newbies. That mostly works. Sometimes that thinking leads to disastrous showing, but that’s a discussion for another time.

    Another amusing fact about Musidora that you might not know. You mention Langlois in your review. Not only was he the film archivist par excellence. He was also found forgotten film personalities of the past. He discovered the long forgotten and neglected Musidora somewhere in Paris and he gave her the job of ticket seller at his newly opened Cinematheque.

    Could you imagine?????

    – Mitchell Brown

    • michaelgloversmith

      Mitchell, it’s unfortunate that the NYFF decided to screen the whole thing that way. It is way too much to process in a single viewing and, of course, it was never intended to be seen that way. It’s kind of funny though how DVD/Blu-ray is arguably the ideal format on which to experience a silent serial. You can just dip into it whenever you want.

      I’m always apprehensive about showing classic films to students that I’ve never screened before (especially silents) but it’s amazing how many young people with zero knowledge of movies made before they were born can easily love classic silents like those made by Keaton and Chaplin, or even the great German Expressionist films.

      I love that story about Musidora selling tickets at the Cinematheque. Langlois must have been quite a guy!

      • mitchell brown

        If you haven’t already read this you might want to take a look at : http://www.amazon.com/Passion-Films-Langlois-Cinematheque-Francaise/dp/0436428318/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346690346&sr=1-5&keywords=henri+langlois

        Another Musidora tidbit you probably already know: it is her eyes that are the symbol of the Chicago Film Festival!

        Also, in my quest to re-engage JLG after your excellent post I will be taping Vivre Sa Vie today on Turner (part of a day-long Telluride homage which includes such wide-range stuff as Tarkovsky’s My Name Is Ivan)

        Wish me luck

      • michaelgloversmith

        All right! I checked out your Breathless post on your blog and I can fully understand your resistance to it on the basis that it is an “adolescent” film. It’s really best appreciated if you are 18 or 19 years old and already somewhat familiar with classic Hollywood and foreign films (in much the same way that The Catcher in the Rye is most effective if you read it when you’re 15 and On the Road is most effective if you read it when you’re 18). It’s the kind of thing that can change your life if you encounter it at the right time. This is why I ALWAYS show it to my first year film students.

        Vivre sa Vie is a much more austere and mature work. If you respond well to it, then definitely take a look at Contempt again. I think Contempt is THE masterpiece of Godard’s early career.

        Thanks for the tip on the Langlois book. That looks great.

  • david

    What a review! I hope you build a Blu review site,Man!!

    I’ve never seen any silent films that long,but after reading this review,I surely will try it.”The most significant directors in the development of cinema prior to 1920 were D.W. Griffith in the United States and Louis Feuillade in France.” This guy must be great,and the influences this film has on later films are also amazing!

    And I want to shout :Kino is the king of silent film release!

    • michaelgloversmith

      Thanks, David. It’s tricky to say that Les Vampires is 7 hours long. It’s more like one movie with 9 sequels, all of which are between 15 minutes and an hour long. I think a lot of people equate a long running time with boredom but, as I tried to make clear in my review, movies don’t get more entertaining than Les Vampires.

      I agree that Kino is doing incredible work.

  • Rhys

    I watched a clip of Les Vampires and I am definitely intrigued by it. I’ve always loved silent films and this seems to be one of the good ones. I’m just sorry that I didn’t hear about this one until I read your review. To my surprise I was actually able to find the 1915 version for rent using my Blockbuster @ Home account and now that I’ve added it to my queue it should arrive via mail by the end of the week. This takes the work out of finding a copy which means I can spend more time enjoying the films. A Dish co-worker suggested Blockbuster to me after trying it for a few weeks and I’ve been using it ever since. As you mentioned in your post, I thought this might be a vampire movie but I am relieved to see that it isn’t. I think I really will enjoy this movie and I can’t wait for it to get here.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Thanks for the info. I should point out, however, that the version you’re renting from Blockbuster is the old Image DVD release from the 1990s, not the superior new Kino HD transfer, which is the focus of my review (and which is available in DVD and Blu-ray editions). Still, seeing Feuillade in any form is a good thing.

  • Grand Old Movies

    I haven’t seen Les Vampires, but, from your description, I can see how it would have had an influence on Fritz Lang, particularly in his Mabuse films. Indeed, his second (sound) Mabuse film is structured like a serial, with a danger-threatening climax every 20 minutes.

    • michaelgloversmith

      You are correct about the Mabuse films showing the influence of Les Vampires. One of the biggest points of comparison is in the depiction of criminals who commit elaborate financial crimes less for profit than out of a sense of mischief and what seems like the desire to sow anarchy through a society. The surveillance theme in The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse also shows the influence of Feuillade’s Judex.

  • gold account

    The first three episodes essentially function like an extended exposition, introducing viewers to Guérande’s tenacious personality and the overall plotline of the series. After the reporter’s dangerous encounter with the First Grand Vampire (Jean Aymé), not only a deadly foe but a master of disguises as well, the famed ballerina Marfa Koutiloff (Stacia Napierkowska) is murdered while in the middle of a stage performance, one the serial’s most famous sequences. Going into “The Red Codebook,” we discover Irma Vep (the lovely vamp Musidora in one of her most memorable and celebrated roles), whose name is a fun anagram for vampire, is also one of the head ringleaders, capable of some vicious acts. But keeping things from veering too dark, Feuillade adds the clownish antics of Marcel Lévesque as Mazamette, always looking at the camera with a crafty, sly smile to let us in on the humor.

  • Top 10 Home Video Releases of 2012 « White City Cinema

    […] Louis Feuillade’s groundbreaking and deathless mystery serial was originally released in 10 parts over a span of several months in 1915 and 1916. Blu-ray, however, is arguably the ideal way to experience this 7-hour silent film extravaganza (spread across two discs in Kino’s set): one can dip into it at any given point at any time to experience its proto-Surrealist delights. And for those who have heard of Feuillade, a kind of French D.W. Griffith, but are not yet familiar with his work, this is also the best place to start: Les Vampires, a supreme entertainment about an intrepid journalist matching wits against a gang of master criminals, exerted a big influence on Fritz Lang’s Mabuse films, the entire espionage genre, and even the nouvelle vague in its pioneering use of self-reflexivity (most obvious in the fourth-wall-busting comic performance of Marcel Levesque). Full review here. […]

    • Julie Miller

      Now after finishing the films in the Les Vampires serials in class, I can totally see where you are coming from in terms of finding Feuillade innovative in terms of narrative. He seems to have a certain structure set up throughout each film. Feuillade starts with a slow pace, working his way to the action and revelations in the story of trying to find these notorious criminals known as The Vampires. And his cliffhangers are certainly in a realm of suspense that has truly inspired other directors in the future and leaving the viewer wanting more.

  • Julie Miller

    I think what I find most appealing about the Les Vampires series thus far at least, is how far ahead of himself Feuillade is in terms of some of the more “dangerous” scenes for lack of a better term. You have guys climbing up buildings and moving in such a distinct way that is just so unseen in that early era of films. Feuillade was so far ahead of him time in terms of stunts go. He really captures this high chase feeling throughout the film, between The Vampires and Philipe, despite it being a silent film and not having access to the special effects and sound qualities of today.

  • Andrew Muzio

    Louis Feuillade’s Les Vampires portrays what every movie should have. His masterpiece showcases: action, adventure, comedy, crime, mystery, and romance. In your reveiw talking about Feuillade’s use of cinematography about him not being a pioneer in the way he shot his films, I tend to argue. Scene’s where some of the vampires henchmen could just climb onto the building was innovative. What other movies utilized their actors/actresses from scaling walls without the use of special effects? It could be said that the main highlights of the film are Irma Vep, played by the beautiful Musidora, and the ever so cunning Mazamette, brilliantly played by Marcel Levesque. Whenever you watch Irma Vep, she puts this spell-binding trance on the viewer with her devious way. As for Mazamette, he brings the film together with his sly smile, and mischievous personality. Overall, Feuillade’s silent French serial is a stepping stone in French cinema.

  • Ahmad

    Les Vampires is a 1915–16 French crime episodes written by Louis Feuillade’s. It is still one of the longest silent movies since his production year, 1915. Also, its stylistic vision with other silent movies such as Fantômas and Judex were considered Feuillade’s fictions to uncover secret societies crimes. The main characters like Irma Vep with outrageous beauty played a famous well known ferocious role, and Musidora role as the leader of the gang of nocturnal thieves who call themselves “The Vampires”. The movie is a masterwork accredited by war audience tired of horror, stress, anxiety, and depression looking for fun, enthusiasm, peace and relaxation. Assuredly, silent movies like The Vampire have the power to absorb and enchant far beyond talking pictures. In many of these episodes, there were the inevitable life and death paradoxical chase for peace, safety, perfection and explicit violent scenes while we are enjoying the first natural beautiful snow outlook of early winter outside in Chicago.

  • Young Kim

    I never thought that a 7 hour silent film would be this amazing. Considering how early this film was made, I was expecting something similar to Chicago Police Parade. Everything about this film just completely made me want to go through all the gems of the silent era. Feuillade’s technique were definitely lacking but, I think this made every scene with a specific shot stand out more. I will never forget the tracking shot of Moreno, as he was on top of the car, throwing the suitcases. Another surprise was the amount of stunts and how creative they had to be. The scene where they climb up and down the buildings really shocked me because it was super dangerous and ambitious for a film in the 1910’s. The scenes where the dummy falls out of the window really felt great because they edited the transition pretty well. I totally agree with you about Mazamette. He never overstayed his welcome, and broke the 4th wall in perfect doses. Another thing that made this so wonderful was how involved the bad guys were. They were definitely more interesting than Phillippe and Feuilade took advantage of that. The Vampires seemed like they had more stage time than the heroes in the last couple of episodes.

  • Anusha Hafeez

    Les Vampires is an influential serial. Louis Feuillade used long shot to film his shots. He was one of the first directors to use cliffhangers to encourage audiences to come back to watch the next episode. It’s interesting to hear that, audiences now are accustomed to suspenseful shows. In 1915 this must have been a thrilling concept for viewers. Irma Vep is a main character in the serial. It’s refreshing to see that a hundred years ago a woman was given a main role. Her character played a lead thief and was put in clothing that accentuated her pretty features. At the same time she wasn’t scared to make scary faces or have far from perfect hair. Each episode has its own story line. Although the episodes follow an order, so much happens in each episode that the audience is engaged the entire time. The victims of The Vampires change throughout the show. They come from different parts of the world, but are all wealthy. The Vampires are very well organized and put up a good fight when they are being investigated, but in the end they lose.

  • Danielle Cichowski

    Having to watch 7 hours of film might seem like a grueling task at first; but with the all the twists and turns that play out in this serial it is hard to not be entertained all the way through. Director Louis Feuillade did an amazing job at putting a romantic spin on bad guys. It shows that though they are bad, they are still like the rest of us in that they want love and happiness too. My favorite part has to be Mazamette looking into the lens to share a joke with the viewers. It was also hilarious when they “fell” out of the window’s but in their place is a stuffed dummy. I thought it was brilliant to make the night time in blue shading so you can still see everything clearly. I would give the actors props for climbing up and down those building themselves, it seemed like a very physical movie with all that was going on. In the end, it was such a delightful serial and makes me want to go and watch more that are similar; though I’m not sure it’s possible to find one with so many twists and turns in the plot.

  • Tyler Kiczula

    I think that Les Vampires is so well regarded because of that fact the Louis Feuillade made the script as he went a long. It gave him oppurtunities to throw in plot twists and unexpected events whenever he wanted. In the film an as you afermentioned in your review Marcel Levesque as Mazamette breaks down the fourth wall on multiple occasions throughout the serial. He adds so much to the film with his hilarious personality and never ceases to get a audience to laugh even 100 years after the serials release. Feulliade seems to keep us on our toes throughout each serial. When one problem is solved during a serial another one evolves and cliff hangers are present at the end of every episode. This draws us the viewer back and i’m sure brought audiences back every week when the serials were released. The fact that each episode is so deep in content is what makes this film so interesting. As you had stated in your article, murders happen in almost every serial, and to say that was the end of the drama that unfolds would be underselling. I really enjoyed the organized crime that is emphasized by the Les Vampires and I loved when Frtiz Lang’s films that contained organized crime it’s easy to see where he may have gotten the idea from with the Les Vampires.

  • Minhaj Haji

    I find this review to be very thorough and descriptive without running on into tedious detail. I like how the attributes of the Louis Feuillade and his trademark-features are showcased. The fact that the the serial is 6 hours and 50 minutes long told me a bit at first, but after watching all of the episodes and reading this review, I am was intrigued as to why this film is not in the mainstream view of people. Reading the review, a lot is mentioned but every single aspect of it is intuitive, and I do not see any reason as to why the reader would not be enticed into viewing this crazily mystical French serial. From watching Les Vampires and also mentioned in this review, each episode is jam-packed with twist and turns, and Feuillade plays with suspense and surprise. Feuillade featured his work by really captivating the audience with his selective work of styles and patterns shown in Les Vampires. The main character Irma Vep is a highlight in the film whose name, if scrambled, spells out Vampire. Irma Vep really reels-in the audience with her character role appearing to be attractive and innocent, but yet devious. On the other hand, Mazamette plays a very goofy character; however, I completely agree with mentioned in the review that he is a personal favorite. Mazamette is my favorite aspect of Les Vampires because he is very silly and often plays directly towards the camera adding humor to the film. Overall Les Vampires, despite the 7 hours in length, each episode is well-executed. Les Vampires is a phenomenal French serial displaying Louis Feuillade masterpiece of work.

  • Jim Kenneally

    Feuillade’s LES VAMPIRES really is a captivating forerunner to the pulp fiction/crime thriller genres as they are known today. As you mentioned, his direction of camera angles was not as artistically applied as Griffith’s, or many of the upcoming films throughout the international expressionist movement, but Feuillade’s wide tracking shots were effectively used to tell the intricate story of the Vampire crime syndicate and Philippe Guerande’s journey to stop them once and for all. YouTube channel Every Frame a Painting recently took a ten-minute look into the process Buster Keaton used to construct his fantastic gag bits, and the way he attempted to simply employ the camera to document the action through this or that stationary perspective as well as the minimal use of title cards further built my appreciation for Feuillade’s storytelling through his actors and daring action. The best part about LES VAMPIRES may just be the fact that Feuillade’s characters and the adventure they were on was reactionary; by tweaking his story to his audience’s preferences release to release, this serial becomes something more than film entertainment, possibly not seen until the advent of vlogging in the 21st Century, at least in the mainstream. Mazamette hands down steals the show, increasingly inviting the audience to commiserate with him on how ridiculous or shocking the events he is experiencing at that very moment are. There may not have been stagecoach acrobatics seen in these serials again until Hollywood’s westerns, and good luck finding another film showing you how many ways you can mount or dismount a city rooftop. For this and so much more, bravo, Louis Feuillade!

  • Michael McKeever

    I never realized how amazing a serial could be until watching Les Vampires in this class. Louis Feuillade’s creativity must be amazing considering he made up the story as he filmed like you stated. I think that maybe after a point he did it intentionally. Perhaps he wanted to get feedback from audiences to tailor the next episodes to their desires. So in a sense that made the audience a part of the narrative with him. Regardless of whether this is true or not, Feuillade created an enticing story that captured audience’s intrigue. The idea of secret societies and conspiracies is always on people’s minds making it a perfect topic for a serial. But then to add great escapes, rivalry, and comical 4th wall-breaking sidekicks is genius. Also I believe that Feuillade my have beat Fritz Lang in creating the first super villain by giving Moréno the power of hypnosis.

  • Marco Rodela

    Les Vampires was definitely fun to watch. It’s surprising to learn that Louis Feuillade worked on the script as he went along, episode by episode. This is what really kept it interesting and I assume that all these twists and turns is what drew in viewers for the next episode back in 1915-1916. The “capture-and-escape narrative loop” did feel a bit overused, but I’m not complaining since it equated to more Irma Vep hijinks. Irma Vep really seemed to own the part and frequently directed a wicked look towards the camera. I really enjoyed all the creative ways that the Vampires operated; from the poison pen to the paralyzing needle under a glove. My favorite scenes were those of the Vampires climbing out on the Parisian buildings, where we get a good look at the city at the time. The introduction of Moreno and his hypnotizing abilities were outrageous, but fun in the world of Les Vampires. Let’s also be honest with ourselves, Philippe Guérande, wouldn’t have made it far and brought down the Vampires without Mazamette. Mazamette was a really funny addition because of his 4th wall breaking and his overall goofiness in the way he carried himself. One cannot forget the scene where he walks in the room and looks at a caricature drawing that the Grand Vampire drew of him. All in all, Les Vampires is a fun serial and I can see why it’s considered a masterpiece. Although it is a little difficult to binge what for 7 hours, it is definitely worth the watch.

  • Needa Sekhani

    Les Vampires, directed by Louis Feuillades, had ten episodes in total. This was popular entertainment in 1915 and it was made for the masses. Feuillades was one of the first directors to end with cliffhangers to help invite the audience back to watch the next episode. Although binge watching the seven hour serial was no problem at all, with all the twists and turns the film never had a dull moment. It is interesting that Irma Vep’s character is the ring leader of the vampires. She is clever, most of her scenes are action-packed and she is gorgeous! She is everything we would expect a Hollywood actress to be. The fact that she is just as clever as Phillippe and she is not just shown as an object makes it seem like this film is ahead of its time. I also agree that Mazzamette was one of the more entertaining characters in the film and having him constantly break the fourth wall was hilarious. It was interesting to read that Feuillades catered to his audience and increased the number of times Mazzamette broke the fourth wall.

  • Keyurkumar Patel

    Les Vampires is a 1915–16 French crime episodes by Louis Feuillade’s. It was one of the longest silent movie episodes. Les Vampires is still this day one of the best movie ever made. This is considered one of the best movie of all time is because Feuillade was making the story as he was going along so he can do anything that he desired. For example when audience taught the Vampires were all gone because the leader of Vampire was dead and that’s when Feuillade put a plot twist and came out with another leader that nobody knew about. Les Vampire has little bit of everything in it. It has mystery, comedy, action, and adventure.

  • Miles Friend

    Les Vampire is quite an experience for an audience that is used to watching either full length films or half hour t.v. shows. The 7 hour composition of 10 short silent films gives an extensive story that is mesmerising toall, especially those accustomed to hearing the dialogue. Feuillade’s decision to incorporate one character that is connected to the audience makes the film dynamic in the relevance to the viewer. The comical Mazamette is constantly breaking the fourth wall and dragging the audience into the experience. I found myself more enamored with each short, wanting to know what happens next every time. Feuillades serial creates a perfect blend of drama, thriller, and comedy to create a masterpiece in film making.

  • Jessica Bedoya

    Les Vampires is a great silent film or series. Its a mystery plot but at the same time so chaotic. No episodes were the same. A new adventure or twist took place in every episode and it kept me hooked! Final episode is great and what I expected as an outcom .

  • Zee

    I’ve got to say, for a movie to very recently have recently become a hundred years old, this brought tears of laughter to my eyes. Les Vampires is; funny, intelligent, scary, thrilling, romantic, enticing, and most of all hilarious. Just the spookiness of the Vampires is something that seems to be lacking in movies of this modern time. Not being able to hear the actors while they speak, seems to bring something magical to the experience it self. I personally feel attached to the character Mazamette, the way he’s introduced as a man who’s chosen the wrong path, yet slowly finds his way to a more righteous path is amazing. The way he guilt trips his way out of his mistakes showing Guérande a picture of his family, declaring that whatever he has been doing has been for his family, is absolutely hilarious. Not to mention the amazing overtake that Mazamette has over becoming the actual hero. This has to be one of the most grand pieces of art I have ever had the honor of witnessing.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience with us.
    -ZEE

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