Vampyr - Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection Edition of Carl Dryers magnificent Vampyr comes at a time when other silent horrors have become available in far less magnificent editions bearing the words Ultimate or Special Edition on their ad art and packaging. Criterion in contrast simply lets the content of the disc and its extras speak for itself. I can’t think of any other Silent horror that has received a treatment superior to this.
First the film is offered in a new high definition transfer taken from a 1998 restoration as well as an alternate version with English interstitials eliminating the need for English subs if that’s more your speed. If you do want subs they’ve been retooled and are easier to read and more exact than ever. Topping off disc one is a commentary by film scholar Tony Rayns. Disc Two contains a documentary by Jorgen Roos covering Carl Dreyers career, a visual essay by scholar Caspar Tybjerg on Dryer’s influences in creating the distinct look of Vampyr and a 1958 radio essay by Dryer himself on filmmaking.
With any other release that would be the end of any extras. But Criterion also includes substantial a booklet with essays by noted film historians Kim Newman, and Mark Le Fanu, as well as one by Koerber on his restoration and a 1964 interview with star and producer Nicolas de Gunzburg. Also included is a companion paperback book containing the Vampyr screenplay and the story that inspired it, Sheridan Le Fanus Carmilla.
I’m not a fanatic about silent film. But Vampyr is a haunting rumination on death that belongs in any film library. And while you’re at it The Passion of Joan of Arc or Ordet are every bit as powerful if not moreso. Have I ever seen a Dryer film that didn’t leave me shaken, breathless or at least wide-eyed? Nope. The man was a genius. The fact that he contributed such a grandly surreal effort to the horror film should leave fans proud and they should do themselves proud by making sure they’ve at least seen this masterpiece. No collection of classic horror or vampire cinema is complete without this new Criterion edition.