October 26, 2010

MACABRE MYSTERY WEEK: VAMPIRES

With the recent release of the Fantomas collection from Kino International, Halloween coming this weekend, and a new Richard Sala book around the corner, It's been macabre mystery mania here at the Spy Vibe lair. I unfortunately missed the debut of the new Sherlock Holmes, but I have been busy enjoying the thrills and intrigue of classic French characters like Fantomas and Judex. Fans familiar with the penny dreadful tradition of serialized pulp fiction will hopefully recognize this rogue's gallery of mystery villains and avengers. If you have made the leap to an eReader, you might want to check out one of the many original Fantomas novels available on-line (many are priced around $1.00). You can even read them on your smart phone with Kindle's free app! In celebration of Halloween, costumes, and my first crush- Emma Peel- I thought Spy Vibers might enjoy seeing one of the earliest ever femme fatales of the big screen. She even sports a black "jumpsuit." In this scene from Les Vampires (1915/Louis Feuillade), the criminal gang (known as les vampires) bumps off one of the main characters with a deadly poison-spiked ring. In addition to the mystery/adventure angle, you can also see some shadowy bat imagery that, with The Bat Whispers, The Shadow, and others, seems to evoke The Batman character that would evolve in popular culture twenty-five years later. Feuilade's style of suspense/thriller filmmaking can also be seen as a forerunner to the work of Fritz Lang (Dr. Mabuse) and Alfred Hitchcock. For those who want to cut right to the iconic sequence, the dancer enters the stage around 3:56. Pretty stylish for 1915 and the tinted film images are quite beautiful.

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