Fans of Louis Feuillade, pioneering master of the thriller serial, will be pleased to learn that his 1915 crime masterpiece Les Vampires has been released on Blu-ray by Kino. Set in Paris, the film follows the adventures of an investigating journalist on the trail of a secret organization know as Les Vampires. Musidora stars as Irma Vep, a character that was later resurrected in the 1996 film starring Maggie Cheung and Jean-Pierre Leaud. Like Feuillade's other masterpieces, Fantomas and Judex, Les Vampires is filled with fun genre-defining conventions, like mysterious evil masterminds, trap doors and secret passageways, the 'playboy detective', the femme fatale, and those kinky black catsuits we associate with Mrs. Emma Peel from The Avengers. From what I've seen so far, the new transfer, lovingly restored and remastered by the Cinematheque Francaise, is beautiful and a big improvement over earlier releases. Here are a few choice images. See the review at DVD Beaver here. The Blu-ray is available from Amazon here.
From Amazon: "This legendary seven-hour silent French serial, one
of the earliest and most original gangster films, combines realism and fantasy.
Written and directed by Louis Feuillade, Les Vampires concerns an intrepid
reporter's pursuit of a strange gang of jewel thieves terrorizing Paris. The
gang ambitiously seeks political, psychological, and sexual domination of the
city's social elite, with the seductive Irma Vep (an anagram of "vampire")
as its brazen leader.
"While slow going at first, the 10-part serial becomes
more and more fascinating with each episode, thanks in large part to the
alluring Musidora as Irma Vep. Because of her many guises and frightful charms,
she truly becomes a vampire of sorts. Feuillade achieves a subversive,
nightmarish atmosphere amid the everyday goings-on of the city. Filmed on the
streets and back alleys of World War I Paris, the 1915 picture was a huge
commercial success, though temporarily banned by Paris's chief of police for
glamorizing crime." -Bill Desowitz
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