HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Wednesday, August 20, 2008



The Criterion Collection brings out one of the most sought after horror films of the Golden Age, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s VAMPYR. The question is how will the often battered film looks in this presentation from Criterion? The answer is considering the history; great, and with excellent extras

Video: We are greeted with a text message informing us that VAMPYR no longer has any original extant prints left and that what we are viewing is based on a marriage of other sources. With that in mind most of the film is quite good visually, there are a lot of scratches, grain (not just the natural grain), and a lack of sharpness (which to an extant was the directors intentions), but it comes with the sources. The encoding and transfer side of the equation are fine with no compression issues or ghosting from a bad PAL transfer. It’s rough going, but given the state of the elements available, I think the restoration of VAMPYR is a success, but you can check for yourself in screencaps that will shortly follow this review.

Audio: The audio quality is fine and for the most part free of any distortion. One really cannot say too much about the audio, because of the fact that the film has little dialogue. Criterion has given viewers the choice or watching the film with either English subtitles or new English inter-titles in a situation that should please all.

Extras: Like most Criterion Collection discs VAMPYR comes with a number of extras. This includes an excellent audio commentary by scholar Tony Rayns (who has actually written some nice works on Hong Kong Films). There is also a vintage documentary about Dreyer by J. Roos. A visual essay talking about the influences behind the film and a radio broadcast featuring Dreyer reading an essay on filmmaking. Criterion also included a wonderful booklet with commentary on the film and a reprint in book form of the original script and the story that influenced Dreyer.

Overall: If you like VAMPYR (and even its greatest admirers admit it can be a love it or hate it film, then this is the set for you. Highly Recommended.

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