Vampyr (1932)

vampyr poster 1932 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great visuals

Slow story

Movie Info

Movie Name: Vampyr

Studio: Vereinigte Star-Film GmbH

Genre(s): Horror/Silent

Release Date(s): May 6, 1932

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

vampyr ferryman scythe criterion

Nope…nothing ominous in this town…

Allan Gray (Nicolas de Gunzburg) arrives near the small town of Countempierre and immediately finds this are odd. When he is awakened by a man in his bedroom, Allan follows the man from the inn. He discovers a home plagued with a vampire and learns that he might be the only one capable of saving the young woman Leone (Sybille Schmitz) from her death. Gray discovers that the vampire isn’t working alone and must expose the village doctor (Jan Hieronimko) threatening Sybille’s sister Giselle (Rena Mandel).

Directed by Flemish director Carl Theodor Dryer, Vampyr wasn’t very well received when it was released. Dryer had a breakdown after its release and the movie was considered a financial failure. Rediscovered, Vampyr now is considered one of the great early talkies and early vampire films.  Vampyr has been released in a nice version by Criterion Collection (Criterion #437).

vampyr coffin ghost nicolas de gunzburg

This is not the vacation I had hoped for…

Vampyr was one of those blind watches.  I like Criterion films, and I like horror so I thought I would try out the movie.  It was an interesting atmospheric piece that is worth seeing.

Vampyr is widely considered the third film featuring modern vampires. Nosferatu and the 1931 version of Dracula were released before the movie, so they lay claim to being the first, but Vampyr quickly followed. Based on the J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s collection of stories In a Glass Darkly, Vampyr uses Carmilla and The Room of the Red Dragon for inspiration for the script. The movie’s vampire (an old woman) really doesn’t show up much, and it is more about her minions working for her (including the town doctor).

Though the story is a little weak, Vampyr is sold by its visuals. With a lot of images resembling German expressionist films at the time, Dryer creates an odd nightmarish vision throughout the film. There are fun parts where shadows don’t follow their makers, a live burial in Gray’s dreams, and the evil doctor’s death in the flour mill.

vampyr ending flour mill death

Oh, no! I’ve been floured!!!

The movie is a talkie by definition.  There are moments of sound and audio, but the movie is primarily a silent picture.  It is obvious that Dryer is still adjusting to the idea of sound and much of the dialogue is presented as writing. This makes the images all the more important since they are really telling the story.

Vampyr is an interesting film for fans of vampires and for fans of early films. The movie’s quality is quite poor and even Criterion’s version shows how much of the film has deteriorated (the original versions were lost). It has been around for years and also went by the names of The Vampire, Castle of Doom, and The Strange Adventures of David Gray (Allan Gray’s name was mislabeled for the German release). The versions have various length, but fans should make the effort to seek this one out.  If you’ve seen Dracula one too many times give another vampire a chance and watch Vampyr!

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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