Sunday, May 16, 2010

Capsule Review: Les Vampires (1915)

Running 440 minutes and split into ten unequal sections, Les Vampires is not quite a serial (it's missing the cliffhangers we associate with that genre), and also not quite a series of films. However, it's a wildly entertaining thriller which is as ambitious in its own way as D.W. Griffith's films of the era - featuring elements that would crop up in films for decades to come. The lengthy tale follows reporter Phillipe Guerande (Edouard Mathe), who is one the trail of the criminal gang The Vampires, who are terrorizing the upper class with a string of robberies and murders. Along with the faithful (and oddly competent) comic relief Mazamette, Phillipe captures the various Grand Vampires who run the gang, as well as the unforgettable Irma Vep (Musidora), who remains the series' most enduring character. In fact, the villains are so appealing that they make the rather bland and ineffective Phillipe (who manages to get himself captures multiple times) seem rather boring. While slow at spots, things come to a rousing climax. A remake of Les Vampires ended up being the subject of the 1996 film Irma Vep starring Maggie Cheung.


Burgundy LaRue said...

I started watching this but didn't finish. I'll try to do that over the summer.

Doug Tilley said...

I really can't blame you for not finishing it before. Not only is it really very long, but there are also some seriously slow sections. That said, the best parts are REALLY good and are spread fairly equally throughout the series. Just watching the progress from A Trip To The Moon to this, Les Vampires is so much closer to something that would be created now in a lot of ways.

I really need to check out Irva Vep, as well.