Silent killers from a shadowy age
LES VAMPIRES Directed by Louis Feuillade. Starring Musidora, Édouard Mathé, Marcel Lévesque, Jean Aymé, Fernand Herrmann PG cert
Of all the great cinematic forms created in the silent era, the serial remains the most poorly served by video. Raise a cheer, then, for Artificial Eye who have put together a splendid edition of one of the most elusive and ancient of filmic masterpieces. Delivered in 10 tense episodes, Louis Feuillade’s Les Vampires (1916) follows a gang of master thieves as –taking in secret passageways, terrifying rooftop pursuits and other conventions of the melodrama – they ply their trade in a seductively shadowy Paris.
The series, whose female anti-hero, Irma Vep, still retains iconic status, is credited with pioneering deep-focus and inventing some of the techniques of film noir, but one need not don the movie boffin’s hat to appreciate its outrageous action and dizzying plot reversals.
The fine transfer is accompanied by a new score from Éric le Guen and the three-disc set also includes five further shorts by Feuillade. All in all, a smashing version of the work Jonathan Rosenbaum once referred to as “one of the supreme delights of film”.