“Imagine we are sitting in an ordinary room,” said director Carl Theodor Dreyer (The Passion Of Joan Of Arc) of this most cinematic of all vampire films. “Suddenly, we are told there is a corpse behind the door. In an instant, the room is completely altered...”
And so it is: evaporating the lines between the natural and the supernatural, Dreyer’s first sound film becomes a waking nightmare of eerie, ethereal horror the second that a young traveller ( Julian West) discovers the countryside is infested with bloodsuckers. From thereon in, his fear soaks the celluloid as Dreyer distorts the world in startling style, apexing with an unforgettable first-person tracking shot from inside our doomed hero’s own coffin.
A vampire film like no other – and how about this for a DVD? This edition contains two compulsive, erudite commentaries by mega-critic Tony Rayns and the ever-wonderful Guillermo del Toro; two previously censored scenes; a visual analysis of Vampyr that was the sole extra on Criterion’s previous edition; and finally a terrific 1966 documentary about Dreyer, containing rare footage of the Danish maestro directing and an interview in which he talks us through each of his films. It also features vintage chat from François Truffaut and Georges Henri-Clouzot and a priceless moment when Anna Karina asks Jean-Luc Godard if he’ll attend a directors’ dinner with Dreyer. “Perhaps,” replies JLG. “Don’t worry,” smiles Dreyer. “No one will make you dance.” On top of all this, the visual rescrub destroys Criterion’s version. God bless Eureka’s Masters Of Cinema label.