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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Les Vampires")

directed by Louis Feuillade
France 1915-16

Louis Feuillade's (pronounced "Foo-yaad") 1915 silent French masterpiece "Les Vampires" represents part of the 'primordial soup' from which all modern cinema evolved. Don't let the name fool you... there are no 'vampires' as in the 'blood-sucking undead' in this film. Les Vampires are a sinister gang plaguing Paris with their underworld activity including burglaries, decapitation of law enforcement officers, bombings, forgery and other unsavory dealings.

 

The seven and one-half hour film is set as a serial of ten chapters of times varying from 13 - 57 minutes each. Getting caught up in the events transpiring requires some effort. Many superfluous characters are introduced who never figure strongly in the plot. Once you start to seriously follow it though it becomes quite engrossing. I found myself at a very high level of expectation for the remaining chapters especially once the 'femme fatale' of the Vampire Gang, Irma Vep, made her debut.

 

The color-tinting of the screens is quite viable as the purpose was to show varying lighting changes although I suspect it simply enhances/disguises the very old/weak quality of the image. The musical score for the DVD was prepared by Robert Israel. On piano and occasional orchestral accompaniment it is tremendous. Feuillade's plot devices such as poisoned ink letters, hypnosis, portable canons, poison gas through keyholes, poisoned rings, invisible ink all immersed into the mystique of Paris are quite unforgettable. I have a problem suspending my disbelief for many period piece films. I often just don't buy into unless it is done with some divergence to Hollywood convention. You can understand how thrilled I am when I see film history in both its content and body as in Louis Feuillade's "Les Vampires". There can be no denying its relevance to everything cinematically that followed and I must give it out of .

Gary W. Tooze

Chapters and synopsis (captures from the Image Entertainment disc)

First Episode (30:59): The Severed Head. We are introduced to our protagonists: Journalist Phillipe Gučrande (Edouard Mathé), and Mazamette (Marcel Levesque). They become like a Holmes / Watson duo for the entire serial. We are also aware of a sinister gang stalking Paris: they are known as The Vampires. Already one police inspector is found both dead and headless.  A night is spent in a creepy castle (owned by a Dr. Nox) full of hidden passageways and sliding portraits on the wall. In the Second Episode(13:08): The Ring That Kills - modern dancer Marta Koutiloff performs on stage as a giant vampire bat and dies as a result of a poisoning from a ring she was presented with. The plot thickens.
Third Episode(39:06): The Red Codebook. Gučrande decodes the Vampire gangs messages with a red codebook taken from the body of the Grand Inquisitor. Enter Irma Vep. She enters the Gučrande home disguised as a substitute maid. Gučrande’s mother is kidnapped. Vampires are shot - but unknowingly with blanks - they escape. Fourth Episode (29:54): The Spectre . Enter Seńor Moreno, leader of a rival gang who plots against the Vampires. A plot develops to abscond with some wealthy Americans money. the tables are turned and Mazamette does some sophisticated detective work - setting the style for his future involvement in the serial. In eth end Moreno is captured and sent to jail. 
Fifth episode: (35:25) Dead Man’s Escape - Moreno takes a suicide pill. It proves to only simulate death and Moreno escapes , but the ever watchful Mazamette spies him outside and takes pursuit. Gučrande is captured by the Vampire gang and placed into a costume trunk. Mazamette frees Gučrande and they continue pursuit of Moreno who steals the Vampires recent haul. Sixth episode: (53:28) Hypnotic Eyes   - Moreno demonstrates his ability at hypnosis on the housemaid. Gučrande and Mazamette notice many of the Vampires in a film they attend and travel to Fontainbleau searching for more clues. Irma Vep is captured by Moreno - and hypnotized to kill the Grand Vampire... which she does. Moreno falls in  love with Irma Vep. Mazamette finds stolen funds and is handsomely rewarded. He now lives "high on the hog".
Seventh episode: (42:01) Satanus   Enter Satanus eliminates the enemy Moreno and become the new Grand Vampire. Satanus has an electronic canon hidden in his room and bombs Moreno's gangs hangout through his window. Another American Millionaire appears and is promptly bilked of a large sum of cash by way of a forged cheque. Observant Mazamette is in the right place at the right timeagain and is able to tail the robbers and both Moreno and Vep are captured. Eighth episode: (49:43) The Thunder Master   Irma Vep is sentenced to life in prison in Algeria. Satanus who also appears in love with her now, attempts a rescue by using his canon to blow-up her ship. She is reported dead. Mazamette’s son Eustache (Bout-de-Zan) is sent home from boarding school for poor behavior but follows in his father's footsteps as a budding detective and helps capture Satanus. A psychotic chemist named Venomous becomes the new Grand Vampire and sends Satanus a poisoned ink letter in prison which he swallows and dies. Good appears to have conquered over evil... but has it?
Ninth Episode: (48:16) The Poisoner - Venomous attempts to exact revenge upon Gučrande and Mazamette. Gučrande who has always been shown as somewhat of a "Mommas' Boy" is now engaged to Jane Bremontier. The Vampires arrive at Gučrande’s engagement party disguised as the caterers, but their poisoning attempt is failed. Irma Vep sprays Gučrande's car with a paralyzing chemical but Mazamette is their again. Irma Vep is used as bait to capture Venomous. A great car chase sequence occurs with Gučrande and Mazamette pursuing Vep and Venomous who eventually get away. Tenth episode: (57:04) The Terrible Wedding - A few months pass. Leon Charlet was the concierge who was killed in one of the attempts to stop the Vampire gang. His widow visits the now married Gučrandes. Distraught she seeks help from a Fortune Teller who is actually a ruse for the Vampire gang. The Vampires kidnap Gučrande's wife. Gučrande and Mazamette with a horde of policemen invade the Vampire gangs headquarters and disrupt their orgiastic celebrations of the marriage of Iram Vep to Venemous. They are all caught and jailed or killed. A sober Mazamette is repentant of his extravagant ways.

Theatrical Release: 1915 - Paris

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Comparison:

Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL vs. Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

1) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT

2) Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Cover

Distribution Image Entertainment  Region 0 - NTSC Artificial Eye  Region 2 - PAL Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime approx. 7.5 hours  approx. 7.5 hours  3:39:14.766 + 3:20:24.804
Video 1.29:1.00 Original aspect ratio
Average Bitrate: Disc#1- 4.61 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
1.29:1.00 Original aspect ratio
Average Bitrate: Disc#1- 6.27 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

Disc 1: 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,390,024,737 bytes

Feature: 47,920,277,952 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.07 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Disc 2: 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 44,458,407,641 bytes

Feature: 43,756,665,792 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.03 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes

Bitrate:

 

Image

Bitrate:

AE

Bitrate: Disc 1

Blu-ray

Bitrate: Disc 2

Blu-ray

Audio Musical accompaniment (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo) New score by Éric le Guen - 2.0 channel LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Inter-titles English (no other options) English, none English, none
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Image Entertainment

Aspect Ratio:
Picture-Boxed - 1.29:1

Video: Color Tinted black and white in NTSC

DVD18 (Two sided - dual layer)

 

Edition Details:
• Insert Essay, "The Public Is My Master: Louis Feuillade and Les Vampires" by Fabrice Zagury
• "For the Children" (1916), a 2:50 comedy sketch by the cast and crew of Les Vampires to raise funds for the French war orphans
• "Bout de Zan and the Shirker"(1916), an eight-minute comedy that features the child actor Bout de Zan from Episode 8 of Les Vampires and is directed by Louis Feuillade (7:52)


DVD Release Date: May 16, 2000
Keep Case
Chapters: 78 subchapters over 10 main

Release Information:
Studio: Artificial Eye

Aspect Ratio:
Picture-Boxed - 1.29:1

Video:

3 dual-layered discs

 

Edition Details:
Approx 30 minutes worth of shorts:
The Roman Orgy(1911)
Awakening of the Artist (1916)
The Bous-Bous-Mie (1907)
The Legend of the Spinner (1908)
A Very Fine Lady(1908)
Feuillade Bio


DVD Release Date: March 24th, 2008
3 slim transparent keep cases inside a cardboard box
 
 

Release Information:
Studio: Kino

Aspect Ratio:
Picture-Boxed - 1.29:1

Disc 1: 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,390,024,737 bytes

Feature: 47,920,277,952 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.07 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Disc 2: 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 44,458,407,641 bytes

Feature: 43,756,665,792 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.03 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:
• Fantomas Trailer (
1:16)


Blu-ray Release Date:
August 14th, 2012
Standard
Blu-ray Case inside cardboard slipcase
Chapters: 21 + 19

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray (August 2012): Looks like Kino has done it correctly utilizing the 1996 restoration by Cinémathčque Française, under the supervision of Feuillade’s grandson, Jacques Champreux. Two dual-layered BD discs - filled to near capacity (48 + 44 Gig) holding about 3.5 hours each.  The 1080P transfer adds more layers to the contrast and brings up detail. Damage still exists but the tinting of the Image Entertainment has been replaced by straight black and white (like Artificial Eye - which now looks boosted) with dusk or dim-lighting characterized by a faint blue tint (see last captures). I prefer this and it looks wonderful overall. Unlike the SD-DVDs this is progressive (no unsightly combing). There is more information in the Blu-ray image frame (approx 1.35:1). Everything seems to tighten and there is a pleasing texture to the HD-procured visuals.

The Intertitles have been replaced by Manuel Otero's - a slightly different translation looking very clean via a historically representational font and framing - and the French text in newspapers etc. has burnt-in English subtitles. Music accompaniment is by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra via a strong linear PCM 2.0 channel track. The lossless sounds excellent in supporting the film. I can confirm that the Blu-ray disc is locked to region 'A'.

No extras save a trailer for Fantomas. It comes in a beautiful box/cover. For those into this - the Blu-ray package is pure pleasure. Les Vampires was cool before there was a 'cool'. It is so easy to immerse yourself in. Strong recommendation!

***

ADDITION: Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL - April 08': Long and short is everything leans to this new Artificial Eyes package. Spread over more disc space, it has a higher bitrate, no tinting, looks sharper, more information in the frame, original intertitles (recreated), more extras etc. However, it still has combing (a function of the frame rate conversion?) that is less prominent than on the Image disc.

The Artificial Eye has French intertitles with optional English subtitles and the audio accompaniment is a new (also on the Gaumont I believe), enjoyable, 2.0 channel score by Éric le Guen (although I might lean to Robert Israel's a bit more). As a bonus we are given 5 Feuillade shorts (about a half-hour's worth).

It was like seeing the production all over again and I continue to have a high a level of appreciation after this return visitation. It really gets in your head - quite magical. In my mind this AE is the, English-friendly, definitive edition, although I understand there is a strong French Gaumont Edition (NO English translations!) spread over 4 discs available HERE. We endorse this Artificial Eye!

NOTE: As Thomas tells us: 'Image Entertainment did initially release this on a DVD-18 (dual-layered, dual-sided) however they did a re-release of Les Vampires around 2004 on two DVD-9's (single-sided, dual-layered).' So the transfer is the same.

****

ON THE IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT: Without too much to compare it to and it being so old (1915) it is hard to be critical of the image quality. It struck me as quite acceptable (although I hope to have something to compare one day). I was able to obtain some captures from the 1996 film "Irma Vep" (Fox Lorber DVD) and I see the Image Entertainment DVD image slightly cropped on the right side. The color tinting of this film is used to display lighting changes and I don't know whether or not I would prefer straight grayscale. I suspect the picture quality has had some contrast boosting as facial features and smaller details are difficult to see, but I suppose David Sheperd chose the lesser of 2 evils as it would have been significantly darker (also removing detail) if it had not been done.

A seven page essay has been included by the same chap who translated the inter-titles from French to English. Although not perfect I again say that these are acceptable. The musical score is wonderful and very significant to the presentation. This is a big plus. There are some Extras as well - 2 shorts by Feuillade and they are of similar quality to the main feature although "For the Children" is very sharp with interspersed damage spots.

There are many chapter stops for each section in the main feature. I am slightly disappointed that it is a DVD18 (Dual sided - dual layer) as I would have preferred this spread over more single-sided discs. Other than that I felt it deserved a full disc of discussion, interviews and extras but I highly doubt that any revenue they would receive from this project would support doing that.

Gary W. Tooze


 

Comparison of Les Vampires - Image DVD TOP vs. AE - MIDDLE  vs. Fox Lorber Irma Vep - BOTTOM

 (The Fox Lorber is not meant as an accurate representation but as a sampling of the original)

 

Image Ent.
AE
Fox/Lorber
Kino Blu-ray

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

Inter-title Sample

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


DVD Supplements

(Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT vs. Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT)

 

 

Menu Kino - Blu-ray

 

  


Screen Captures

(tint TOP - BW - BOTTOM)

 


1) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

NOTE: Both DVDs exhibit combing....

 

 


1) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Image Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: Artificial EyeDVD

 

Box Cover

Distribution Image Entertainment  Region 0 - NTSC Artificial Eye  Region 2 - PAL Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray



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Gary Tooze