Les vampires 1 – 10

Les vampires (1-10)
R: Louis Feuillade. B: Louis Feuillade. K: Manichoux. D: Musidora, Édouard Mathé, Marcel Lévesque, Jean Aymé, Fernand Herrmann, Renée Carl. P: Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. Fr 1915/1916
Print: Gaumont/Cinémathèque française
English version / Version anglaise

The episodes:
(1) La tête coupée /
(2) La bague qui tue / (3) Le cryptogramme rouge / (4) Le spectre / (5) L’évasion du mort / (6) Les yeux qui fascinent / (7) Satanas / (8) Le maître de la foudre / (9) L’homme des poisons / (10) Les noces sanglantes

(1) La tête coupée

(2) La bague qui tue

(3) Le cryptogramme rouge

(4) Le spectre

(5) L’évasion du mort

(6) Les yeux qui fascinent

(7) Satanas

(8) Le maître de la foudre

(9) L’homme des poisons

(10) Les noces sanglantes

“Les Vampires exists in a strange hinterland between the ‘cinema of spectacle’ and the narrative and montage techniques being developed concurrently by filmmakers such as DW Griffith. Nowadays Les Vampires is accepted as highly important in the canon – it laid the groundwork for many staples of crime films as well as the conventions of episodic drama now more likely to be experienced on TV – but it’s equally likely to be mentioned as an example of one of the world’s longest films, at seven hours. Frankly, I’m appalled that the serial gets referenced so much, but seems to be watched relatively little.
More to the point, I think that Les Vampires is a wondrous film. Composed on the fly across ten episodes released in (more or less) monthly instalments, the serial follows journalist Philippe Guérande and his right-hand man Mazamette, who act as proto-detectives on the hunt for the members of a gang named the Vampires. However, within the first few episodes Feuillade’s allegiances shift. Focus moves to the gang and particularly, after her spectacular introduction in the third episode, to Irma Vep, the muse of several successive leaders of the gang. Musidora, the actress who plays Vep, is rightly the most iconic aspect of the serial and is allowed to wrest control of the narrative from her besotted pursuers.
The tone of the film is bizarre. Dream logic reigns and its inconsistencies are as compelling as its storylines. The proximity of the Great War is felt constantly: the streets of Paris are desolate and actors disappear without warning, having been called up to fight on the front lines. Anxieties about the war are made manifest in the Vampires’ penchant for bombs and oversized artillery. More obliquely, Paris is transformed into a network of hidden passages in which no space is as it seems and any home might suddenly be invaded via unlikely portals: windows, fireplaces, hidden staircases, false walls. This sense of uncertainty and paranoia strongly evokes David Lynch’s attitude to undermining his onscreen world in, for example, Twin Peaks: The Return (2017).”
Tim Major
Silent London

David Bordwell’s essay on Feuillade

Michael E. Grost: Les vampires

11b-feuilladeLouis Feuillade

“(…) was hat dieser Mensch mit dem Phantastischen zu tun, und was macht ihn zu einem grausamen Blutsbruder von André de Lorde, dem Groß- und Exerzitienmeister des Grand Guignol? Es ist vor allem sein Umgang mit dem, was technisch zunächst rein zufällig ist. Die Art wie er die technischen Bedingungen zu exploitieren versteht, unterscheidet ihn fundamental von anderen, die Ähnliches zur selben Zeit versuchten. Da sind die leeren Straßen von Paris, Nizza, der Côte d’Azur, die jedes Ereignis bereits zu einem besonderen machen, wie in den Fotografien von Charles Nègre. Die Häufung solcher Bilder steigert sich zum Horriblen, Alptraumhaften. Die überdeutliche Wirklichkeit lässt immer schon mehr ahnen, als ist. Die permanente Peripetie greift in den Bildern Fuß. Die Tiefenschärfe wird zum bedrohlichen Sog. (…) Feuillade ist Zeitgenosse von Griffith, aber ästhetisch steht er David Lynch näher.”
Thomas Brandlmeier: Fantômas. Beiträge zur Panik des 20. Jahrhunderts.Berlin 2007, S. 20 f.

>>> Feuillade’s Fantômas on this site