#4 Les Vampires (1915)

Les Vampires is a ten-part French serial that, clocking in at 440 minutes total, took me about 20 nights to watch in little spurts between February 4 and March 20. January and February were some slow months because of Louis Feuillade’s serial film, but for some reason, I felt relaxed, calm, and familiar when I watched the super long work in these little digestible chunks.

I watched the complete Change Before Going’s edition of Les Vampires on YouTube as it is in the public domain. The only complaint I had was the lack of soundtrack in this edition, and it is curious to wonder what the program is usually presented with. Of course, I was spoiled by Air’s scoring of Voyage Dans La Lune. So, I tossed Pandora on and listened to some of my favorite French music, namely my Coeur De Pirate station – sure, it was probably terribly inauthentic, but it was something.

Les Vampires is an interesting film, “much like the detective story and the haunted house thriller (and) creates a sturdy-looking world of bourgeois order while also undermining it…porous with trap doors, secret panels, (and) massive fireplaces that serve as thoroughfares for assassins and thieves” (Rubin). While you can’t expect any actual Vampires in this flick, the seedy criminal underbelly of Paris crawling with thieves, murderers, crooked cops and judges, and ne’er a face to trust, traveling through this world with Phillipe Guerande and his bumbling protean fellow Mazamette is a lot of fun. The attractive mastermind behind all of this, Musidora’s Irma Vep, easily holds the entirety of this series together just beyond the grasp of the law. Les Vampires is a little silent story in a crooked funhouse world. Perfect before bedtime.

I loved this movie. It was huge, long, spooky, silly, and at times a little hard to follow what they were trying to do. But by the end, it was a familiar comfort to turn it back on and venture back into this crooked, spooky piece. I enjoyed brewing some tea, getting some biscuits ready, and sitting down for a new installment. Of course, Les Vampires has nothing on today’s sitting down and bingeing on a series by a long shot, but the silence requires an attentive patience and appreciation of stage theater and pantomime to get through. Once you get beyond that, waiting for someone new to pop out of a cabinet or a fireplace becomes an enjoyable and exciting prospect. There were so many criminals swimming around everywhere. Allegiances to characters you can trust shift from scene to scene until a few gestures become recognizable under a shifting costume (I can’t express how many times I found myself saying, “ohhhhhh, here’s Mazamette again, trying to pay his kids’ tuition, the poor guy”).

A fun film that definitely laid the groundwork for film storytelling in many future films. I was really curious about how this was rolled out in theaters. I think I would be the first in line to see the newest installment and watch the week’s cartoons and newsreels alongside it. The sets, theatrics, and pantomime performances are quite revolutionary for the time, and I enjoyed every night I spent with Les Vampires. With clear influences on Hitchcock, Lang, Brecht, and films like M, The Threepenny Opera, and a host of others, this piece defined the thriller for legions of directors and audiences for at least the next hundred years.



  1. (Hit post too soon above, sorry)

    I’m also working on doing the 1001 Movies Before You Die over on my blog (which isn’t so much ABOUT that right now, but is rapidly taking over); I’m trying to go in chornological order, and did “Les Vampires” a couple months back:


    I’m going to dive into your reviews now; would love to compare notes, feel free to stop on by.

    And your music-less print was assuredly better than the version I found – someone looped this really monotonous “spooky” electronic music over the whole thing that really got annoying after a while.


    1. Totally followed, Wadsworth! Thanks for stopping by and checking us out. Your site is eclectic with many broad interests. Looking forward to diving into your work, as well.

      We loved Les Vampires. Absolutely, I can only imagine that there could be some big mistakes if a piece isn’t scored correctly. It looks like there have been quite a few live performance concerts where one could go see a band scoring the film as it plays. That seems like it is the optimal way to see it. It was a lot of fun picking our own music to accompany it.

      Speaking of, did you get a chance to see the music video we made for the first anniversary of the blog over on the Extras page?


      1. Sorry, never saw you responded!

        Agreed on how important the music score is (I think I mention an instance of poor music choice in my review for INTOLERANCE elsewhere in the site).

        Will absolutely check out the video this weekend – thanks!


  2. It is curious to think that this was cinema back in that era. As feature films were hardly there yet, you went to the cinema to watch one or two-reelers in a program with two, three, four films or so. So intead of turning on the tv you would go to your cinema to watch your favorite series, Judex, Vampires or whatever was on.
    When I watched The Vampires my son was a tiny baby and each episode matched a feeding session. I have very fond memories of watching, but actually do not remember that much of it, if that makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

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