Friday, July 31, 2015

Silent Horror: Les Vampires--The Severed Head (1915)

This is the first episode of a ten part French crime serial (that is also counted as an early horror because of the all the graphic violence alluded to, and some infamous "bat costume" scenes) from 1915, which almost didn't survive.  The entire ten parts bring the total running time to just about 400 minutes even.  So it's quite the crime adventure--the fact that the first episode is entitled "The Severed Head" gives a glimpse of the criminal horrors to come.  It relies heavily on variously coloured tinted still frames to manipulate the mood of the film:  Police Station--warm sepia, criminal lair--night, blue outdoor shots--bright green, etc.  This does not refer to the classic vampire as we've come to know them in film (such as Nosferatu).  This "vampire" or "vamp" for short is referring to a brilliant & very brutal female criminal mastermind that "vampirises" by living a comfortable life off of her crimes.  This, to my knowledge, is the first time the female characterization of the "vamp" was committed to film.  It later became all the rage in the late 1910's & 1920's and the most recognizable of the Vamps is Jewish American actress Theda Bara--some of whose films were actually banned (most have not survived unfortunately). All ten of the episodes can viewed online.

Below Signed Publicity Still Of Bara:

Now that's "Vampy!"

No comments:

Post a Comment