#61 Frankenstein (1931)

Coined in Schneider as “the single most important horror film ever made,” Frankenstein showcases a classic Boris Karloff in iconic makeup to portray a brutal, animalistic, touching, crazed, and horrifying creation. This first “Universal Monsters” film tells the story of the creation and fallout of one man’s conquest of dominance over nature, but features mainly stage hands, rudimentary makeup that was conceived on a shoestring budget, and a storyline that…sorta defined a genre by cutting up some source material to make a new story on screen. Definitely innovative, this piece takes a lot of interesting origin stories and combines them to create a work of art that seems like it would not have come together with what we have now, a film that is a “chilly and invigorating cornerstone of its entire genre” (Newman).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankenstein_(1931_film)

Garrett

I’ll start with this one… Whoa boy. So, I am really interested in what people see in this film. I am convinced it is simply some sort of drive-in cruisin’ baby boomer late night double feature nostalgia or something. I literally cannot figure out what is so great about this film, except that it appears to be the first horror film like it (it isn’t the first horror film at all, though) with a shoestring production and budget that all seemed to come together in this miraculous way. It is interesting that a lot of the characters were stage hands (including Karloff), but the script and the performances are mediocre, camp, and cliche – maybe they were terrifying for early audiences, but I found myself ‘meh’ for most of the film. I did find myself fascinated by the makeup (but not who wore it), and the sets. The sets were incredible, and interestingly just some simple stage theater tricks with perspective and lighting easily turned small flat walls into gigantic, sprawling hallways and creepy windows. The main question, however, is: does that make this good?

I think my major gripe is that this literally couldn’t be any further from the book. The characters have different names, people don’t really die, the monster is scary and Victor isn’t made to deal with his choices (wait…he isn’t Victor), there is a weird campy dad, there are really no stakes or motivations for any of the characters, and what is with the ending? Scary, but literally couldn’t be further from Shelley’s work. Is my main gripe that it is nothing like the book? No… It’s that it isn’t anything like the book in every way, from tone to execution to theme to violence to science… heck, it spends practically half of the film covering material that is literally directly told to the audience that it is not in the book on purpose (probably because it would be as boring as it is in the movie). This probably colored the entirety of my feelings about the film…well, that and it is marketed as one of the greatest film achievements of all time by the Universal marketing department.

Will this be an unpopular opinion? Maybe. Frankly, aside from it being innovative, I was simply not only not scared, but I was disappointed, bored, and don’t understand what the motivation was to tie it to the book. If they had called it “the scientist” and used new names, I think I would be slightly less disappointed. To me, it just wasn’t as great as people and Universal markets as so very sacred. Meh.

Jennifer

So, I have never read the book, Frankenstein.  Prior to watching this film, Garrett treated me to an in-depth, scene by scene recounting of the original story – one of his favorite books of all time.  Watching the movie after this, I was utterly confused.  Pretty much the only thing that was the same was the name Frankenstein? Also, they changed Victor’s name to Henry in the movie because they thought the name Victor sounded too “unfriendly.”

A few interesting facts about the making of the movie, since I really don’t have too much to say about the actual film.  Each of the monster’s shoes weighed thirteen pounds each, and his costume weighed forty-nine pounds.  The filming was of course done primarily in the summer.  Currently, the monster’s makeup is under trademark by Universal Studios until the year 2026.

Many of the sets seemed impressive and well dressed.  None of the acting or the actors interested me, and I can’t say I was rooting for any of the characters.  When researching the movie I found that the movie was apparently based on a stage adaptation of the novel, rather than the novel itself.  Also, with more than a century between the novel’s debut and the movie along with various different stage productions and adaptations occurred – including parodies.  While this makes sense when thinking about the vast difference between the novel and the movie, it didn’t make the film any more appealing to me.

#92 The Thin Man (1934)

This is one of our favorite films of all time. The Thin Man is an American crime film based on the book by the great crime novelist Dashiell Hammett, and mirrors great British crime films such as Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle in terms of structure, humor, and execution – but of course, The Thin Man comes with a celluloid polish and Hollywood panache. Rarely without a drink in their hand, this boozy couple is as funny as they are effective private eyes, and they go off to figure out the motive and suspect in a cold-blooded crime that all leads to a dinner scene that would make Poirot feel jealous and ripped off. Shot over fourteen days, this film (and its sequels, except for the last one maybe) is a slice of Hollywood crime heaven that is sincerely a treat to watch if only for the “snappy banter full of covetable lines between the rich, sophisticated Nora and her sharp lush of a husband.”

When we watch, no only do we love watching Loy and Powell, but we fantasize being Nick and Nora. Of course, if you’re a fan and never listened to The Thrilling Adventure Hour‘s sendoff Beyond Belief, in which Frank and Sadie Doyle do Nick and Nora with a paranormal twist, you’re missing out on quite a treat.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thin_Man_(film)

Jennifer

This movie is an excellent marriage of excellent comedic writing and perfect performances by the actors.  There is also an adorable little dog.

This movie has the vibe of one long, endlessly fantastic cocktail hour, with plot twists and turns unraveling almost unnoticed. It is almost impossible not to be distracted by the magnetic chemistry between actors Powell and Loy. They later starred in multiple Thin Man films together, reprising their roles as the ever cool Nick and Nora.

Powell and Loy clearly carry the film.  They remain cool, calm, and quick witted.  The story itself has several great twists and turns, and while the story itself didn’t blow me away, the acting by Loy and Powell more than make up for it.  It was shot from start to finish in just two weeks.  The director often used the first shot if it was done well, not wanting the actors to “loose their fire” with having to do multiple takes on the same scenes.  This probably helped keep the momentum up and helped to contribute to the rapid fire, high energy volley that Loy and Powell are known for in the Thin Man movies.

This movie is pure fun.

Garrett

I mean, in a world where every sentence seems to drip with witty repartee, and martinis can be guzzled all day long by the gallon without any social, mental, or physiological consequences, enter Nick and Nora and their adorable little dog. They seem to have the best jobs (not really sure how often they have to work, but it isn’t very often), the best wardrobe, the biggest smiles, the best parties, and the lost laid back lives imaginable… until a body shows up…and then everything even more so.

I watched these for the first time through in my early twenties, and this is the first time that I watched one since. It still holds up as easily being one of the tightest comedy-mysteries ever made. It likely has a lot to do with the execution of the perfect balance of suspense, fun, humor, and strong leading stars. The other thing, and this is my main complaint about Hollywood today, is that the writing is so incredibly strong – almost central to the execution of the film – and that likely has a lot to do with filmmakers wanting to make sure that their pieces can be carried with the strength and intensity of the theater. This piece could easily be set on a stage rather than on film and the audience holds the same level of engagement and attention as the film does, but films today do not necessarily have to hold the audience’s attention with great writing, they just need to exist and have a name that pulls people to the box office.

A big difference was that I decided to pick up Hammett’s book to read after I watched it this time since I had never read the novel. So, the movie is great, but its contents is definitely a movie that has censorship board written all over it. It keeps the witty banter and the sly, excellent characterization, but there is a great deal that is not covered in the film likely because of a variety of cultural mores at the time. This includes a subplot involving heroin (or… laudanum, or something like that) and a complete retelling of the Alfred Packer cannibalism case. Also, the murders are more brutal, the sex more apparent, the women looser, the booze stronger, and language like a sailor. It was an excellent book, told strictly through Nick’s point of view. Where the film is more playful, the novel is more gritty and noir – and a great deal better than I was expecting. While the movie was excellent, after reading the book I recognize how much of a product of the times it is in terms of how they chose to execute it… But both are great works of art on their own legs.

To coincide with their release of a collection of Hammet’s works, The Library Of America published this excellent little essay on the book and film.

#101 Modern Times (1936)

When Modern Times was made in 1936, talkies were the rage, Charlie Chaplin was a worldwide sensation who toured the world several times over, and his Little Tramp changed the face of comedy, theatrics, mime, clowning, and culture. But after what he saw was the post-industrial wasteland created by machinery, dictatorships, unemployment, poverty, drugs, and a rising, encroaching, terrifying extremism beginning to grip the world, he had only one solution:

Take a year to film the final Little Tramp film, make him talk, and try to channel and process the anxieties everyone was feeling into his character for one final perfect performance.

Of course, the original script was scrapped, but the themes and interpretation of the world through Chaplin’s lens “(that survives) as a commentary on human survival in the industrial, economic, and social circumstances of the 20th – and perhaps the 21st – century” was perfect (Robinson / Schneider).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Times_(film)

Jennifer

I was admittedly not too enthusiastic about watching this movie.  When I think of what I thought I knew about Charlie Chaplin movies, I think silly nonsense.

I was wrong.  Made in 1936, this movie has held up remarkably well and continues to be relevant today.  One of the things I enjoyed the most about this movie was how creative Chaplin was using available technology.  Without modern special effects, this movie has an amazing roller skating sequence, a “modern” feeding machine, and even a sequence when a giant machine pulls a character through.

The movie does indeed contain that slapstick comedy that Chaplin is well known for but in measured amounts.  Interspersed between these bits is a thoughtful and powerful social and political commentary.

This movie blew my expectations out of the water.  Chaplin writes, directs, acts and wrote and performed the music in this movie.  It is impossible to watch this movie without smiling and being thoroughly entertained.  I can only imagine the reaction that audiences had at the very end of the movie when Charlie suddenly breaks into song and dance- hearing his voice for the first time on film!

Especially sentimental (but not too saccharine) is the tramp’s relationship with the gamine.  As they march off into the future in the ending scene, unsure of whether they will succeed or meet with defeat in life, you can not help cheering them on wholeheartedly.

Garrett

With Modern Times, I expected infantile slapstick nonsense that was prevalent in many early 20th century comedies. What I got in Modern Times, however, was a thoughtful social, political, and humanistic statement about our lives in the modern era – and there is nothing like the feeling of being blown away when your expectations start so low.

This film is absolute genius, and it is a shame that every instance that I have ever seen of it replays the same tired, old clown tropes that have become cliche as a result of this film’s first performing it. Yes, it is the original, but the replay after replay has made it so old that my reluctance was built on a lifetime of seeing the scenes out of context. What makes it so genius is the message – and Chaplin’s brilliant, astute, and accessible delivery makes the film as relevant to our kid as much as our own adult graduate-degree level social criticism and theory lenses. Frankly, I have never seen a film as touching, meaningful, and masterful that relies so heavily on the visual form. As a guy that prefers well-written scripts over everything else, to ride this film (that originally did have a script until it was ultimately canned by Chaplin with good reason) without any dialogue whatsoever, and to see the electric passion so effortlessly evident in the eyes of his Little Tramp and Paulette Goddard’s Gamin without exchanging a word as they weave in and out of an anarchist paradise, one immediately learns how beautiful life can really be when you care about the right things.

A masterpiece whose virtues I will never stop extolling. Modern Times is truly a perfect film which all others can only aspire to.

#73 Freaks (1932)

Loosely based on the short story Spurs by Tod Robbins and directed by the same mind that brought the definitive Dracula to the screen, Freaks is a film that blurs the lines between fiction and reality, drama and comedy, and horror and exploitation. This “alarming yet profound movie” is a difficult movie to classify as it seems to run a wide spectrum of achievements and genres in its sixty-two minutes (Schneider). It is an amazingly beautiful film, underappreciated because of sheer stomach-turning concerns for the performers, but still seems to hold some amazing messages about community and relationships in a very pre-Tarentino Tarentino way…Or a David Lynch way… It is Tarentino mixed with Lynch with a little dash of Paul Reubens’ camp mixed in. Original and strange, Freaks is a film that holds a special place in our cinematic experience as we could truly say afterward that we had certainly never seen anything like it before, but that we loved it. The version of the film we watched came with some really excellent special features, including a well-researched documentary that offered a biography of all of the performers in the film and convinced us that, even though it is very much an exploitation film, surprisingly everyone except the bearded lady seemed to enthusiastically enjoy their time and experience on set.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freaks

A note on our photo – we really had a hard time conceptualizing what we should shoot for this one as we were afraid of the boundaries of taste (as the filmmakers weren’t). So, we shot us as Cleopatra and the strong man feeling uncomfortable about being anything else..And I managed to completely photoshop my hair out of the picture by accident. This is the first of many films in the book where we are realizing we may have to balance ethics with imagination. We’re completely happy, however, that we live in a world where we have these concerns as there is truly nothing better than having to think about these things as a result of our freedoms of speech and expression. Thanks for raising these questions with your really weird film, Tod Browning!

Garrett

Freaks is a very troubling sixty-two minutes that devolves into a horrific denouement of violence and terror, and perhaps the most shocking and incredible part of this film is the fact that there is a strange balance between the lens that I am seeing it in 2016 and the cultural and historical lens through which the original audiences viewed it in 1932 – and I personally think both seem to work. We have made a great deal of progress in terms of acceptable entertainment, the equal rights in terms of both taste and cognitive expectations of those with disabilities, and what we consider to be tasteful. In Freaks, we see a film that was once likely intended to be a horror film of nightmarish revenge, and today could easily hold its ground against any Tarentino underdog revenge flick.

I thought this film was incredibly interesting. I was really worried about the troubling implications of this film. It is literally built on the premise that these characters, with little effect on what today would include many calls for boycott that the ADA and any number of other organizations would rightfully raise, have some inherent difference between themselves and normal people. Historical exploitation aside, they are the strongest characters, the most ethical, and the ones who make mistakes and need to atone for them. The regularly-abled characters aside from the clown are monsters. Who suffers? At the beginning of the film the director suggests that it is the audience who is allowed to laugh and criticize the “freaks” because of what was likely socially acceptable at the time (heck, there is even a frame story that culturally sets the scene for us), but by the end we’ve seen these unlikely characters humanized by observing their human struggles on the micro level that easily transposes to us on the macro level. Questions about infidelity, honesty, violence, acceptance, and pain as a result of these mistakes are all raised in the lives (no pun intended) of the small but beautifully interconnected community of this travelling circus are raised and followed to their end, and in a way that feels incredibly cathartic for those rooting for the people

So who suffers? At the beginning of the film the director suggests that it is the audience who is allowed to laugh and criticize the “freaks” because of what was likely socially acceptable at the time (heck, there is even a frame story that culturally sets the scene for us), but by the end we’ve seen these unlikely characters humanized by observing their human struggles on the micro level that easily transposes to us on the macro level. Questions about infidelity, honesty, violence, acceptance, and pain as a result of these mistakes are all raised in the lives (no pun intended) of the small but beautifully interconnected community of this travelling circus are raised and followed to their end, and in a way that feels incredibly cathartic for those rooting for the people in this small community of genuinely beautiful souls.

Did the writer and director – whose career was famously ruined for this film – intend for some overtly progressive cultural commentary on community and the humanity of “freaks?” A genius irony that presents the traditionally objectified in a new context of a community with passions, fears, desires, and best of all, revenge for screwing with them? Perhaps we’ll never know – but it might offer a clear message to the audiences of 1932 that the film was banned in Great Britain for the next thirty years. I will say this – there’s nothing more empowering and satisfying than to watch Prince Randian stalk his villainous prey in the rain with a knife in his teeth at the end of the film, and it was quite a feeling when the desire for justice and bloodthirst welled in my throat and the action in the final ten minutes devolved into a soaked frenzy.

Jennifer

I was not sure what to expect from this film.   I was very wary of the movie and the exploitation of the actors of the film (“Freak”).  Surprisingly, for a movie from 1932 this movie really portrays the ugliness of the mean and hateful “beautiful” characters. There is an exceptional strength and community of the physically different circus performers.  One of the most interesting aspects for me was learning about the real performers in the movie in the short bio that was included in the special features with the DVD.  This movie was banned in the U.K until the 1960’s, and MGM actually removed their name and symbol from the movie itself.  Critics note that one of the most shocking elements of the movie was that the director forces the viewer to really “see” the circus performers not just as an act or entertainment, but as real yet very physically different people.  When the movie was first viewed this caused incredible scandal and practically ruined the professional life of the director.

This movie was a fascinating watch from so many different perspectives and absolutely worth a view.

#75 42nd Street (1933)

One of the first filmed backstage musicals, MGM’s 42nd Street is a razzle-dazzle trip to the beginnings of what would carry Hollywood for the next thirty years. Archetypal characters, business intrigue, the sweat and dedication of the performers, love, politics, and musical number after musical number at the end of the film, this classic literally carries many of the tropes that are still in use today both on stage and on the screen. Saccharine puns and witty banter abound as TEN FAMOUS STARS and their dancing feet bring you down to 42nd street. The songs are memorable, and little can keep one from smiling while watching this “dazzling (film) that brightened the decade and remains a highlight in screen musicals.” (Schneider)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/42nd_Street_(film)

Jennifer

“Now go out there and be so swell you’ll make me hate you.”

While this is not one of my favorite musicals, all the performances are solid. 42nd Street is a film with a much-duplicated plot: star breaks her ankle right before the opening night. An unknown girl in the chorus must replace her.  There is a wedding.  There are young lovers.  Finally, a director’s one “final” show before his medical issues overwhelm him. This film is where all these old movie clichés originated.

I personally really enjoyed seeing all the 1930’s hats, gloves, and dresses. This film almost has it all: wonderful songs, dances, and acting.The dialogue is fast-paced, sharp-tongued, and cynical (reflecting the depression).  The honeymoon number is delightful. The plot could use a little firming up… and I felt like the movie ended abruptly.

If you are a fan of musicals at all, this is a movie you should not miss!

Garrett

I am a huge fan of Broadway and have seen this film and the stage version on several occasions in my youth.  Approaching it as a grown man, I watched the film again with joy and attention as my expectations were met for a classic, early Hollywood studio musical.

Brilliant sets, impressive dance numbers, fun performances, and a toe-tapping pun-riddled script made for an ensemble piece that is about as close to broadway as one can get on the screen. Many musicals (and films) today deny film the right to be anything but real – and that goes for musicals as well. At times this can lend itself to something entertaining because of its absurdity (Cannibal the Musical), funny because of it’s self-referential, fourth wall comedy while translating it from the stage to the screen (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), but when it is too serious, too realist, and forgets its stage origins, it can actually get weird to watch (RENT, the 2015 ANNIE, and others, and I hate to see what they are going to do with Wicked, and also hate to see what they are going to do with Hamilton so I am just hoping that the OBC stage performance they filmed was edited and directed well with many, many camera angles, and please release it already. I will pay. Take my money.)

Regardless, this is a fun film. It is not nearly on my list of favorite musicals, but the elaborate sets, dance sequences, and original camera work influenced many films that came after it. While I’ll take Dancer in the Dark, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, West Side Story, Little Shop Of Horrors, and a hundred other comedies from the same time period over this one, I won’t turn down an opportunity to watch it. I appreciate Lars Von Trier’s film-within-a-film sendup in Dancer in the Dark, and most certainly appreciate it more for what it gave to The Big Lebowski – which I’ll probably end up picking before 42nd Street every time.

#116 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (…Dwarves?). We watched Disney’s “The Diamond Edition” for whatever that is worth. It was a two disc edition that we’re not entirely sure why a second disc was justified. The extras were interesting but relatively sparse. Considering sixty years of marriage is a Diamond Anniversary, presumably that is the genesis of the coinage and not the fact that the box contains diamonds. Or scratch-repelling DVDs. Or special features of any value… Criterion, we realize you spoil us when you simply add your name and no fancy qualifiers.

This is the first film of it’s kind ever produced for the mass-market – a ninety minute animated feature. “It not only permanently established Disney as one of the foremost studios in the world but also advanced the state of animation to such a degree that it wasn’t until the advent of computer animation that anyone arguably pushed the form further” (Schneider). Essentially, that sums this Brothers Grimm tale up – an animated film that destroyed the boundaries of animation and set the bar high for any attempt at it for the next hundred years (which we haven’t even seen yet… it is that revolutionary). Part children’s entertainment, part universal human story, Snow White is not only the beginning – it’s the apex.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_White_and_the_Seven_Dwarfs_(1937_film)

Jennifer

This was the first feature film I ever saw in a movie theater.  I was terrified of the Evil Queen/Hag. Having not seen it for about 28 years, it exceeded my expectations.  While this movie was in production, the vast majority of the public mocked the idea of a feature-length animated movie. The film received a standing ovation on opening night and became a huge success.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is also the first movie to have its own soundtrack and established the concept of a musical soundtrack to accompany a movie. The music in this movie quickly establishes the tone. I am especially a fan of the ominous foreshadowing happening in the score as the Queen discovers Snow White is not dead.

Disney encouraged his team to view several films while creating Snow White, most notably Romeo and Juliet. This influence is obvious during the glass coffin scene with the Prince and Snow White.

The success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs led the way to several other Disney classics, including Dumbo and Pichnoccio (also on our list). It is definitely worth a watch for the music and art, or to experience the very first film to inspire an entire genre of full feature length animated movies.

Garrett

To be honest, I am not really looking forward to any of the Disney films on this list. Some of them are dated, simple, and not as great as they are made out to be as they both under and overestimate the emotional sensibilities of their audience. They want to be everything to all people, and in doing that they reuse a lot of tropes that are Disney-specific and use sentimentality, music, and effective striking images to manipulate and evoke emotions from the audience over, and over, and over again. Just a quick glance at youtube will show studies of how they do it, where they do it, and even when specific elements of films are reused (sometimes literally)

That said, this is a seminal film as it is the first commercial risk taken with animation in a feature length that was to make or break Disney as an artist and businessman. He succeeded, and this became one of the greatest films of all time, not only because of what he did that no one had ever done before but because it is actually well executed.

Personally, I thought it dragged in places and the story made little sense… But man, does the artwork completely slaughter. There are so many beautiful images and gorgeous scenes and little details that make this a truly important work of art. There has been little since, at the volume that this is, that can compare in quality and overall scope. During this viewing, my main focus was the artwork.

 

#66 Vampyr (1932)

A man arrives at an inn. He is brought into a spooky, terrifying world that he didn’t expect. We discover the bizarre and disorienting experiences as he discovers them, and so the seventy-five-minute fantasy of disorienting images, bizarre angles, and creepy moments barrels along at a surprisingly swift pace. Based on the short story Carmilla from Fanu’s Through A Glass Darkly, this film does a lot of really cool postmodern tricks in a relatively short period of time. This is the first sound picture that Carl Theodor Dreyer made, and while it did not see commercial success at the time of its release, the Schneider book notes that this film is an excellent introduction into why “many critics regard him as possibly the greatest of all filmmakers.”

We watched Vampyr on Criterion DVD #437, and enjoyed many of the extensive special features, essays, and other writings contained in the package.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vampyr

Jennifer

I  have a particular fondness for watching many of these much older films.  The level of craft and creativity that goes into achieving the special effects makes watching this films enjoyable on two levels – first for the narrative and acting itself, and second for puzzling over how they were able to achieve certain features or scenes in the film.  This film is brilliantly crafted.  At times this film seems to have been overexposed.  Some of the movie’s portions are grainy while others portions are blurry, but these elements all add a dreamy nightmare quality to the film.

The movie takes place in a small French village.  Allan Grey rents a room at a small inn.  During the night, a strange man enters his room,  then leaving a package with instructions that it should be opened upon his death. Allen gets out of bed and begins searching the area for answers and an explanation.  He walks to a nearby estate and find the man and his family.  A vampire has bitten one of them.  This is where the narrative really begins to pick up speed and story lines start to connect.  For me, there were times in the film that I found the story confusing or somewhat hard to follow, but I also liked that this movie made me really think critically about the characters and the actions, and question what is reality and what was not.

Garrett

My favorite aspects of this film were in many ways the technical elements that seemed incredibly ahead of its time. I was literally shocked at the various methods of Dreyer’s use of camera angles, aperture tricks, use of architecture and shot composition, the varying point of view, the bizarre and completely immersive narrative structure and continuity, and a hundred other little details that are magnified in this little brilliant package. I was literally in shock at the marvels of this film, gasping at moments that were just mind-blowing for the time (and for all time). I had two very memorable takeaways from the film. The first was one long shot that followed every character when the young Gisele was being carried into the house about two-thirds of the way through the film. In one perfectly orchestrated shot that lasted about a minute, the camera comes indoors and follows them carrying her through the house and capturing every character’s reaction and preparation. The other was the use of perspective and special effects concerning the coffin point of view near the end, and then the use of overlay and jump cuts to do some really impressive things. I thought that it was also kind of bizarre that there was one place that the film was strangely off, but it was likely the period – the use of the book as a narrative piece in a sound film. Maybe it bridged the gap between silent films and talkies, but man was it awkward and inconsistent at times. Still, if it is the bridge, it works. The soundtrack and titles were spectacular.

I also decided to read Carmilla since it came with the DVD, and posted the following review to Amazon and Goodreads…

I read this book, as well as the liner essays, to coincide with a post on a blog I am writing with my wife called “before we die films” on WordPress where we discuss the relevance and impact that the “1001 films to see before you die” has on us. This book (and essays) contained a great deal of material that all had separate sort of things to say about them, and our review for the film is over at the blog.

The screenplay…
First, the screenplay to Vampyr was excellent. It was well written and interestingly different than the film in a lot of cool ways. The prose within was definitely worth including in the Criterion DVD. The film is a little unclear at times based on what is happening (but it IS absolutely beautiful), so it is interesting to look at what the intended choices were going to be to see it executed on the screen. It is also interesting the differences in what they wanted to make versus what the final product looked like, including the ending, the addition of the dogs which were central to the piece, and other stuff that didn’t make it.

Carmilla…
Carmilla was an interesting and beautifully written piece that differed from the film in many, many ways. It is easy to see how the director used it in his work, but it is also clear that there is a huge difference. What I found fascinating about this novella is its really cool narrative structure, bouncing between first-person and then frame-narratives to drive the plot forward. The other-worldliness is also engaged through spooky diction and a strange unclear queer relationship between the main characters of the piece. I thought it was incredibly edgy and raw for a Victorian story, and while I have very little experience with vampire tales, this one is simply a very well written story that happens to have a bizarre vampire story as its centerpiece. Without giving too much away, the final scene where the tale ended made my skin crawl and engaged a hearty gross-out laugh. My wife asked, “what?” My only response was, “you don’t want to know, but it was awesome.” A great reading experience.

Le Fanu’s “Vampyr’s Ghosts and Demons”…
This essay was on many of the technical aspects of the film that I was not aware of, including the history of its genesis, its reception, and how it fits into the career of the artists involved. Fascinating.

Newman’s “Vampyr and the Vampire”…
This was my favorite essay, mainly because of my background as an English major. Essentially it is a history of the genesis of the vampire itself, and how the novel was brought to the screen taking Carmilla and the history of the trope into consideration. Really enlightening and added a lot to the experience of the film and the novella.

Koerber’s “Some notes on the Restoration…”
I mean, interesting considering the fact that huge chunks of the film are missing and the audio did not match up with what they had. What I found really crazy as I watched was the fact that some of the restoration work made the film look significantly newer than it is. Quite an achievement.

Weinberg and Weinberg’s “interview with Baron Nicolas de Gunzberg” …
This was also my favorite part as I learned the most from this essay. This includes the insane filming schedule, the casting choices, how the film was funded, and a lot of other really cool facts about the film through the mouth of one of the central characters of the film even happening. Again, a really fascinating read.