Film Serial Review: Les Vampires (1915)

Release Date: November 13th, 1915 (first chapter)
Directed by: Louis Feuillade
Written by: Louis Feuillade
Cast: Édouard Mathé, Musidora, Marcel Lévesque

Gaumont, 417 Minutes total (10 episodes)

Review:

Les Vampires took me a long time to get through. I had to watch it in increments, checking out each chapter over time. Each of which averages out to just over 40 minutes a piece.

While it was probably exciting and great in 1915, most of it is very slow and pretty uneventful. It could actually be easily edited down to a normal feature film length and be a more effective presentation.

Despite the title, the serial is not about vampires of a supernatural type. It is actually a long drawn out crime saga about a criminal gang in Paris that is called the Vampires. The story follows a journalist and his friend who try to uncover the secrets of this criminal group.

There are some weird characters and occurrences throughout this beefy tale and you can see that the style was very theatrical and kind of similar to what would come out of Germany a few years later with their expressionist style.

Being three minutes shy of a seven hour run time, in its entirety, Les Vampires is considered to be one of the longest films ever made. Most of the time the film uses isn’t vital, however.

In 1915, film was still an experiment and hadn’t really evolved into a standard format. In reality, this ten episode format plays more like a season of a modern television show.

Les Vampires spends a lot of its time experimenting with visual flair and is more of a theatrical art piece than a motion picture or a proper serial. The narrative is disjointed and honestly, it is pretty hard to follow even with its simplicity. The reason being is that so much time passes and you become so numbed by the experience that early details escape you. It’s a pretty surreal experience overall.

The serial is still cool to look at, as it shows where filmmaking was around 1915. While some critics consider it to be a masterpiece, I don’t. It’s barely enjoyable other than some cool visual flourishes and I found it difficult to get through. My spacing out the chapters may also account for some loss of plot detail, however.

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