(director/writer: Louis Feuillade; cinematographer: Georges Guérin Manichoux;  music: Robert Israel (2000); cast: Juliet Musidora (Irma Vep), Édouard Mathé (Philippe Guérande), Marcel Lévesque (Oscar Mazamette), Jean Aymé (the Grand Vampire), Fernand Herrmann (Juan-José Moréno / Brichonnet), Stacia Napierkowska (Marfa Koutiloff  from episode II), Renée Carl (L’Andalouse), Suzanne Delvé (Fleur-de-Lys); Runtime: 421; MPAA Rating: NR; Kino Lorber; 1915-silent/B/W-France-in French with subtitles)

“One of the greatest films in cinema.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Prolific French film director, of over 700 short films,  Louis Feuillade (“Nocturne”/”Eyes Without A Face”), who died in 1925 at the age of 52, has created one of the greatest films in cinema. It’s a ten-part silent surreal serial that for seven hours explores a powerful, anarchistic and ruthless French criminal gang called the Vampire Gang, operating in Paris, who are led by Irma Vep (Juliet Musidora). She’s adorned in an all-black body suit, poses as a singer and her name is an anagram for “vampire.” Her assistant is the evil hypnotist Juan-José Moréno (Fernand Herrmann).

The artful crime film, a popular one and a true masterpiece, blends a documentary style with one of a fantasy world, that brings about a world shaped by multiple disguises, secret passageways, hair-raising escapes, poison rings, and evil master plots. It’s shot during WW I and highlights the empty streets of Paris, as it shows how the gang terrorizes the everyday world of the bourgeoisie.

The hero is a drab Paris newspaper reporter, Philippe Guérande (Edouard Mathe), who dedicates his life to investigating the mysterious crimes committed by the colorful gang who spread an unseen terror across the city. For comic relief, the reporter’s sidekick, doing most of the legwork,  is the daffy Oscar (Marcel Levesque).

There are many victims including the wealthy ones and high profile public officials, also a vic is the ballarina (Stacia Napierkowska)– the reporter’s girlfriend.

Les vampires (1915)