Monday, 9 January 2012

Tricky problems

'There are several tricky problems inherent in discussing the earliest substantial manifestations of a much-loved screen genre,' David Pirie wrote in The Vampire Cinema (Hamlyn, 1977), which I purchased all those years ago as a teenager who had just become passionately interested in everything to do with vampires (when I had finally saved the DKK 64,90 necessary to buy the book, the bookshop had only one copy left). Pirie does not mention Le Manoir du Diable AKA The Haunted Castle or The Devil's Castle directed by Georges Méliès as the 'first' vampire film, but many books do, like John L. Flynn's Cinematic Vampires: The Living Dead on Film and Television, from The Devil's Castle (1896) to Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) (McFarland, 1992): 'The imaginative climax occurs when the bat is vaporized in a puff of smoke, and from that puff of smoke, the vampire film was born.'

Thanks to youtube, the film itself is currently available for your own, personal judgment. Although the short film is imaginative and extremely well-made, I find that the vampire is, so to speak, in the eye of the beholder. Clearly, it contains elements that would reappear in vampire films, but I personally would not call it a vampire film.

If you are intrigued by this early film and you are not familiar with other films by Méliès, I encourage you to take a look at some of the other ones available on youtube, particularly his most famous one, Le Voyage dans la lune.

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