just-released-today Kino Lorber Blu-ray of Louis Feuillade's 6 1/2 hour pulp crime serial Les Vampires that I had never before seen, or at any rate noticed, any silent film outside of this one use the change from blue tint, for a dark room, to black and white, for a well-lit room, when a character flips a lightswitch. Feuillade does it time and again in Les Vampires, and it's so simple, and so obvious, and so primitively effective in its altering of the scene's perspective that I had to wonder if this was everywhere in silent films and I just hadn't been paying attention. Les Vampires was made in 1915, after all -- pretty early days. Surely someone at least copied him? I'm honestly asking.
More significantly, I suppose, is that "1915" business. Basic math will reveal that this is nearly 100 years ago, and you'd be hard pressed to find a book that old in the kind of near-pristine condition of this Les Vampires release. "Near-pristine" is probably an exaggeration -- it's a very old movie, and looks it. But given the volatile nature of celluloid, it's awfully impressive anyway. As for the film itself, by which I mean what it is and what's in it, the Internet informs me that Les Vampires is considered one of the longest films ever made, though this designation feels like a cheat (and a useless one at that) since Feuillade's film is a serial -- I'd imagine you could find any number of serials that, when taken together, come out to at least 6 1/2 hours. In any case, as it's a serial, Les Vampires is broken up into ten chapters, running in length anywhere from 14 minutes to almost an hour. Most of them are closer to an hour than 14 minutes, and I don't really know what the deal is with that particular episode. It was a structural problem that Feuillade needed to solve, I'm guessing. But anyway, it's a very pulpy story, and very violent, occasionally sluggish, particularly during its rare but curious moments of domestic comedy. In terms of plot, it is, like most serials, more like a series of interconnected short stories than a novel. Lots of different schemes are planned and executed, with varying levels of success, by the titular crime syndicate, and they are thwarted, or not thwarted, by journalist Philipe Guerande (Edouard Mathe) and one-time Vampire turned crimefighter Oscar-Cloud Mazamette (Marcel Levesque). The whole thing ends in an astonishing and, I have to admit, pretty damn hilarious frenzy of dancing and violence.
Anyway, it's a hoot. Most of the time, anyway. It can struggle under the weight of repitition, which is unavoidable, I would think, with something like this. But if you're able to go with it, and it's not that hard to do, it's a lot of fun. It creates and tosses off and then forgets about a lot of good old-fashioned pulp strangeness, of the type that nobody who thinks they're recreating this kind of pulp actually manages to duplicate. It's the real thing, is what I'm getting at.