Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Vampyr (1932)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Vampyr (1932, Fr./Germ.) (aka The Vampire, or Castle of Doom)

In Danish director Carol Theodor Dreyer's first sound film - about vampyres (although with sparse dialogue and still employing title cards), a slow-paced, unsettling psychological horror masterpiece with German expressionistic camerawork and soft-focus images, but not viewed in the US until 16 years later:

  • set at a Courtempierre French chateau, various ominous images - such as the sight of a robed and hooded farmer with a giant scythe by the river's edge, a symbol of death
  • the rarely-seen main vampyr character - a mysterious, elderly and blind village female named Marguerite Chopin (Henriette Gérard)
  • the frightening shot of severely-ill, anemic-vampyrized, "damned" adolescent Leone (Sybille Schmitz) with "the mark of damnation" on her neck - suddenly giving an evil, possessed, lascivious, predatory, blood-thirsty, and demonic smile toward her younger sister Giséle (Rena Mandel) - both girls were daughters of the lord of the manor (Maurice Schutz)
  • the feverishly dreamy, disorienting scene of occult researcher Allan Gray (Julian West, aka Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg), a specialist who studied "devil worship and vampire terror" - drained of his blood, becoming ghostlike and spiritually transparent (filmed with double-exposure as he rose up from a bench), and viewing his own death as a disembodied soul, beginning with a view of his own body on a flower-bed in a coffin
  • in a five-minute sequence of being buried alive - the film's most heralded and celebrated set-piece, the hero found himself sealed in the glass-windowed coffin and watching what was enfolding from his body's own claustrophobic, helpless subjective point-of-view:
    -- the screwing and sealing down of the wooden coffin lid (marked with the inscription: FROM DUST THOU ART, UNTO DUST THOU SHALT RETURN)
    -- the sinister-looking old vampyr Marguerite Chopin, lighting a candle on the window, and then looking down at him
    -- and the transport of the coffin during his own funeral through the chateau and to the burial site (with the walls, building, sky, and trees moving above him in his view)
  • the scene of the defeat of the vampyr when Gray went to the cemetery, opened the grave of Marguerite Chopin, pounded a thick iron bar through her body and heart (her face turned skeletal), and lifted the curse - Léone recovered ("I feel strong. My soul is free")
  • the concluding sequence of the suffocation death of the village doctor (Jan Hieronimko), one of the vampyre's minions, hiding in the bottom of a flour mill where the activated machinery buried him alive under mounds of white flour
  • meanwhile, Gray was rowing Gisele by boat across a foggy river - liberating and saving her as they walked into the sunlight


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z