Les Vampires – Louis Feauillade (1915)

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Lawlessness had been a genuine threat to the Bourgeoisie whose anxiety and paranoia of the early 1900’s was made very real due to individual anarchism.

Agents of chaos.

Jules Bonnot among comrades.

Feuillade (pronounced Foo-Yaad), perhaps inspired by the balls to the wall escapades of one such anarchistic group, the so called Bonnot Gang, wrote Les Vampires in the style of popular pulp magazines.

Unlike the short-lived capers the French filmmakers run-and-gun career spanned over 20 years having directed around 700 films. There’s no typo, that “seven” was followed by two freaking digits!

The film series would be his best known work. A 10 part crime-thriller clocking over a whopping 6 hours, exploits much of the fears at the time and isn’t at all about lesbian vampires.

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No lesbians.

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No vampires.

Les Vampires is in fact about a crime syndicate that deal in; abduction, murder, beheading and the supernatural – so clear the schedule and grab some cheesy nachos!

"Who? What? When? Where…?"

“Who? What? When? Where…?”

The series begins with an investigative report on a criminal secret society.

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Philipe is the crack reporter.

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Mazamette brings the funny as his side-kick.

While the crime-solving duo hold their own through death defying shenanigans it’s Irma Vep’s performance that leaves an imprint.

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She’s charismatic and hypnotic but mostly just fucking weird to watch in the most awesome way.

Irma giving French audiences a boner.

Each episode has the viewer craving her next appearance. Only because it meant some poor so and so was getting shot, stabbed or strangled by her murderous lunacy.

I’d like to think these were the movies a young Agatha Christie would get finger-blasted to on date night.

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The 1920’s saw a changing woman in a world between wars. The actor Musidora embodied this female uprising in Irma’s dark sexuality, serpentine danger and “dance till you drop” attitude”.

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Some douche discovers it’s an anagram.

I’d imagine Feauillade would stop this analysis here saying this isn’t an exploration of the femme fatale – this is entertainment.

He’d be right.

By genre the thriller seeks a visceral response from an audience; anticipation, surprise and terror are its measures of triumph. The analytical mind just gets in the way.

Les Vampires turns Paris into a labyrinth of trap doors, secret hallways and masked bandits all serving to electrify the viewer. There’s no room for over-thinking which resonates in Louis statement, “A film is not a sermon nor a conference, even less a rebus, but a means to entertain the eyes and the spirit.”

And to that, we your fans say touché you brilliant French bastard.

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Louis Feauillade (1873-1925) Poet, Pioneer and Film-maker.

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