Vampyr – Classic German Horror Movie!

Vampyr (German: Vampyr – Der Traum des Allan Grey) is a 1932 French-German horror film directed by Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer. The film was written by Dreyer and Christen Jul based on elements from J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s collection of supernatural stories In a Glass Darkly. Vampyr was funded by Nicolas de Gunzburg who starred in the film under the name of Julian West among a mostly non-professional cast. Gunzburg plays the role of Allan Grey, a student of the occult who enters the village of Courtempierre, which is under the curse of a vampire.

Vampyr was challenging for Dreyer to make as it was his first sound film and had to be recorded in three languages. To overcome this, very little dialogue was used in the film and much of the story is told with silent film-styled title cards. The film was shot entirely on location and to enhance the atmospheric content, Dreyer opted for a washed out, fuzzy appearing photographic technique. The audio editing was done in Berlin where the character’s voices, sound effects, and score were added to the film.

Vampyr had a delayed release in Germany and opened to a generally negative reception from audiences and critics. Dreyer edited the film after its German premiere and it opened to more mixed opinions at its French debut. The film was long considered as a low part in Dreyer’s career, but modern critical reception to the film has become much more favorable with critics praising the film’s disorienting visual effects and atmosphere.

On a late evening, Allan Gray arrives at an inn close to the village of Courtempierre where he rents a room to sleep. Gray is awakened suddenly by an old man, entering the room and leaving a square packet on Gray’s table with “To be opened upon my death” written on it. Gray takes the package and walks outside finding shadows guiding him to an old castle where he sees several shadows dancing and wandering on their own. Gray also sees an elderly woman and encounters the village doctor. Gray leaves the castle and walks to a manor. Looking through one of the windows, Gray sees the man who gave him the package earlier. This old man is suddenly murdered by gunshot. Gray is let into the house by servants who rush to the aid of the fallen man but find it too late to save him. The servants have Gray stay the night, where the Lord of the manor’s youngest daughter, Giséle leads Gray to the library where he learns that her sister, Léone is gravely ill. Gray and Giséle then see Léone walking outside. They rush to her finding her lying unconscious with fresh bite wounds. They have her carried back up to the manor where Gray remembers the parcel given to him. On opening the parcel, Gray finds the book is about horrific demons called Vampyrs.

After reading the book, Gray discovers Léone is a victim of a Vampyr and that the Vampyr also can have humans forced into her submission. The village doctor visits Léone at the manor, and Gray recognizes him as the old man he saw in the castle. The doctor tells Gray that a blood transfusion is needed and Gray offers his blood to save Léone. Exhausted from blood loss, Gray wakes sensing danger, and rushes to Léone, finding the doctor who has just dropped a poison vial from his hand. The doctor flees the manor, as Gray finds that Giséle has gone missing. Gray follows the doctor, finding himself in the castle where he has a vision of himself being buried alive. After waking from this vision, he succeeds in rescuing Giséle while the doctor is able to get away. The old servant of the manor finds Gray’s Vampyr book and discovers the way to defeat a Vampyr is with an iron bar through their heart. The servant meets Allan Gray by Marguerite Chopin’s grave behind the village Chapel. They open the grave and find the old woman lying there and hammer a large metal bar through her heart, killing her. The village doctor has found refuge in an old mill, but finds himself locked in a chamber where flour sacks are filled. The old servant arrives and activates the mill’s machinery, making the Vampyr’s associate drown in the flour that comes crashing from above. The curse of the Vampyr is lifted when Léone recovers. Giséle and Gray cross a foggy river outside by boat and find themselves in a brighter clearing.

Nicolas de Gunzburg as Allan Gray, a young wanderer whose studies of occult matters have made him a dreamer. Gray’s view of world in the film is described as a blur of the real and unreal.
Rena Mandel as Giséle, Léone’s younger sister and the daughter of the Lord of the Manor. Giséle is kidnapped by the Village Doctor late in the film.
Sybille Schmitz as Léone, Giséle’s older sister, who is in thrall to the vampire and finds her strength dwindling day by day.
Jan Hieronimko as the Village Doctor, a pawn of the vampire, Marguerite Chopin. The village doctor kidnaps Giséle late in the film.
Henriette Gérard as Marguerite Chopin, the vampire, an elderly woman whose hold extends beyond her immediate victims. Many villagers, including the village doctor, are her minions.
Maurice Schutz as the Lord of the Manor, Giséle and Léone’s father who offers Gray a book about vampirism to help Gray save his daughters. After his murder, he returns briefly as a spirit and takes revenge on the village doctor and a soldier who had helped Marguerite Chopin.
Albert Bras as an Old Servant, a servant at the manor house. After the death of his master, he finds Gray’s book on vampirism and, aided by Gray, ends the vampire’s reign of terror.
N. Babanini as Seine Frau (His Wife)
Jane Mora as a Nurse
Georges Boidin as the Limping Man


About Andrew

Co-founder & lead investigator of Paranormal Encounters. I've experienced the paranormal all my life, having encountered ghosts, angels and demons. I live in a haunted house and when not exploring and researching the unknown, I enjoy single malt Scotch whisky & potato chips (though not necessarily at the same time).