Well, I got this DVD (R2 MoC Version) - and gave it a longish spin last night. Given the number of extras I couldn't get through it all in a single sitting - so I'll revisit today probably.
Anyway - the print looks as good as it ever will, probably. Definitely decent (and Criterion are using the same print, so we know we're getting the best possible).
Firstly I watched the film with the restored soundtrack (an unrestored version is on the disc too). There's still some hiss, but when you take into account the history of this film, that's to be expected. For those that don't know, the film was shot silent, and then sounds were post-synced in three languages - English, German, and French. Only the German and French tracks remain - this disc uses the German version. Dialog is minimal.
As for the film, it's a classic, and so needs no hyping from someone like myself. It's a fantastic counterpoint to the Universal titles released around the same time. The Universal titles are hailed as classics (and they are), but they also gave us some of the first sound glimpses into what would become the customs and norms of narrative story telling, and of the language of film. However, there were alternative methods offered up, and cinema could have been quite different - Vampyr is as example of one of these alternatives (Un Chien Andalou offers a more radical approach from the surrealists). Vampyr plays with narrative structure quite a bit, and breaks all kinds of screen boundaries. Along with this we have a rather interesting and straight forward tale of a Vampire - so the film can satisfy both fans of straight up horror, and those interested in critical analysis and study.
After watching the film I immediately put it on again, this time with the first of two commentary tracks. First up was the track from Tony Rayns. This track also appears on the Criterion disc.
It's a decent commentary, jam-packed with information. It's a tad dry and it's clear that Tony is a film scholar. He guides you through the various techniques and decisions made, and the history of the film. There are no pauses, and Tony fills in the time well. It is definitely worth listening to this one.
Did I like this film? Well, it's rare I watch a film, and then watch it right away with the commentary in order to learn more. So you can imagine how rare it is for me to sit and immediately watch and listen with a second commentary track - this time an exclusive for the MoC disc. It's with Guillermo del Tore, director of Pans Labyrinth and Hellboy.
This commentary track is the better of the two. It's quite a scoop that MoC got the guy to do this track, but it goes one better and introduces a boatload of new ideas, interesting discussion, and opportunities to think about the film itself. This track is the more essential of the two. No information is repeated between commentary tracks.
If you want to know the differences between the two, I'd put it this way: Tony Rayns is clearly a scholar, he's very interested in the details, and dissecting the skills involved. But it comes across as more of a lecture, academic in tone. Tony doesn't sound like he loves film (though I'm sure he does). He's doesn't come across as being excited by it. He knows a lot, but there seems to be a lack of passion. On the other hand the del Toro track is the effort of a man in love with cinema, in love with this film, and with unique ideas about what it's trying to say to us. del Toro is in awe, but never gushing - he just has a passion as a filmmaker that Rayns doesn't seem to have. Both tracks are a pleasure and worthy inclusions - but the Criterion missing out on the del Toro track is a bit of a tragedy.
I wasn't sure going in whether this additional exclusive for Moc would truly be worthy - but now I've heard both I'd say they offer a wonderful counterpoint, and if I had to choose (and thank goodness I don't) I'd go with the del Toro. The del Toro track spends a lot of time discussing the lead as a Jesus figure, and the film's many Memento Mori allusions. Brilliant. He even throws in a couple of moments from Vampyr that he stole for his own films.
I then watched the two deleted scenes (sound issues prevented the scenes being added back into the film). They're short, and definitely worth watching. It was the German censor who snipped these, and by todays standards they're not shocking. Nice to see them here though.
Along with all this I read the 80 page booklet. What can you say about that? If you bought MoC's Nosferatu disc (and if you haven't, why not?!?!) then you know what to expect. It's packed with lots of articles and pictures - and is worth the price of this DVD alone.
There are other extras, another approximately 90 minutes or so - featurettes on Carl Th. Dreyer (Director), one on the lead (who was a Baron!), and one on the films influences. I'll hopefully get to them soon.
One final extra - there is a PDF on the disc with the original stories that inspired Dreyer to make the film (Sheridan's Le Fanu's Carmilla). It's 124 pages long should you want to print it out. Nice addition that.
The film is 72 minutes in length, and a real joy. MoC have put out a stellar DVD. I can't imagine what else they could have put on it. There's a choice between this edition and the Criterion - but the exclusive inclusion of the del Toro track means the MoC edition is the better of the two, imo. Having heard both commentary tracks, the del Toro one offers the more interesting discussion (though both are worthy - if very different).
Essential this - and I just had a terrific nights entertainment. That I watched it, back-to-back, three times consecutively, says it all.