Les Vampires 2: The Ring That Kills 1915

Director: Louis Feuillade
"At midnight, the prisoner will be interrogated by the Grand Inquisitor of the Vampires. At dawn he will be executed in the presence of the Black Committee."
The second installment of  Louis Feuillade's awe-inspiring serial. The murder of a ballerina draws Guerande into a deadly trap as the Vampires continue their reign of terror...

At the exclusive Blue Camelia Club, the Count de Noirmoutier (aka the Grand Vampire) learns of a performance that evening by the ballerina Koutiloff, who is engaged to the reporter Phillipe Guerande. An associate gives the Count a poison-laced ring, which he offers as a gift to Koutiloff that evening.

The ring has a sharpened edge, on which Koutiloff scratches her skin. As she performs her 'Vampire Dance', the poison does its work and she dies on stage. In the audience is Guerande, who recognises the fleeing Count to be the same man who had earlier posed as Dr Nox, and gives chase. At a quarry on the outskirts of the city, Guerande is overpowered and taken prisoner by a group of Vampires. They sentence him to die at dawn...

Episode two of Les Vampires features Stacia Napierkowska as the bat-winged dancer whose image is perhaps one of the serial's most familiar. Ironically, she is neither a real vampire nor one of the titular villains, but even so, proves that series creator Louis Feuillade knew a sensational image when he saw one.

As the serial's driving force, Feuillade scattered many autobiographical references throughout Les Vampires. He was born in the southern French town of Lunel on February the 19th, 1873. His family were in the wine trade, and though the young Louis was an avid writer of plays, poems and magazine articles, when he arrived in Paris in 1898 it was as a representative of wine merchants Muscat de Lunel, for whom Mazamette poses as a salesman in Les Vampires episode four. His entry into films came seven years later, by which time he was married and scraping a living as a journalist -- like his protagonist Guerande -- for the Revue Mondiale.

He was advised to seek a position at Gaumont Films. Alice Guy, France's leading -- in fact only -- female film director, offered him a job as a scriptwriter. Guy left Gaumont in 1907, and Feuillade was named her successor as head of production. His progress was no doubt helped by his ferocious work ethic. By his own estimate, he had produced around 800 films by the end of his career in 1925.

Much of that work revolved around a number of continuing series, which were becoming increasingly popular with audiences eager for familiar faces on screen, and studios hoping to encourage repeat business. There were comic shorts featuring child stars 'Bėbe' and 'Bout-de-Zan' (the latter of whom would appear in a later episode of Les Vampires), and a series of "essays in realism", Life As It Is.

Feuillade considered himself a craftsman rather than an artist, and would no doubt have scoffed had he heard himself described as an auteur by later scholars of film theory. But it was his authorship, through plot ideas that he'd scribble down on any nearby napkin, envelope or newspaper, that steered the chaos of The Vampires through ten episodes and almost seven hours.

End Credits:
Edouarde Mathe (Phillipe Guerande), Marcel Levesque (Oscar Mazamette), Jean Ayme (The Grand Vampire / Count Noirmoutier), Delphine Renot (Mme. Guerande), Stacia Napierkowska (Marfa Koutiloff).
Scenario: Louis Feuillade, Photography: Manichoux.
Gaumont, France
Running time 13 mins.

To Be Continued in Part 3: "The Red Cryptogram"!

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