I Vampiri

I Vampiri (1956)
Image Entertainment
Cast: Gianna Maria Canale, Dario Michaelis, Carlo D’Angelo
Extras: Photo Gallery, Biographies, Trailers

In their ’Mario Bava Collection, ’ Image Entertainment has now prepared a DVD version of ’I Vampiri, ’ the film that could – and should – be called Bava’s directorial debut, albeit uncredited. The film has never been released in the US in its original form, but always in heavily edited versions, which added new ’sexy’ footage and unrelated American actors for some obscure reason. This DVD however, gives us the cut Bava had created and although only 78 minutes in length, it manages to create an atmospheric vampire film with some very effective and inventive shots and plenty of mood.

’I Vampiri’ is presented in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio on this release in a transfer that is enhanced for 16×9 TV sets. The transfer is beautiful and very clean. The movie makes frequent use of stock footage and although the quality is not quite as good in many of those shots, as soon as Bava’s own material comes into play, the image is remarkably sharp, clean and bold. Contrast is very good with very deep blacks and good shadow fall-offs. Highlights are usually rendered very well without bleeding, although occasionally some overexposure is evident in selected shots. Stable and clean, the print creates a memorable presentation of the film that fans will no doubt come to cherish for years to come, especially since the material is also free of any compression artifacts.

The film is presented in its original Italian language on this DVD in a Dolby Digital mono track. Although the frequency response is limited and some sibilance is evident, the track is in good shape without notable defects or problems. Dialogue integration is good and leaves all lines well understandable – if you speak Italian that is, of course. In case you don’t, Image Entertainment has also added faithfully translated English subtitles to complement the film.

The disc contains biographies on Mario Bava and (co-)director Riccardo Freda as well as a photo gallery with publicity shots and stills from the movie and trailers of the other films from the Mario Bava Collection. On a side note, I also wanted to point out that I really like the chapter selection menu on this disc, so make sure to give it a look. The background story about the production of ’I Vampiri’ is colorful and exciting and fortunately Image Entertainment has included some very thorough liner notes by Tim Lucas. As usual, the liner notes are a great read and full of valuable information, so make sure to check them out.

’I Vampiri’ is an atmospheric horror thriller that has some great moments. It doesn’t have the stylish class of ’Black Sunday’ or some other Bava highlights, but given the film’s troubled past it is great to finally see the original version of the film, especially in such a beautiful rendition as presented here by Image Entertainment.