The fifth chapter of my book Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Films We Can See (Chicago: A Cappella Books, 2000). As James Naremore aptly notes about my work in his recent collection An Invention Without a Future: Essays on Cinema (Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 2014), I have revised my attitudes towards watching films on home video formats considerably since I wrote this over a decade and a half ago. -– J.R.
In 1998, Water Bearer Video issued in a boxed set of four cassettes the complete ten-episode silent French serial Les vampires. Directed by Louis Feuillade in 1915 and 1916 and starring the great actress Musidora as the mysterious Irma Vep, this monumental and exciting crime fantasy is one of the key works in the history of cinema — seminal in its inﬂuence on moviemaking as a whole, and to my mind considerably more watchable, pleasurable, and even modern from certain perspectives than the contemporaneous long features of D. W. Grifﬁth, The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance. Yet astonishingly, this major work had been unavailable in the United States for over eighty years, ever since it ran commercially as a serial in American movie houses; apart from a few exceptional archive and festival showings from the sixties onward, not a single episode was distributed in any form.… Read more »