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June 09, 2016

Therapy for a Vampire

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Der Vampir auf der Couch
David Ruehm - 2014
Music Box Films

I prefer the German title, which translates as "Vampire on the couch". The couch in this case is the one in the office of Sigmund Freud. The vampire, Count Geza, is tiring of his centuries old marriage, and is one the lookout for the reincarnation of the woman who turned him into a vampire. Taking place in a depopulated Vienna in 1932, most of the film is about a young artist, Viktor, who is employed by Freud to create illustrations of patients' dreams, Viktor's girlfriend, Lucy, who Count Geza is convinced is his former lover, and the vampire Countess Elsa, who employs Victor to create her portrait, to in effect provide her with a mirror image.

Whomever wrote the subtitles here needs should be credited. Too many films are mistranslated by people who miss the wordplay or context of some of the lines. Those with even general familiarity with vampire lore should appreciate it when Count Geza mentions "self-reflecting" and "a thirst for life" to the oblivious doctor.

There is nothing here as radical for its time, like Roman Polanski's introduction of a Jewish vampire in The Fearless Vampire Killers. Mad Magazine already has claimed the description of "humor in a jugular vein". What we have here is a fairly steady stream of chuckles inspired by the classic vampire legends, with two bickering couples, a snoopy landlady, and the short, lovelorn vampire's assistant. It's a handsome film which might have benefitted a bit from a little more money for the special effects. Those who love older vampire films, somewhere between F. W. Murnau and Terence Fisher, will be the ones who should most appreciate Ruehm's homage. One of my favorite moments, both poignant and funny, involves Countess Elsa, actress Jeanette Hain with a Louise Brooks hair-do, attempting to see her reflection by dabbing a cloud of face powder to no avail.

I would hope that Therapy for a Vampire does well enough to inspire making David Ruehm's earlier films available stateside. The showreels for the feature films and television commercials at Ruehm's website indicates a filmmaker with an inventive sense of humor. The guy loves old films and some of the visual cliches well enough to have fun with them, as is done here with gags involving the blood of some unlucky victims, and the vampire's ability at physical transformation.

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Posted by peter at June 9, 2016 01:48 PM