When examining the Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer's (1889-1968) seminal take on the vampire legend, one may do well to proceed by asking the vulgar question: is Vampyr scary? Doing so confronts one with what the film is and is not and clues one in to why a large segment of the Berlin audience that attended the film's 1932 premiere demanded- - unsuccessfully -- their money back. When Dreyer set about making Vampyr, his intention was to generate moolah. But as might be supposed of a director whose previous film, La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928) stands as one of the supreme achievements of the medium, Dreyer was unable to harmonize his commercial intentions with an ability to stomach pat formulas. Rather, he trussed his work up with ambiguity and disjunction, instead of coddling his viewers with unruffled titillation. The film traces the adventures of Allan Gray, "a dreamer for whom the line between the real and the supernatural became blurred," who happens upon a village where he becomes involved in various enigmas that twirl around a wizened vampire and her partner, a malign doctor. While Vampyr is not a scary film, it is an unsettling one that encourages multiple viewings. This is particularly true because of the manner in which Dreyer moves from objective to subjective perspectives and fiddles around with causality. Dreyer has been frequently cited as one of the true poets of cinema -- a man who sought spiritual forms out of a medium that is predisposed to maximizing its secular appeal. Though his other masterpieces, such as Day of Wrath and Ordet, unfurl like rigorously metrical processions, Vampyr is the cinematic counterpart of gothically styled free verse.

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.