Les Vampires 8: The Thunder Master 1916

Director: Louis Feuillade
"GOD SEES YOU. Oh wicked women, place your trust in He who sees all. When He calls you before His tribunal, THE TRUTH WILL BE REVEALED"
The net is at last closing around the Vampires, thanks to journalist Phillipe Guerande and his associates. But their leader Satanas is still at large, armed with a powerful and deadly weapon...

Guerande and Mazamette have succeeded in capturing Juan Moreno and Irma Vep. They visit St Lazarus' prison, where Irma Vep is being held before deportation to an Algerian penal colony. Vep asks about Moreno, only to be told that he had been guillotined that same morning.

The Grand Vampire Satanas, disguised as 'Father Silence', brings his electronic cannon to Port Vendres, where he offers spiritual guidance to the prisoners. He passes a coded message to Irma Vep telling her that he will destroy the penal ship, offering her the choice of escape or a martyr's death. Satanas fires the cannon from his hotel room; the ship is sunk as it leaves port and it is reported that there are no survivors.

Meanwhile, Guerande tracks down the Vampires' base of operations. Mazamette and his son Eustache go undercover as rag-pickers and find Satanas' address in Montmartre. Meanwhile Satanas has called on Guerande; he paralyses the reporter with his poisoned glove and plants a bomb in his apartment. Mazamette returns at an opportune moment and removes the bomb in the nick of time.

Using Eustache as a decoy, Mazamette sneaks into Satanas' apartment. In the scuffle that follows, Mazamette gets his nose shot off: the police break in and the Grand Vampire is captured. As Satanas is taken to Sante Prison, it seems all is lost for the Vampires. But elsewhere, a train pulls in to a quiet rural station with a bruised woman in ragged clothing clinging to its underside... Irma Vep is alive...

The Thunder Master (released May 1916) is notable for a surplus of plot twists and an unusually high body count. Although all the deaths take place off-screen, two prominent Vampires and an entire ship full of women prisoners meet a sticky end. Guerande and Mazamette's persistence finally seems to be paying off, but the hydra-like Vampire gang soon spawns another leader, the poisoner 'Venomous', introduced towards the end of this episode. More from him next time.

Louis Leubas returns as Satanas and makes for a sinister cleric in his guise as Father Silence, while the indestructible Irma Vep again proves more than a match for the authorities. Also making a guest appearance is René Poyen, aka the mischeivous Bout-de-Zan, imported star of Feuillade's series of one-reel comedies. The director casts him to type here as Mazamette's wayward son, recently kicked out of boarding school for some unspecified misdemeanour.

At this point, the frugal Feuillade was maximising his resources. He customarily worked on several projects at once, at times averaging a completed film every week. If dates that appear on-screen during The Vampires are accurate (like a letter in episode five dated November 15th), there would have been three or four months between shooting and release. His next major project Judex had been on the back burner for a year, its long gestation period probably explained by Feuillade's stint in the military. And the saga of The Vampires was racing to a conclusion.

End Credits:
Edouarde Mathe (Phillipe Guerande), Musidora (Irma Vep), Marcel Levesque (Oscar Mazamette), Louis Leubas (Satanas / Father Silence / Jaques Bretal), Bout-de-Zan (Eustache Mazamette), Delphine Renot (Mme Guerande), Renee Carl (The Andalusian), Georgette Faraboui (Dancer), Frederick Moriss (Venomous).
Scenario: Louis Feuillade, Photography: Manichoux.
Gaumont, France
Running time 50 mins.

To be continued in Part 9: 'The Poisoner'!

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