Vampire Hunter D (1985 film): Wikis


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Vampire Hunter D
Directed by Toyoo Ashida
Starring Kaneto Shiozawa
Michie Tomizawa
Seizō Katō
Keiko Toda
Yūsaku Yara
Ichirō Nagai
Music by Tetsuya Komuro
Distributed by CBS Theatrical Films (U.S.)
Streamline Pictures (U.S.) (1992-1999)
Urban Vision Entertainment (U.S.) (2000-)
Release date(s) 1985
Running time 80 minutes
Country  Japan
Language Japanese
Followed by Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

Vampire Hunter D (吸血鬼ハンターD Kyūketsuki hantā D) - one of the first anime films released outside of Japan, remains a cult classic in the English-speaking world. Billed by the Japanese producers as a "dark future science-fiction romance", Vampire Hunter D is set in the year 12,090 A.D., in a post-nuclear holocaust world where a vampiric Nobility terrorizes human peasants.



While making her rounds, the whip-wielding seventeen-year-old Doris Lang, daughter of a deceased werewolf hunter, is attacked by Count Magnus Lee (named for the eponymous "Count Magnus" of a short story by M. R. James and Hammer Films' famed vampire actor, Christopher Lee), the long-vanished vampire lord said to be over 10,000 years old. Out of sheer boredom, Magnus intends to make Doris his new zombie-like vampire bride, marking her with a telltale bite. Doris later encounters a reticent and mysterious horseman, D (the first wandering hunter she has been unable to drive away or defeat), whom she hires to protect her from the vampires.

The young hunter girl becomes enmeshed as the pawn in a conflict between Count Lee, his daughter Ramika, the mutant servant Rei Ginsei — and Greco Rohman, the town mayor's son who wants the feisty Doris for himself. When Doris is kidnapped by Count Lee, D battles his way into Lee's gigantic fortress to rescue her. Ramika's loyalties are torn when she becomes disgusted with her father's lack of "nobility."

A long rescue with episodic battles ensues, as D races to defeat the count in time to prevent Doris' transformation into a vampire. At first, it seems Count Lee is too much for him; however, D prevails. With the count defeated, the castle crumbles, and D escapes with Doris and her brother Dan. D sets off under a now clear blue sky. Doris and her little brother wave him off as D looks back briefly and smiles. He then rides off into the sunset.

Differences between the novel and movie

There are many differences, most are of considerable significance.

In the movie, Doris's physical prowess is implied and briefly shown when she fends off Greco, whereas in the novel these traits are given a greater emphasis. It could also be argued that D is more reserved in regards to Doris in the film, never going beyond a mere embrace (at least on camera) and certainly never kissing Doris, as he does in the novel. In the film it is nonetheless made clear that D holds great affection for Doris beneath his cool and stoic exterior. In both formats it takes force of will to resist the temptation to bite Doris, possibly linking D's vampirism to his sexuality.

Unlike the novel, the D of the film makes few errors in judgment or battle, and is more loath to resort to his vampiric side, resisting it almost to the point of death. D of the novel is more willing to use his vampiric abilities to get out of trouble, though he is also reluctant, albeit to a lesser extent.

In the book, Dr. Fering's character and relationship with the Langs is further developed, and he spends more time helping them. He also explains to Doris (and in doing so the readers) that in the seven thousand years in which vampires ruled over man, human DNA was altered so that when a human comprehends the effect of a deterrent (such as garlic or crucifixes), they forget about it. Consequently crosses do not appear as jewelry or on buildings in the books, as they do in the movie.

In the book, the only ones besides Dan and D to ever know that Doris was bitten were Dr. Fering, the mayor, Sheriff Dalton, Greco, and Greco's thugs. Dalton threatens Greco and his friends that if anyone spreads word about Doris' being bitten, "I'll throw you in the electric pokey." We also learn that the sheriff is trusted by Doris, and was thrown into his prison prior to Doris being placed in the asylum.

Rei Ginsei's character was almost entirely altered, including his ethnicity. In the book, he's Japanese and he tries to rape Doris and offers D both power and friendship, but is coldly rebuffed. His mutant power of warping space within his body, however, remains the same. In the movie Rei's character was combined with that of Magnus' werewolf servant, Garou, who has no lines and only makes a brief appearance in the initial scene. His death was altered for the movie, coming from Magnus, rather than D. His three companions were transformed to monstrosities: Gimlet was changed from a mutant with superhuman speed to a glider who laughed; Golem from a large man to a true giant; and the spider-controlling Chullah (not named in the movie) from a hunchbacked human to a spindly-limbed green humanoid. In the book D kills them and cuts off Rei's hand in the same encounter, following Dan's kidnapping. In the movie D kills Chullah and Golem while leaving the castle, and shortly thereafter Rei accidentally kills Gimlet with his shrike-blade while chasing D.

Rei does not rescue Dan in the book, and apparently intends to kill the boy when he kidnaps him.

The Time-Bewitching Incense becomes a candle capable of paralysing anyone with vampire blood. In the book it was originally a substance that was hard for vampires to manufacture, and turned day into night and vice versa. Rei's instructions were, because D does have some ability to withstand sunlight, to light it near D and put it out quickly to confuse his body, thus weakening him. The Incense was given to Rei by Lee directly rather than by a servant.

In the movie, Rei kills Greco outdoors, whereas in the novel Greco is killed by a more active Larmica at the asylum.

Ramika's (Larmica in the novel) lineage is altered: In the book she is a vampire, but in the movie she is revealed to be a half-vampire like D. In the book she has blonde hair and Doris has black hair; the colors were reversed for the movie. Their outfits also were changed for the movie: in the book, Doris normally wears jeans and a shirt instead of a short tunic, and Larmica wears dresses of various colors (white, blue, and black are mentioned); one dress is said to be of medieval styling.

The lamia-like Three Sisters, or Snake Women of Midwich, appear more prominently in the book, with significantly different results. The Midwich Medusas, an ancient trio of demons predating vampires, are famous for their attack on Frontier village of Midwich and have the powers of a succubus. In trying to subdue D, they are instead ensnared by his own formidable powers of seduction, and turned into lovestruck (though short-lived) allies.

In the book, D's pendant neutralizes the technological defenses of the Nobility, whereas in the movie, it repels many of the demons living within Lee's castle.

Dracula's nature, and why the vampires respect him so much, are also explained more within the novel. D even quotes his father as warning of the Nobles' downfall. Dracula apparently did not believe in exploiting humans like mindless cattle, something Magnus Lee has forgotten, and for which D takes him to task.

In the film Count Lee is killed when D summons his vampiric side, overpowering Lee and nailing him through the heart to a wall, which crushes Lee to death upon the castle's destruction (which was caused by Lee's defeat); in the book however, this is very different: Lamica sets the castle controls to destroy the castle within a certain amount of time, D shows up in time to stop Doris' transformation into a vampire, and he and the count face off. The count has the power to use his cape as a bladed weapon, and as an arm to squeeze and lift things, nor can it be pierced; thus their battle is fairly even. Before D can craft a strategy (his specialty) to defeat Lee, Doris, who is now being controlled by the count, distracts D; Lee seizes the opportunity and grabs D with his cape, taking his sword. Just as Lee is about to behead D, a warning bell alerting Lee of the castle's future destruction goes off. This bell distracts Lee, causing his cape to return to normal and release D. The Count attempts to stab D in the heart, but D catches the blade and breaks the tip off. He then jumps back and throws the tip at Lee. It pierces the count's heart, killing him.

OVA Films Restoration

In December 2003, German anime distributor OVA Films released a restored version of Vampire Hunter D on DVD (PAL, Region Code 2, priced 29,95 €). Unlike the overwhelming majority of PAL anime releases, which are NTSC-PAL conversions of whatever master the Japanese licensor offers, OVA Films requested the film negative to do their own transfer from scratch in the PAL format. As the Japanese, French, US and UK DVDs have all been taken from composite transfers originally used for LD and VHS replication, Vampire Hunter D was sorely in need of a new master for the digital age. The OVA Films DVD included a brand new transfer from what OVA Films claimed to be the original negative. It should be noted that while the Japanese DVD does not have reel change-over marks, the German and American film masters do, so it's unlikely that this transfer was taken from the camera negative, and was more likely taken from a slightly lower quality inter-negative source a few generations away from the actual negative. The film is presented in 25 frames per second as opposed to its original 24 frames per second runtime, so the video and audio are both pitched up by 4% as is expected in PAL transfers. Despite running a few minutes shorter than all prior versions due to the PAL speedup, this release is completely unedited.

The OVA Films DVD released the feature in anamorphic 1.78:1 PAL widescreen, with German 5.1, Japanese 5.1, and Japanese 1.0 mono audio along with optional German subtitles. OVA Films incorrectly notes the Japanese 1.0 release is the "original" mix, when Vampire Hunter D was actually recorded in stereo. The widescreen presentation was accomplished by taking the 35mm film master and cropping off the top and bottom of the image. This was, according to OVA Films, approved of by director Toyoo Ashida who stated that it would have been cropped when shown in theaters anyhow (despite the fact that Vampire Hunter D was ever played in theaters outside of North America). The production was noted as an OAV - Original Anime Video - in the making-of on the Sony LD, so it's safe to assume that the original intended aspect ratio was 4:3, not 16:9. A marginal level of detail on the sides of the frame have been restored from the OVA Films telecine, at the cost of roughly 20% of the top and bottom as seen on every prior video release.

Cropping aside, the transfer is better than any other video release, with no composite artifacts (such as analog video noise or dot crawl), strong black levels that show previously hidden detail, natural film grain, and bright and vibrant colors, though perhaps at times the transfer is a bit too bright. Reds appear slightly pink compared to prior transfers, and shades of dark gray stand out against black, differentiating the animation cels from the backgrounds clearly. One can argue that showing the flaws in the original animation is, however, more representative of the original master. Contrast appears to be slightly overblown, though this is likely fault of the film stock given to OVA Films rather than any intentional boosting done in post production.

Special features include original scored image galleries (including original art by character designer Amano Yoshitaka), the original Japanese trailer for Vampire Hunter D, and the making-of feature originally included on the Sony LD, as well as previews for other OVA Films properties. All the features are NTSC-PAL conversions and feature removable German subtitles.

A Message From Hideyuki Kikuchi, The Author Of Vampire Hunter D

Material is paraphrased from the notes included in the original Vampire Hunter D laser disk, fan-subtitled by the Dayton Anime Club.

"D" originated from the fact that I wanted to write a horror story. I based my story on ancient traveler folk tales and on Western horror movies.

"D" is also a product of my eccentricity. It started as an idea about letting a vampire be a hero instead of a villain. My first image of "D" was the gunfighter video of Phil Collins. In this video, Phil was wearing American Western gunfighter clothing with Japanese Samurai gear; the background had a red sun burning in the sky. For some reason, my image shifted to a character like that wearing a half-moon sword and a cloak. Also, his face is changed from my image of a handsome man to a rough, gunfighter look. When I saw Amano's paintings of the character, it was beyond my expectations. (Yoshitaka Amano worked on the character and production design for this movie as well as for "Ninja Team Gatchaman" and many other animations.)

D's personality is shifting between two different modes. He is not a man or a vampire, yet his personality constantly shifts between man and vampire.

I hope that everyone enjoys this movie.

-Hideuki Kikuchi


Character Original version English Dub
D Kaneto Shiozawa Michael McConnohie
Doris Michie Tomizawa Barbara Goodson
Count Magnus Lee Seizō Katō Jeff Winkless
Dan Keiko Toda Lara Cody
Greco Yūsaku Yara Steve Bulen
Lamika Satoko Kifuji Edie Mirman
Rei Ginsei Kazuyuki Sogabe Kerrigan Mahan
D's left hand Ichirō Nagai Kirk Thornton
Dr. Fehring Motomu Kiyokawa Steve Kramer

External links

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