Wisbourg, Germany based estate agent Knock dispatches his associate, Hutter, to Count Orlok's castle in Transylvania as the Count wants to purchase a isolated house in Wisbourg. They plan on selling him the one across the way from Hutter's own home. Hutter leaves his innocent wife, Ellen, with some friends while he is away. Hutter's trek is an unusual one, with many locals not wanting to take him near the castle where strange events have been occurring. Once at the castle, Hutter does manage to sell the Count the house, but he also notices and feels unusual occurrences, primarily feeling like there is a dark shadow hanging over him, even in the daytime when the Count is unusually asleep. Hutter eventually sees the Count's sleeping chamber in a crypt, and based on a book he has recently read, believes the Count is really a vampire or Nosferatu. While Hutter is trapped in the castle, the Count, hiding in a shipment of coffins, makes his way to Wisbourg, causing death along his way, ... Written by
I despise most vampire stories. Not even Florence Stoker's dear departed husband could keep me occupied after the first act in Transylvania in "Dracula". The vampire has been so romanticized as an archetype (particularly during the '90s) that I can't but feel that most horror fans have forgotten exactly what made us afraid of these guys to begin with. Murnau's "Nosferatu" is just such a reminder and, because of that, is the only screen version of "Dracula" that I have ever loved.
Though Murnau, in the hopes of dodging the copyright bullet, took many liberties with the novel, he actually shot a great part of the film on location (an unusual practice for the time) in the historical Dracula's old stomping grounds: the Carpathian Mountains in Romania. The town, landscapes, and castles were all for real, not just some fancy studio backdrop. To me, it helps convey the tone of authenticity, as you can believe this story being told. As for Max Schreck, no charming, suave seducer is he. With his bald head, bushy eyebrows, rat-like teeth, pointed ears, nails as long as the fingers they are attached to, emaciated build, and stare that seems to come from the bottom of Hell itself, he is the primal, archetypal image of the vampire of legend.
While some could interpret this tale as a subtext to Nazism or anti-Semetism, at it's core, it's simply the tale of a monster, who brings ruin and death in his wake. That such a tale has managed to survive it's era, considering the obstacles that could have totally removed it from view, is the gain of all who have seen. Eat your heart out, Bela Lugosi.
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