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You can't look at a movie as interesting, original, and yet technically dated as "Nosferatu" the same way you would a new movie, or a Hollywood classic. Murnau's truly great horror film comes a full decade before the famous "Dracula" that copied so much from, and it has to be seen on its own terms, in the thick of the German silent era. Even as a silent film it is five years from the stylish peak of the genre, and so there is a creakiness to some of the techniques (the edits, the iris effects, and so on) that come with the territory.
But it's never slow, and in many ways is much more together and sophisticated than Tod Browning's 1931 version, which of course has at least the addition of sound and of Bela Lugosi, the new star, to make it legendary. Here there are a lot of details in scenes not bothered with in later versions, as in the journey on the ship to England, which is one of the most beautiful parts of the movie, or scenes of the countryside which set a place more than a mood.
Of course, the two movies are more similar than different, with the basic vampire legend intact--sucking the blood from the necks of beautiful young women, for starters, and needing to avoid sunlight. The expressionist light is wonderful even if it's just showing a swarm of rats. The camera-work is gorgeous, even when static, and when it moves (as on the ship) it's elegant and modern. There is an overuse of the iris vignetting effect for our tastes, no doubt, giving the scenes a constraining feeling rather than a limitlessness that even Browning manages to achieve, and of course Coppola and Herzog do much differently in their recent versions. In fact, see all four. There are others, but these are the famous ones, not including the miserable but campy Warhol vampire film, and the rather different Dreyer 1932 version called "Vampyr," and then some offshoots that are sometimes terrific, but which are not really based on the same story line at all.
It's odd to talk about a vampire movie and not mention the main actor, the vampire player, in this case Max Schreck, but in fact he has no meaning for American audiences. The director, F.W. Murnau, is another story, with a stellar brief career including the Hollywood masterpiece, "Sunrise," which won the first best picture Oscar ever. For that reason alone I'd give this fun, slightly spooky vampire flick a good late night look.
This is one of the truly great horror movies.It is the story of Dracula
although he isn't called Dracula because of legal reasons involving
Bram Stoker's estate.Maybe it is just as well because this 1922 classic
isn't like any Dracula you've ever seen.
Even by the time of Bela Lugosi's classic ,Dracula was portrayed as a suave debonair count.But in this great film the Count is a scary little thing.Rat-faced with sharp rat teeth and long nails and the look of disease all about him.Max Schreck is simply amazing in his role as the Count.His portrayal of the ugly little monster is one of the greatest roles ever captured on film.
Speaking of captured on film,this film is almost a hundred years old ,and it looks it.There are evenly lit places and scratchy looking segments and the film speed is a little off in places but that all just adds to the great atmosphere that this masterpiece has.Several scenes from this film have become iconic,none more so then the Count rising straight up from the bottom of the ship.The scene where the Count carries his coffin through the town is as freaky and eerie as anything I've seen.The way Max Schreck walks will even scare you.
There was a rather expensive restored version of this film done back in the 1990's.Most cheaper copies will come with a crappy added on sound track,death metal or something like that,I always turn that off along with all the lights and let this little creepy silent film flicker away in the still of the night.
Watch this one if you haven't.It will stay with you.
This is not going to be a long review. In fact, consider it less of a
review and more a bundling together of observations I had while
watching the classic silent horror film Nosferatu.
It is strange how this became the most recognized and the greatest of all classic Dracula films without even officially featuring Dracula. The Germans that made this film were unable to secure the rights to Stoker's novel, so they just changed a few names and made the film anyways. Normally, this results in a cheap, bargain-basement product. But every now and then it results in a classic, like this here.
It is also to blame for many of the traits about Dracula that date back to the novel, such as that he is killed by sunlight. Far more people feel this movie's influence than have ever watched it, which is a shame, since it is one of the best movies of its decade, elegantly shot and stirringly scored.
There is a reason that this film is subtitled A Symphony of Terror. You aren't just watching a visual display, you are given a feast for the ears. One of the best scores in film accompanies this film; one that makes this film feel less like a broad form of entertainment and more like a piercing symphony, with notes instead of swords. Certainly, there was more emphasis on music in the old days in film. Be prepared if you haven't watched before a film from this time.
The use of chromatic filters has always been one of my favorite techniques, and its use in this film helps maintain a flowing, even turn that never stagnates. The colors are not harsh, but you feel its effects fully.
As for the cinematography, there a number of shots that stick out to this reviewer. Among them are many simple shots, such as the ones of the castle in the daytime, the one zooming up to the ship carrying Count Orloc (Dracula), and the one of the seas being looked out at by the wistful love interest.
One thing I can say for this film that I cannot say for others is that it is classy. It may give up some scare-points for it, but it revels in the high horror mythos, using a refined and efficient touch. Most of the terror of the film is implied; best for the restriction-heavy decade in which it was made, but also for foreshadowing and anticipation. Many films try to keep their secrets from you, not letting you know what happens. This film doesn't; you know what will happen and it is by such that the film is scary; dramatic irony is in full effect here. What is perhaps most remarkable is that it does it without being dragged down by a general sense of boredom and slowness; it is calculating and maneuverable, like a snake slithering through the midnight sky. This film does not fall into clichés; it sets the clichés for films to come. That is an impressive feat.
This is not a perfect movie; many of the plot holes of other horror movies were also passed down from this one. If the film was faster paced, it would be alright, but as it is, counting on those beats to carry tension, it often instead makes you ask questions. But to seriously attempt to degrade this film is a bit like throwing stones against a monolith. Such flaws are nothing compared to what this film authored. It may not be the best film ever, but it is brimming with ambition and beauty and is anyway one of the most important films ever made.
Thanks to a recent recovery project, this film can now be watched in full; so grab your horse and ride into the call of the deathbird.
Highly influential silent horror classic. It follows the basic story of Dracula. As pretty much everybody knows, they did this adaptation of Stoker's novel without permission. His widow sued and won. The court ordered that every print of this film be destroyed. Thankfully for us, somebody saved a copy. That this film was made nearly a century ago is astonishing. The makeup for the ratlike Count Orlock, played by Max Schreck, is amazing even by modern standards. Orlock still stands to this day as the most uniquely frightening vampire ever put on film. Director F.W. Murnau creates an eerie, otherworldly atmosphere. He uses many authentic "Old World" locations that are very spooky. There are lots of creepy and scary moments in Nosferatu. As much as I love the Universal and Hammer Draculas for their entertainment value, I think this is the scariest of all the different versions I've seen. It's best seen at night, as most great horror films are.
Meet the grand-daddy of all vampires in the grand-daddy of all vampire
In the 92 years since Max Schreck played Count Orlok (Dracula) in Nosferatu, no other actor has yet even come close to matching the blood-chilling hideousness of his portrayal.
With his skeletal frame, rodent face, long nails and pointed ears, Schreck excels, beyond compare, as truly being the most repulsive and terrifying of all screen vampires.
Nosferatu is an exceptional product of the German Expressionistic era in film-making and is a real milestone in the history of cinematic horror.
This early, silent-version of Dracula is, at times, brilliantly eerie, and full of imaginative touches that none of the later vampire films managed to recapture.
Yes. Nosferatu is flawed, but it still does manage to hold up quite well, considering that it's nearly 100 years old.
The shots and lighting from Murnau and co. are masterful while the
performance of Max Schreck as the vampire is one of the creepiest and
most memorable in cinema history, but these things alone can not make
up for the boredom of the story, whose plot is thin, has too much of a
reliance on title cards, overacted performances by the rest of the
cast, and runs too long.
Those hoping for a tense or suspenseful horror by modern standards will not find it here, and I would recommend it only to those with a keen interest in film history, or filmmakers interested in the craft.
I simply cannot understand how this film has received the amount of acclaim it has, although like other interesting looking sleepers such as 'Dr. Calligari' and 'Metropolis', I can only imagine there are a whole bunch of very visually orientated people out there who like unusual ideas, and are more or less wholly unaffected by story.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
On Google you can get statistics on how often men who work in high rise
towers use the washroom (don't bother) but I keep waiting to see stats
on the number of "serious" cineastes who have never seen a silent
film...? Some think that, like sushi, it is an acquired taste. Not
really. Remember that, in the age of books (those rectangular things
made of folded paper), readers had to "imagine" BOTH the visuals and
the audio. So here we are one step closer to Imax, if you prefer to
think of it that way. Anyway, if you have never seen a silent film,
this is where you want to start. The strangeness of both the film and
the actor (Shreck) have never been duplicated. The movie is
unforgettable, a term I cannot readily recall using often in my
reviews. So unforgettable that (this is extraordinary) some 80 years
later Hollywood did an entire production not as a remake, but rather an
alleged narrative based on the filming of the original -- and that film
hinted that the reason the actor in the first was so effective was
because (wait for it...) he was a real vampire who just lucked into
getting the part. Wow.
(Another silent film recommendation: the original Zorro, demonstrates what we today call "athleticism" to a degree that is extraordinary).
There's no doubt that this is a technically brilliant movie -
groundbreaking considering that it was made in 1922. It's well filmed
and features generally pretty good performances from its cast all
around, within the parameters you would expect for the style of acting
used in silent films of the era. It also gives us the German actor Max
Schreck as Count Orlok - who may be the creepiest, most monstrous and
most frightening take on the Dracula character ever - far more than
Bela Lugosi (who basically defines the role) could ever hope for. It's
even funny in places - I think of the scene where Orlock looks at a
picture of Hutter's wife and says "your wife has a beautiful neck." It
is, of course, a variation on the Dracula story, with the names changed
and some significant parts of the story changed to get around the fact
that director F.W. Murnau didn't have the rights to the story. But
those changes don't detract from the basic story. In fact, they may
enhance it by giving this a fresher sense. You don't know exactly
what's going to happen because there are some differences. It has a lot
going for it no doubt.
But something's not right. Maybe - as good as Schreck was (and even perhaps superior to Lugosi) - Lugosi's take on the character has so entranced all subsequent adaptations of the story that this just doesn't seem like the story. I found it very difficult to enter into this. It's not a problem with silent movies. I've enjoyed a number of silent movies over the years. But as well made as this was, this just didn't draw me in. I had to sit with it a number of times before I could sit through the whole thing - and at 1:20 it's not very long. And yet, to be honest, there's not any particular problem I can put my finger on. For all the good things involved with this production, something just wasn't working for me. It's unsatisfying to me that I can't explain what the problem was. It's just that there was a problem somewhere. Still, a movie as well made as this that was made when it was can't get anything less than 6/10.
Sometimes, I think that from over hundred years of Cinema history the
best, the most creative and exciting years were in the relative
beginning, in the first decades of the 20th Century. The old films that
I've watched lately don't seem old - they are timeless. Their beauty
and mystery -unsurpassable, their influence - immense, the pleasure
they bring - incomparable. Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens made
in 1922 by F.W. Murnau is one of these movies. It is so finely crafted,
so well thought of, so lovingly produced, so beautiful to look at, and
so creepy and genuinely scary that I believe it will stay one of the
best films of the horror genre and true inspiration for present and
future directors, and not just horror film directors. A Symphony of
Horror is a pure cinematic delight, poetry on screen from the first
shot to the final. Werner Herzog came quite close in 1979 in his
updated color version of the same film but I prefer Murnau's film a bit
more, perhaps, because it was the first one and Murnau had no previous
film to compare to or more likely, because no one, even fabulous Kinski
could not be as creepy and frightening as Max Shreck.
The B&W photography with astounding use of sepia gave some scenes a somber dramatic, Gothic tone. Each frame deserved to be captured and enjoyed for the sheer beauty and elegance. The scenery was breathtaking, storytelling - solid and compelling. Hans Erdman's 1922 score created a perfect sound background for the story. The most fascinating asset of the film though was not even acting but simply presence of Max Shreck. What a mesmerizing magnificent ugliness that would not let you take your eyes off his face, fangs, ears, and spider like fingers. The first film in the vampire series, Nosferatu started genre of poetic horror, the most interesting and artful in the family of horror films.
F.W. Murnau indeed has a significant place in movie history. He was the
director who invented camera movement in his wonderful 1924 production
THE LAST LAUGH. He is also known for having directed one of the most
beautiful silent romances, THE SUNRISE (1927). Besides, it is maestro
F.W. Murnau who adapted Goethe's marvelous FAUST to screen in 1926.
Finally, it is him who, not having any serious reference to how a
horror film was being made, proved unbelievable brilliant uniqueness of
thrill through the still classic horror, constantly a prospect film for
all scary movies, NOSFERATU. We have a number of horrors nowadays...
yet, NOSFERATU is still enjoyed by viewers galore... is that not an
Of course, the period of time which has passed since the premiere of the film is huge and, as a result, there may be some people who will dislike the movie after all these years: no camera movement, silent performances which tend to constitute "overacting" with "overgesticulation" (from today's perspective), undeveloped cinematography. Nevertheless, I think that because of the movie's old age, it has a stronger sense of suspicion and mystery nowadays than it used to have decades ago. I still absolutely admire this film for its constant power to thrill and shock while the awareness that the movie is more than 80 years old additionally thrills me. Modern horrors are, generally, so unoriginal and similar in their conventions that there is still no movie that could be compared to Murnau's 1922 masterpiece. How come that a movie made in the early 1920s with limited filming techniques can thrill the 21 century viewers? This leads me to one conclusion: Murnau's film really served its purpose to the very core.
The number of scary moments are something the film can still boast. Who can forget Hutter's visit to Graf Orlok's castle? Who can skip the facial expression of the vampire from the coffin? Who can possibly omit the terrific atmosphere when Nosferatu is on ship? And the moments with mosquitoes... I personally loved many of these scenes, but particularly two sequences have remained in my memory for good: the one at the castle filmed at marvelous Orava in Slovakia and the final one when Nosferatu's shadow is seen walking upstairs.
The performances are exceptionally good, yet on the condition that they are interpreted from the silent era's point of view. This is the only factor that may disappoint some today's viewers. Yet, the facial expressions and gesticulations (these are the major factors that one may take into account when applied to silents) still do the job. Max Schreck is still horrifying as Count Orlok. Consider his face, for instance, at the scene when he says about the throat of Hutter's wife. Greta Schroeder is also memorable as Ellen, particularly at the moments of her trances. Alexander Granach in his portrayal of Knock also provides a viewer with a thrill of fear.
NOSFERATU is a very well made horror movie, a silent I would recommend to everyone who likes scary movies. I also consider the movie a must see for all movie fans. Highly recommended movie with unforgettable atmosphere that has become even more intense due to the fact the movie was made such a long time ago. I love it and although I have seen it a considerable number of times, I am going to see it once again.
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