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Following on from that legendary silent movie "Metropolis", I decided
to take a punt on "Nosferatu" which is probably the earliest adaption
of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" in existence. Indeed, it was a bit too close
to the source material and it forced Stoker's estate to sue the studio
behind "Nosferatu" which ultimately put them out of business. As part
of the settlement, the courts ordered all prints of the film to be
destroyed but one copy survived, having previously been shipped
overseas. As such, it is a miracle that "Nosferatu" can be seen today
at all although it does lack the epic scale and grandeur of Fritz
Lang's seminal picture. Bear in mind that the version I saw had the
characters name changed to fit the source novel but I shall stick to
the cast's titles to avoid confusion.
Sinister German estate agent Knock (Alexander Granach) dispatches his protégé Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) to the distant Carpathian mountains to meet with a client, Count Orlok (Max Schreck). The Count is interested in buying a ramshackle mansion in the town opposite Hutter's house where he lives with his wife Ellen (Greta Schröder) and Hutter is there to seal the deal - despite the locals warning him about the Count and begging him not to go. When he gets there, he quickly discovers that Orlok is a vampire and flees to return to Wisborg as soon as he can. But Orlok is already there, growing in strength and choosing his next victim - Ellen...
By today's standards, "Nosferatu" is all rather tame as there is none of the usual frippery we get with a Dracula film - no crashing lightning storms, no garlic or crucifixes and definitely no Christopher Lee. It's more creepy than it is frightening but remains an essential watch of fans of bloodsuckers. Schreck does a fine job beneath a truly disturbing and grotesque visage, coming across like a Dracula we've rarely seen since. Beyond that, the film is pretty much your typical piece of German Expressionism - lots of heavy eye make-up, dialogue cards and melodramatic acting. The soundtrack of the version I watched also grated on the nerves, starting off with lots of harpsichord but quickly becoming repetitive and soon fading from the ears altogether. But to criticise "Nosferatu" is missing the point - it feels like it should be in a museum, creaking through the projector and looking like it might fall apart at any moment. Judging it by todays' standards is futile but it remains an experience to savour for genuine fans of horror and cinema in general.
F.W. Murnau set the bar high for vampire movies, very high. Can not help but start praising the job Max Schreck and Murnau did to bring Count Orlok character to life on the screen. Orlok's face, hands and slender build along with his sly shuffling movements with the right camera angles and props brought a hell of a lot of general creepiness. The viewers in the twenties must have been shell shocked because they didn't tame it down which they most often did in this time period. For a full length silent feature film I found the time going fairly fast with a view dragged out scenes, that can be expected. The big bugaboo I have with Nosferatu though is the questionable ending being terribly anticlimactic. Regardless of the disappointing ending, Nosferatu is a killer film that is a must watch for horror or classic movie fans.
"It will cost you sweat and tears, and perhaps... a little blood."
I would probably give this film 5 stars if I were to base it on appreciation for how it influenced many films during the silent era and served as a landmark for the horror genre. F.W. Murnau played a key role in the German Expressionist movement and Nosferatu is one of its greatest examples. This movement went on to influence other great directors such as Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock especially in the way they played with shadows and lighting to express the emotions of their characters and enhance the mood of their films. This silent film might have scared audiences in the 20's, but it is really outdated and I struggled to maintain my interest in the story. I have to give it credit for shaping modern horror films today and also influencing the film noir genre, but no matter how much I appreciate it, Nosferatu was far from entertaining for me. One of my favorite things about this film was Count Orlok's makeup which was really creepy, along with how Murnau used the lighting and played with shadows to build the suspense. Those moments were great, but the story really didn't lead up to much and Orlok got very little screen time. I'd personally recommend watching those brief scenes instead of sitting through the entire film. The film uses a lot of title cards and they leave them on screen for so long you could practically read everything twice. There is no denying this was a masterpiece, but I had a hard time sticking with it.
The screenplay was written by Henrik Galeen, heavily stealing from its source material, Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula. In Nosferatu we are first introduced to a real estate agent named Knock (Alexander Granach) who is sending his associate, Hutter (Gustav von Wagenheim) to Count Orlak's (Max Schreck) castle in Transylvania. Orlak is looking to buy a house in Wisbourg, and Knock is considering selling him the home next to Hutter's. Hutter realizes this is a great opportunity to make some money so he leaves his wife, Ellen (Greta Schröder), with some friends while he embarks on the long journey. Along the way several people warn him about the strange events that occur at night near Orlak's castle, but he continues on. Once he reaches the castle, he has an awkward conversation with Orlak and when he accidentally cuts his finger he realizes that Orlak is in fact a Nosferatu (vampire). When Orlak sees a picture of Ellen he quickly decides to buy the new home and is shipped to Wisbourg in a coffin. On the way back several crew members of the ship mysteriously die and some sort of plague seems to have reached the city. Hutter and Ellen know what's really going on, but the question is whether or not they can stop this evil creature.
Nosferatu is all about the eerie atmosphere that Murnau managed to create with a very low budget. It turned away from the standard action-adventure and comedy films of the silent era by creating something unique and exploring such emotions as fear and suspense. Most contemporary horror films probably have to credit Murnau for being a landmark film and setting the stage for them. Nosferatu is a Gothic stylized film that has influenced the way we view cinema today so we owe Murnau a lot of gratitude for his work. Unfortunately films are subjective and despite my appreciation for this film I did not enjoy it as much as other film lovers. I did like the cast and the editing however, but the pacing of the film was what I had issues with.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nosferatu is a film I had wanted to see for awhile. All the clips of
Max Schreck as Count Orlock was amazing to say the least, the use of
shadow was also incredible, it seemed like such a different take on
Dracula. But it isn't, its just the typical Dracula story and the fact
that its a 90 minutes but only has Schreck in it for a tenth of that
The 90 minutes is a problem. Dracula (1931) with Bela Lugosi was 70 minutes and it told its story far better. 'Well it had sound' you may say, well Nosferatu may as well be a sound film because I remember spending quite a bit of time reading during the film. I understand silent films needed title cards to explain the story but if it becomes a detriment to the pace and well being of the film then you have a problem, either trim the story to better fit the lack of sound or just don't make the film. The film just isn't interesting enough to fill its 90 minutes and halfway through, you get bored and just stop reading the title cards, so if you haven't seen any other version of Dracula, the story isn't going to make as much sense to you. The film practically shot itself in the foot here.
The lack of Schreck is another problem. While his small appearances throughout the film does make his character all the more mysterious and terrifying, it makes the other 75 or so minutes painfully boring because you're either reading or watching something that isn't as interesting as watching Schreck. Schreck is fantastic as Count Orlock, his unnatural appearance, movements and almost expressionless face is truly a compliment to how terrifying a monster can be with no voice. Sadly, they do give him a voice, he is a god damn gentle man if the title cards are anything to go by, with such horrifying lines as 'What a lovely throat', why would you give a character as horrifying as Orlock such cheesy lines. It just takes away all the mystery and frankly makes him less scary.
F.W. Murnau may have made a flawed film but his eye for detail is incredible. His use of shadow is so effective, he manages to convey things no title card could ever convey in words and its a real shame he didn't inject more of this creativity into the rest of the film. The music is very good as well, blending in well with the films tone and its cinematography.
Overall, I wish I could say better things about Nosferatu, but its simply to flawed to ignore. I recommend it to any fan of the horror genre because it is a landmark film in the genre and the performance from Schreck and Murnau's fantastic cinematography are deserved of all the praise in the world.
Clarification is required when we talk about this film, we are
talking about three different things: a discrete work of art, a
cultural phenomenon and a viewing experience. Murnau's film, which was
made in 1922 and in many ways shows it, is the beginning of vampire
films. Working with less precedence than all the horror film directors
who followed him, Murnau helped shape the horror genre with choices
that he made in presenting this story. Many of these still work very
well, including the spooky shadow-on-the-wall sequence and the
horizontal-to-vertical rise of the vampire from his coffin.
Your enjoyment of this film, however, will not be determined solely by what Murnau did. Instead, it will be influenced by a number of factors. From a personal point of view, it will have to do with how you feel about vampire films in general, with whether you've seen the Herzog/Kinski 1979 version of this film(which is absolutely wonderful), and with how your version of this classic is presented to you. In my case, for instance, I had to endure what was a truly horrible modern music soundtrack that Eureka Video felt entitled to inflict upon its customers, and clumsily translated intertitles as well. Were I to have seen this with better music (and it's hard to imagine that worse music could be found) and better translations of the original German caption-boards, I would have been spared some pain.
However, these minor quibbles aside, the film is beautiful. The camera angles are innovative, the images are stunning, and although Gustav von Wangenheim as the Jonathan Harker wannabe Thomas Hutter is not a great actor, the rest of the cast, including Greta Schröder as his wife, Alexander Granach as the Renfield clone named Knock and, of course, Max Schreck (his name in German actually means "fright" or "fear") as Count Orlok are all brilliant in their roles. As for exterior locations, the quaint Hanseatic towns of Lübeck and Wismar give the film added authenticity and period charm.
Is it scary? Well, not so much today, but it's not really the fault of this film that we have come to recognise every convention it uses. After all, most of them are original to this film and have themselves been copied in the subsequent iterations that we've seen. and in any case, even where it is not scary, it remains deeply eerie. Is this film good? Very definitely yes, although on a personal level, if you asked me about early atmospheric films regarding vampires, I would have to admit that I prefer Carl Theodor Dreyer's "Vampyr", filmed ten years later in 1932. Still, considering the advances made in the intervening decade, Murnau's earlier film is an incredible accomplishment. And Max Schreck, who would come back, thanks to Willem Dafoe, some seventy-eight years later to become an equally haunting if somewhat funnier character in E. Elias Merhige's "Shadow of the Vampire", creates a horror archetype here that we have been living and dying with ever since.
This Expressionist film was released in theaters 90 years ago, and its
essential ability to scare people has not been diminished. Two people
deserve credit for this accomplishment. The director, F.W. Murnau,
captured a foreboding world behind the lens by the strong use of
shadows and his keen ability to tell a story. The other person is Max
Schreck, whose makeup and portrayal as the vampire continue to haunt
people to this very day. I still find it hard to believe that his total
screen time is less than 10 minutes. This is a testament to his strong
screen presence. The film would not work without him.
NOSFERATU is an adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula and the plot is very familiar to horror fans. The filmmakers did not receive permission from Stoker's widow, and as a result, some of the characters' names are changed. For example, Dracula became Orlok and Renfield became Knock. However, the plot was basically the same and she later sued because of copyright infringement. Anyway, the protagonist of the film is Thomas Hutter who works as a real estate employee. His boss, Knock, sends him to a Castle in the Carpathian Mountains. He must sell a house to the mysterious Count Orlok. Just by coincidence, the house for sale is next to Hutter's house in the German village. Hutter soon realizes that Orlok is a vampire after being attacked. The vampire rushes off to his newly purchased home, which is in ruin. He will spread a plague in the once peaceful village while attempting to defile Hutter's wife. Hutter must try to get back in time to protect the love of his life.
A creepy atmosphere pervades the entire film. There is always a feeling of dread. The story is simple yet very effective. I always fear for Hutter because of his predicament. When he leaves the peaceful village and beautiful wife, Hutter has no idea what terror soon awaits him. In my mind, there is nothing scarier than being isolated in an ancient castle with a malevolent vampire. I could easily sense how alone Hutter truly was during his stay in the castle. After subsequent viewings, I can always feel the impending dangers as Hutter first sets out on his journey. Somewhere in the far distance there is a vampire awaiting his company.
The film does have flaws. Some of the acting is exaggerated and laughable by today's standards, but you have to consider the time. The pacing is slow and may bore some people who do not appreciate silent films. You really need to have some patience and watch the film in the right frame of mind.
If someone were watching this film for the first time, I would recommend finding a decent DVD release. This film has fallen into the public domain and there are some inferior prints out there. For advice on acquiring the best copy, you can visit the message board here and read different opinions. I also recommend the Werner Herzog remake from 1979, which I believe is a superior film. However, even though Klaus Kinski does a fine job of playing the infamous vampire, he cannot compete with Schreck's performance.
P.S. According to the trivia section on this website, Max Schreck makes a cameo as a clerk without any makeup in Renfield's office towards the beginning. Hutter is seen talking to the clerk shortly before going into Renfield's office. In some prints, the man raises his head, in others he does not. This supposed cameo has been debated among horror aficionados, and while there is no official source for this, I believe that it is Schreck. Go watch and decide for yourself.
As a very young person relative to this film, I first heard of
Nosferatu through Spongebob Squarepants in their funny horror episode.
That was years ago. Finally I got around to seeing this classic horror.
What can I say about it? It was OK.
As a loose adaptation of Dracula, the film's plot cuts out a lot of the story and adds a little. No Van Helsing or Lucy-alikes, shortened sequences of... everything, but with the additions of Knock, an ending I liked, and a great boat scene.
The music in the version I saw was great, one of the best parts. I believe it was composed by James Bernard, and it was excellent. As said before, the other things I enjoyed were the boat scene, left ambiguous in the 'Dracula' I read, but shown here in the film, with the scariest results in the film. Also, the ending, was a heroic sacrifice, even though it didn't make much sense. Also, Max Schreck's menacing Nosferatu is just iconic.
I didn't find the film the most engaging though, and some unnecessary things were put in. The film is short and cuts out a lot, but leaves in irrelevant things. At 90 years old, the films has aged worse than even other silent films.
It's a classic horror fans should see, or if it's on you should see it just for kicks. Just don't expect to get your socks knocked off like it's 1922. 7.3/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I would give "Nosferatu" a 7. Why? Because out of all the films that
predate it, Nosferatu comes of age. But we must respect the fact it
pertains to a medieval tradition and some flaws can be found outside
when you actually see Max Shreck outside in the sun light. More a
nitpick then anything on Murneau's masterwork. What made me like it so
much? Well out of all the macabre films that have launched in the
genre, this one had more layers and had well executed performances; it
was actually shot in the Carpathian mountains, it infused the Monster
(Frankenstein's Monster)'s pathos with the Vampire's lust for blood and
the film chronicles epidemic more in earnestly then most films (only
thwarted by "Vampyr" and Coppola's "Dracula" in terms of serious
Nosferatu uses atmosphere to capture the viewer's reverie for nightmarish figures. Knock is a character who has been driven from sanity to madness as the disseminating epidemic takes its toll. It took Bram Stoker's novel and Murneau explicated how he could translate it with subtlety. The answer was substitute the name (now well seeded in folklore) and create jagged and prismatic architecture to change the story ultimately. It's fair to say the film doesn't really have an all encompassing narrative, though it does encompass narrative POVs. There's a famous key scene when Orlock's shadow engulfs Hutter and it's seen from a Woman dying in her bed. The scene is so lurid and so resonant that it doesn't matter about movies like "Saw", "Halloween" (brilliant notwithstanding) and "Friday the 13th" when the director gives your imagination enough fulcrum.
It was bodacious no doubt even with the notable flaws that we can dismiss. Undoubtedly it's probably the most sterling horror movie ever made. I.e. when Hutter comes to the mountains he's completely lost. His time being lost gives us enough to soak up the gorgeously Stygian and cavernous world, much like how Allan Grey soaks it up 10 years later in Vampyr. It's only abruptly that Orlock interjects and stipulates that Hutter must come here. Not exactly a congenial acquaintance as the ravishing Bela Lugosi, but a shunned ogre-esque creature who besotted company. Then another scene, which looks almost like stop-frame animation, where Orlock moves rigidly to the coffin to make it up and then wields it as if like Jesus carrying the cross. I'm not saying this was intentional symbolism, but the impression is so sacrosanct that it starts to feel cogent.
Like with most silents of greatness, some may not respond to it concordantly. We must remember though that for its time, it had brilliantly archaic element, like "The Cabinet of Dr Caligari", which remain artistic. Although I must admit I have seen many other amazing silents.
This expressionist German milestone called Nosferatu-Eine Symphonie Des
Grauens -Nosferatu a Symphony of Horror- turns out to be a hit in the
history of world cinema and especially in terror cinema . It deals with
newlyweds named Jonathan and Lucy Harker who are saddened when Harker
is sent to Transylvania by employer Renfield to arrange for Count
Dracula's purchase of a house across the street from the Harkers'
house. Harker travels to Transylvania where he stays with the Count ,
is sucked by the Count, and eventually escapes from the castle.
Jonathan returns to Lucy but spends all his time sitting on a chair in
the living room. Nosferatu moves into the house across from the
Harkers' and goes to Bremen in a ship called Demeter . The rise in
deaths is accredited to a plague thought to have arrived with the
Demeter. Only a woman can break his frightfull spell , a woman pure in
heart who offer her blood freely to Nosferatu and will keep the vampire
by his side until the cook crowed . As the vampire meets his doom when
Lucy manages to keep him until after cockcrow.
This German all time classic silent horror-movie from 1922 is a captivating and eerie experience with creepy images , imaginative sets and exciting touches . Max Schreck is perfect as Nosferatu with his rat face, long nails , pointed ears and skeletal frame . The story brilliantly conveys the loneliness , despair sadness of the characters .The landscape is moody and lovely and the sets are gorgeous as well as creepy , especially the phantom castle of The Count , the ship and Bremen town . The slow, somewhat exaggerated reactions of his characters brilliantly echo the performances given by the silent actors . One day, the great Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau was talking with Max Reinhardt. Reinhardt introduced Schreck to Murnau. Murnau saw talent in Schreck and hired him to play Graf (Count) Orlok in the fledgling Prana Film's first production, "Nosferatu; Eine Symphonie Des Grauens" -Nosferatu; A Symphony Of Horror- .The regards to Max Schreck are a mystery, he made a few pictures and we don't know anything about his life. His performance as the bald, bat-eared, close fanged Orlok remains one of the most frightening film characters in history . This brilliantly eerie motion picture is originally and compellingly directed by F.W. Murnau .
This vampire masterpiece is remade in 1979 titled ¨Nosferatu the Vampyre¨ by Werner Herzog with Klaus Kinski ,Bruno Ganz and Isabelle Adjnani in which Count Dracula is the victim , he does not enjoy his immortality and wants only to live, love and die like a human ,this version of Nosferatu, in places almost a frame for frame remake , it results to be an enjoyable homage . Followed by ¨Nosferatu in Venice¨ by Augusto Caminito and Mario Caiano with Christopher Plummer , Donald Pleasence and also with Klaus Kinski . Furthermore ¨Shadow of the Vampire¨ with Willem Defoe and John Malkovich ; it is a film about the making and production of Nosferatu ; it had to deal with a lot of strange things ,some crew members disappeared, some died, this movie focuses on the difficult relationship between Murnau, the director, and Schreck, the lead actor.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While it is a creepy film and at times quite brilliant in capturing
with shadows and stop motion photography sense of true dread, the main
culprit in the undermining of Nosferatu is with it's clunky story
telling and comical acting.
I will normally cut a lot of slack for the temperament of silent film theatrics, but considering the place this film holds amongst most, if not all critics, I'm going to have to judge it a little bit harder than the other classic films of its time. Again, kudos for finding and then maintaining such a great look and feel throughout the entire film, but really, I can't go any higher than a seven. There's too many questions concerning the two main characters in their haste to race back from Transylvania. Why won't Hutter take his love away from Nosferatu? He did sell him the house across the street, he had to know this scenario was going to take place.
Also, why leave it as a mystery to the character of Knock? At least with Renfield we understand why he is slave to Dracula. In Nosferatu there's not much to go on plot wise to signify any connection, other than that crazy looking home buyers document. I realized Knock was crazy, but I didn't know he was Transylvanian crazy.
This is a must see film, don't get me wrong. But other than making a note of it and moving on to other films, I can't see why this film get the love it gets from critics.
But, it is really, really creepy.
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