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This is pure (true) vampire film. Deeply Gothic sets and costuming, a
wickedly evil vampire and a more than scary visual atmosphere in this
black and white silent horror movie classic.
What I am not crazy about is the film's score (the music we hear)- most of it is not very Gothic nor suspenseful or mysterious sounding enough for me. It's too "cutesy" sounding for my taste - and that ruins the atmosphere that is created within an otherwise good movie.
All in all this is a pretty good movie to watch and Max Schreck is one of the creepiest vampires to ever graze the screen. It is worth watching if you like your vampires extremely scary.
My choice for the scariest horror film ever made (with considerable
honourable mention to Ridley Scott's Alien) is the quintessential
vampire film F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens.
Made in 1922, its age is part of the reason why it's so strikingly
horrific. It feels all the more tangible and eerie, especially due to
it being shot on location rather than a soundstage. It doesn't offer
shock horror that we're so used to and desensitized from these days,
given its silence, but instead incites an overwhelming sense of unease.
Is there anything more convincingly ghastly than Max Schreck as Count
Orlok? A substitute here for Bram Stoker's famous Dracula due to rights
issues, but a character that is no less a part of pop culture.
The figure of the vampire seems to be no longer one of horror. Saturated and romanticized over recent years of PG-13 young adult films, not to mention an abundance of parodies, Schreck's performance however still stands tall as an iconic monument in monster movies. Perhaps it is due to the nature of the character in this context. Klaus Kinski almost meets Schreck's match in Herzog's 1979 Nosferatu remake (it takes a lot to claim that Kinski has been outdone in the scary faces department), and Willem Dafoe's committed portrayal of the actor in the mediocre Shadow of a Vampire is one of the greatest performances of all-time in its own right.
While myths perpetuated in the aforementioned film wherein Schreck is believed to be so convincing as a vampire because he is one are easy to shake off, he does indeed bring an otherworldly atmosphere. Even when he does nothing in the frame but stand, the film has a crippling tension in his enigmatic mystery. His grotesque rat-like makeup with his pointed ears and bulky nose, his tall rigid intimidating figure, the claws of his hands and nails, and the hollowness of his face are all pure nightmare fuel. Even his silhouette sends shivers down my spine. Schreck uses the tool of his body impeccably to create a sense of perpetual menace.
Its most haunting scene comes just passed the midway point when the film's protagonist has escaped from the vampire's castle and Orlok slowly follows him via a ship transporting coffins. The image of Orlok springing out of a coffin is chilling. As he kills off the sailors, which is later blamed on the plague, it suggests a sinister omniscience and omnipotence about him that previous scenes couldn't implicate, and it hints at the crushing inevitability of death.
Even so, it isn't as overtly expressionistic as other German films of the time, especially Murnau's own films, but that restraint only makes it more generous to the actors and the story. The simplicity of the iconic frames of looming shadows is enough to withstand 92 years. The film outside of Schreck is still quite notable, in its storytelling ideas (it was the first vampire film to suggest that they could be killed by sunlight) and penetrating themes of fear, narcissism, sexuality and death. Nosferatu is as thoughtful as it is unsettling. I was lucky to see it with a live orchestra two years ago and that experience has stayed with me since. An essential horror film.
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Any critic would elect this movie the masterpiece of expressionist cinema. Beyond the definitions, any viewer can not help but consider it a series of pictures at an exhibition, harbingers of horrific suggestions beyond the capabilities of Friederich and Munch. Max Schreck will probably be remembered as the Nosferatu closer to the figure of the vampire that has ever appeared on the screens, so as to suggest (to some) that Murnau had a real vampire playing the role. It seems then that Schreck was his real last name, curious twist of fate, since it means "Terror" in German! Although the names of the characters from the novel "Dracula" by Bram Stoker were all changed, the director was sued by Stoker's heirs and lost the lawsuit. Returning to the movie, even if seen in a cut version (missing half an hour) it is a timeless masterpiece, and I think that instead of staying here to hear me talk about it you should go and see it!
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
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