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Nosferatu is a pretty good silent film, but I don't think it has aged as
well as other silent films. Some of the cinematic techniques haven't aged
well - I'm particularly thinking of the scene where Nosferatu stocks his
wagon, getting ready to leave. The film is speeded up, a technique which is
associated more with silent comedies, especially of the Keystone variety, so
it made me laugh. I also laughed at the line: "Your wife has a beautiful
However, Max Schreck has to be the best vampire I've ever seen. I saw this film about five months ago in preparation to see Shadow of the Vampire, which I had heard about when it was at Cannes.
So, although I don't think it has aged well, Nosferatu is certainly worth watching, if only for Schreck, who more or less steals the entire film anyway.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
About the only classic horror film that even comes close to NOSFERATU
in terror is the early sound film, FREAKS. Despite the ability to use
modern appliances and technology to make extremely graphic horror
movies today, the stuff being called horror just doesn't come close to
these older films when it comes to setting a mood and scaring the pants
This version of Dracula is different from the Bram Stoker novel in several ways because the producers of the film didn't want to pay royalties! So, Dracula's name was changed to Dr. Orlock and the title itself was also changed. Otherwise, its a very similar movie. In fact, the plot is so close I won't even bother to give a summary other than to say that the way the vampire dies in the end is VERY different from other Dracula films (unless you see the 1979 remake of NOSFERATU, which, of course, is similar).
Finally, I strongly recommend you try to watch Shadow of the Vampire, a movie starring John Malkovich where they recreate dramatically the story behind the film. All of Murnau's strange idiosyncrasies are revealed and this is a real great addition to the original film.
So why is it so creepy? Well, like the 1931 version, it's filmed in glorious black and white--a must for good horror. Secondly, this Dracula is not the suave and handsome guy he is in some other films. In fact, he's downright awful! With a bald head, pointed ears, weird fangs that consist of his front two teeth and incredibly long, slender and pointed fingers, he is like a nightmare come to life!! Plus, and this is the absolutely creepiest part, his leaving his coffin early is the film will scare the life out of the viewer--as instead of bending his body to get up, he rises up vertically (they must have had someone underneath pushing him up to give this effect) and rats come pouring out of the coffin from his feet! This is a sight no other Dracula film can equal.
The only negatives are the rather old-fashioned plot elements here and there. However, director F. W. Murnau (who made a career out of making magical and other-worldly images on film) did an amazing job in creating the mood and magic that was this film and these very minor problems can easily be forgiven.
A (very) loose adaptation of Dracula. Vampire Count Orlok (Max Schreck)
wants to leave Transylvania and go to Germany. He gets Hutter (a real
estate agent) to get him a place in Germany. When Hutter visits Orlok
he sees a picture of Ellen--Hutter's wife. He is very attracted to her.
He goes to Germany and ends up bringing the plague with him. Ellen can
defeat and kill him but it will mean sacrificing herself.
Classic silent horror. Schreck has got to be one of the ugliest vampires in screen history. Fangs, claws and bulging eyes. He's only in the film 9 minutes but you don't forget him. There are many VERY eerie sequences--especially the ship ride to Germany. It's beautifully directed by F.W. Muranu and moves quickly. This was supposed to be destroyed back in 1925 when Bram Stoker's widow sued and won a suit against it. However some prints were hidden away until the 1960s when it could be legally shown. GREAT movie. Highly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of the most influential films ever made, it has some great cinematography, its very imaginative for the time, its influence its found everywhere in horror, from the depictions of vampires, to its use of shadows and atmosphere, but its very flawed, boring and kinda of bland, I mean, for the time this was great, but now, even if you take that in account, its just way too slow and overly long, I don't find any of this movie to be scary in anyway, Max Schreck is great as the vampire, his acting and the cinematography are the best elements in the film, everything else is bland and uninteresting, the pacing is way too slow and is way too long, I give this a 9/10, just for its significance to film and the horror genre, but watching it feels like a chore, besides the fact that I don't think its scary, I am going to stick with Dracula (1931), that's not only a important film or a well made film, but its also entertaining, it has a great atmosphere to it and its very interesting.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This landmark film is still considered a classic of the Gothic cinema
to this day, despite being nigh on seventy years old. Casual viewers
reared on the latest gore-drenched horror spectaculars will obviously
find it difficult to enjoy this film, being as it's pretty dated. For
instance, the print jumps repeatedly and bears many scratches. Even so,
it's not in bad shape for a tiny film which was made ten years before
Lugosi's Dracula, itself a feature which remains very dated, in some
instances more so than this film. The silent nature of the film may put
off other viewers, as the acting is all rather staged and more akin to
mime than any realistic type of portrayal.
The story itself is nothing original, being merely an unauthorised rip-off of Dracula. However what is original are the stylistic touches and visual flair which fills the film with a certain kind of Gothic dread, building up layer after layer of atmosphere through shadow work. The score, also, is brilliant, although I viewed it with James Bernard's new music. This, I feel, only added to the film, giving it a Hammer feel and a rich Gothic atmosphere, the music both moving and stirring, and most of all thrilling.
However it's the character of Nosferatu himself that sticks in the mind, brilliantly and spookily played by the German Max Schreck. Nosferatu is a hideously ugly, inhuman fiend, more like a demon than a handsome man, such as the one Christopher Lee used to play. There are many scenes which were later on to become clichéd through overuse in the horror genre (for instance, watch SALEM'S LOT for a feeling of déjà vu), but in this film they are all fresh and interesting. The hand crawling from the coffin, the sudden shock of Nosferatu raising himself from his coffin in the ship's hold, all of these moments are so obviously influential on the films of today. As is the classic image of Nosferatu's stiff shadow climbing the staircase, or the clever special effect where he disappears in the sunlight at the end.
While admittedly slow and dated, Nosferatu easily overcomes these flaws by being a beautifully-made, intelligent adaptation of the Dracula novel, which, unlike many, many latter day productions, still has the ability to provoke fear, and that's saying something for a dusty old film made before even our grandparents were alive. Powerful and brooding in equal measure.
From as early on as 1913 with Hanns Heinz Ewers' somewhat plodding The
Student of Prague all the way through to Robert Wiene's seminal
Caligari, cinema had been experimenting and teasing with the still-
undefined horror genre, mixing starkly haunting photography with Gothic
macabre stories echoing the works of Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe.
While still in a form of relative infancy in 1922, F.W. Murnau takes
another stab at establishing cinema's darker side in the form of
Nosferatu, a film which never quite pushes the boat out as far as Wiene
did two years prior but nevertheless makes a haunting and memorable
experience on its own ground.
As far as vampire stories, legends and big-screen productions go, Murnau's classic film is one that may not frighten quite as much as it might have done but nevertheless still manages to startle with its beautiful photography and otherworldly performances, all the while pushing you unknowingly into an unsettling atmosphere that envelops the imagination during its strongest sequences. Max Schreckwho will perhaps always be most vividly remembered for his portrayal as Count Graf Orlok here more than anything elsemay not be as commanding or entertaining to watch as John Barrymore was a year earlier in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but there are more than a handful of moments where even now almost a century later, Shreck's dead-eyed gaze and stilted, robotic movements are unsettling and haunting to watch.
Where the film tends to suffer is during its middle-half where a lengthy boat ride goes awry. Set largely during the day and lacking the eerie claustrophobic sets that dominate the first and last half- hours, these scenes don't have quite the same amount of grip and only sporadically play with or develop the sense of tension and suspense instilled earlier on. Nevertheless, there's still plenty to take away from the experience as a whole, whether seen for historical, aesthetical or purely entertainment reasons. The film's greatest parts, which are set mostly during the dark hours and feature haunting photography bringing to life a thrillingly dark narrative, would go on to further develop the horror genre into its heydays of the 30s and burn images of horror into the minds of its audiences for decades to come. Today, it's not quite as horrifying, but there's an artistry and distinctly unsettling atmosphere throughout that even the ensuing decades since haven't managed to soften.
Who can forget Max Schreck as the ultra-creepy 'Count Orlok', a classic
performance in horror movie history? Director F.W. Murnau gives us a
scary, macabre vampire, far from the smooth and suave Draculas in other
versions, and uses shadows and shots of Orlok's face to scare the
audience throughout the movie. Orlok has elongated arms and claw-like
hands, dark eyebrows and glowering eyes with a sinister stare, and is
You see in this film so many of the trademark horror elements, such as the villagers in an inn warning young Hutter about the danger as he mentions his plans to go to Orlok's castle, which may remind you of movies like 1981's 'An American Werewolf in London'. And yet, this one deserves credit for being first, in 1922, and for giving us some fantastic scenes, such as the one of Hutter finding and opening his coffin, where we see just a fraction of Orlok's evil face initially, eyes open and long fangs visible. Alexander Granach is also great as 'Knock', his minion/ estate agent with giant, bushy eyebrows, who, when jailed, catches and eats flies for their blood.
I don't think it's cool that Murnau changed the names around because he couldn't get movie rights to Bram Stoker's story, but I'm glad the film survived (Stoker's heirs wanted all prints destroyed). The movie drags on at times and the simplicity of the ending was not satisfying to me, so it fell a little short, but if you're into classic horror films, this is probably must-see and you may love it, instead of just liking it as I did.
Stark. Surreal. Captivating. A few of the words I would feebly use to
describe this film, a first and original of many categories that could
be discussed for hours. First surviving vampire film. One of the
original surviving horror films, this one set the early stage in not
only silent film - but how rights to films and content will be set.
This film was all but completely lost - as it was ordered destroyed due
to unsecured rights associated with the original Dracula novel. By fate
almost - one main copy and a few scraps of others have survived -
amalgamated into what we can see today.
The experience itself? If you haven't taken the time to watch it - it is a time capsule in many ways. With many period pieces, and older films it is necessary to place yourself in the shoes of not only one of the audience of the time it was released, but that of the filmmaker's interpretation of the period they are representing at the time the film was made to get the intended impact of the film. It is very captivating to see all the uses of production, setting, and manner used to convey this story - all shot in 1921. I think you could watch this 10 times and gain something new from it every time.
Many have heard of the great silent acted performance of the character Count Orlock by Max Schreck as legendary. Words cannot surmise, how not only did he portray this being wholly - but did it without any prior example in a completely new form of medium. The character it'self, is an example of the raw folklore of the creature now a common place in pop culture. The performance of that entity being an organic representation at the root of this genre is plainly seen in this film. Its almost like being a film archaeologist, just watching it in the dark.
Lastly, as I mentioned, imagine never seeing but one or two simple silent movies in your life. You go to the opera hall, to see this film, and take it all in. Imagine the terror of some of these dark folk tales come to life as light and shadow swoop all over stacking up corpses - and the soul of man and woman alike. "Deathbird" I still wonder what the hell that werewolf is doing out there in the Carpathian countryside...
Viewed by Larry Gleeson at San Luis Obispo California State
Polytechnical University's Spanos Theater as part of the 22nd Annual
SLO Film Fest, formally known as San Luis Obispo International Film
The complete 2006 digitally restored version of Nosferatu the surreal German Expressionist classic silent film by renowned director, F.W. Murnau, served as the Opening Night film for the 22nd SLO Film Fest with a new piano soundtrack performed live by German composer and pianist, Markus Horn. Most recently, Horn has performed his musical talents to another silent German film, Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang. Interestingly, Horn created this composition in the Spanos Theater specifically for Nosferatu .
Nosferatu, is similar in a stylistic vein to the classic example of German Expressionism, the 1922 silent film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with its use of unusual, odd-looking characters, geometric mise-en-scen and its abundant use of light and shadows in its storytelling. A storied production, Nosferatu, an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's "Dracula," was shot in 1921 and released the following year in 1922. It is very similar to "Dracula," retaining its core characters of Jonathan and Nina Harker and the Count while omitting some of the secondary characters.
Interestungly, a court ruling ordered all copies of the film destroyed after Prana Film, a short-lived, silent-era German film studio was unable to get the rights to the novel, was sued Bram Stoker's widow and eventually declared bankrupted in defending itself from copyright infringement. A few copies of the film survived as the studio undauntedly had gone forward with the production changing names and details from the original novel. For example, Count Dracula became Count Orlok, played brilliantly by Max Schreck (Schreck in German translates to terror, fitting for the roles Max Schreck undertook throughout his acting career) and the term vampire became nosferatu. In addition, Count Orlok doesn't create new vampires. Instead he killed his victims with the town folk blaming the deaths on a black plague. And, while Count Dracula was weakened by sunlight, Orlock sleeps by day as any exposure to sunlight would cause his death. In the end, Count Orlok meets his demise in drinking the blood of a young maiden, Mina, who sacrifices herself by allowing Orlok's copulation while enticing him to do so into the day's sunrise culminating in Orlok's death.
Director Murnau prided himself on utilizing various angles in his productions and Nosferatu's cinematographer, Fritz Arno Wagner, delivers. Several shots capture the eye including a film ending low angle shot of a castle in ruin representing the demise of Count Orlok. In addition, several shots on board the ship of stacked wooden coffins and the frenzied scrambling of ship rats as a coffin is opened and its contents spilled become etched in memory.
All this withstanding, the evening belonged to Markus Horn, as he mesmerized the audience with a soundtrack that brilliantly matched the photographic score in creating a dream like atmosphere for the minimalized intertitled narrative. Horn's intense symbiosis of film and music culminated in a rousing, standing ovation by an enraptured audience at the film's end.
This version of Nosferatu with the Markus Horn accompaniment and a run-time of 94 minutes left the audience wanting more. Much more. An exceptional opening film. Highly, highly recommended.
The original vampire movie. In fact, vampire movies don't come more
original than this, as it was probably the first. Great adaptation of
Bram Stoker's Dracula. Revolutionary for its time, the plot and
direction still stand up today. The atmosphere, in particular the sense
of dread, that Murnau creates is palpable, and he uses every trick of
light and shade at his disposal in doing so.
Being a silent movie, the performances are very theatrical. Max Schrek is brilliant as Nosferatu, contributing significantly to the eerie atmosphere.
Not perfect - the pacing is a bit uneven, and the plot sometimes feels contrived.
Still, an absolute classic.
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