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Movie Review - Nosferatu – 1922 Germany

Updated on March 11, 2012

The words, "timeless classic,” when applied to a horror movie, implies that it remains creepy even as cinematography, special effects and audience sophistication advance, and in the case of Nosferatu , does it ever! I'd last seen this film thirty years ago as part of a film history course, and I'd forgotten (possibly because of the poor quality of the print, the lack of music and the dry academic commentary that followed it that time) how really cool and creepy and just plain good a picture it is. Yes, I have friends who find my interest in old movies (black and white! silent! YIKES!!) mysterious, or possibly elitis, but a good story with a truly scary script, great set design, thoughtful pacing and (on the remastered DVDs now available) an outstanding score isn't a dry "timeless classic", it's fun, it’s wonderful!

Certainly the unexpectedly high degree of success of Michel Hazanavicius’ 2011 silent and black-and-white The Artist has sparked an interest in vintage films in general, and silent films in particular. This is a good thing, and if even a few movie fans take a look at the great movies of the silent era there will be a greater appreciation for the best of them, and Nosferatu is on pretty much every best-of list, and for many good reasons.

Watch this amazing movie right now:

The film was shot by F. W. Murnau in 1921 and released in 1922; he had tried and failed to buy the rights to Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, Dracula , but persevered with the project anyway, changing the names used in the thinly veiled source material as well as never using the word “vampire,” instead using the word “nosferatu” for his creature. Emily Gerard first popularized the word in her book, Transylvanian Superstitions in 1885, and Stoker used it in his book, as well.

Watch selected scenes from Nosferatu:

There are several other clear departures in Nosferatu from Dracula , notably the method of the lead character’s death, and yet the similarities far outweigh the differences between the two stories, a point not lost on Stoker’s widow, who tried to have Murnau’s film suppressed and destroyed due to copyright violations. Fortunately for all movie lovers, she failed and the film survived in various versions—contemporary releases are an attempt to duplicate Murnau’s original vision. It is believed that an extant, original print exists in the collection of Max Schreck memorabilia owned by Jens Geutebrück.

There is a 1979 remake by Werner Herzog, Nosferatu the Vampyre, staring Klaus Kinski; it follows the Stoker book more closely than does Murnau’s film. There is also a sequel to that movie titled Vampire in Venice, also staring Kinski. Both are interesting films but in my opinion no way near as well made and scary as Nosferatu . For a special treat, watch Nosferatu as a double feature with the 2000 picture Shadow of the Vampire , which is a fable about the earlier film.

Watching Shadow of the Vampire provides added insight into the magic of Nosferatu , since the technology with which Murnau created the earlier film is showcased in the homage to it, and we get a sense of the real difficulties presented by early cinematography. One of the wonders of Nosferatu is how well the limitations of the cameras and lighting of the era add to, rather than subtract from, Murnau’s telling of the story. The vampire moves in the shadows and Murnau’s film slips through the darkness, following behind—which became the classic methodology of all horror films.

Murnau’s film deserves watching on its own merits, however, not only because it’s a pioneering work, a technical wonder, a masterpiece of makeup and one of the first films to exploit the use of glimpses of a real location (a few exteriors were shot at Orava Castle in Slovakia) to give a movie a sense of authenticity. Watch it because it’s a really good movie.

(I am an artist and the author of the Suburban Sprawl series of novels as well as two nonfiction books. Find out more about my work at

Copyright © Roberta Lee 2012. All rights reserved.

Orava Castle in Slovakia - Home of Nosferatu & used as a location set in the Movie

Genre: Horror, Art House & International, Classics, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Rating: Unrated

Running Time: 1 hr. 3 min.

Directed By: F.W. Murnau

In Theaters: Mar 4, 1922 Wide

On DVD: Oct 22, 1997

Distributed By: Film Arts Guild


Max Schreck - Graf Orlok / Nosferatu

Gustav von Wangenheim - Hutter

Greta Schröder - Ellen Hutter

Alexander Granach - Knock

Georg H. Schnell - Harding

Ruth Landshoff - Annie

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    • DIYmyOmy profile image

      DIYmyOmy 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Yes, thatmovieguy, I agree, Nosferatu is a very very creepy movie! And I adore Shadow of the Vampire, in fact, I have reviewed it

    • profile image

      thatmovieguy71 5 years ago

      A great hub, DIYmyOmy! Nosferatu is a significantly scarier movie than the Lugosi version. I agree that this version is one the scariest of all vampire movies. Max Schrek gives a truely frightening portrayal. By the way, have you seen the movie Shadow of the Vampire which is about the making of Nosferatu? Willem Dafoe gives a great performance as Max Schrek!

    • DIYmyOmy profile image

      DIYmyOmy 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Thank you sen.sush! I know you will enjoy Nosferatu, in part because it avoids all the over-telling I found irritating in the film version of Dracula. With all the interest in silent films generated by the success of The Artist it's a great time to watch Nosferatu!

    • sen.sush23 profile image

      Sushmita 5 years ago from Kolkata, India

      I was in my lower classes when I read Dracula, and though I assured myself that it is all make-belief, I ran to bed, after it was over (that was past mid-night,uhhh!). I did not really like the movie better than the book, because of all the lacy, romantic stuff, which I felt overpowered the Dracula arrogance, evil and horror. Your review is so researched and so packed with information, it overpowers me and I want to watch this. Also because it is a silent, black and white movie. Voted up interesting and sharing.

    • DIYmyOmy profile image

      DIYmyOmy 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Flora, I *love* your comment and I completely understand! I have trouble with truly frightening films so as much as I love Nosferatu, I only watch it during day light, and never if I will be alone that night. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone in this !

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

      I have tried several times to watch this movie and I keep stopping part way through because it is too frightening. I keep getting further along in it though. No other vampire is as scary. I think of the silly twilight series which I refuse to watch. Vampires are *supposed* to be scary. This makes Dracula the only movie monster that was pure evil. All the others were victims of human arrogance (Frankenstein's monster) or of their own doing (eg. Jeckyl/Hyde). Sometime I hope to get through this film, but it is a testament to how fabulous this is that it freaks me out.