Movie Review - Nosferatu – 1922 Germany
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.
Here are a few more terrific silent films you might enjoy:
- Movie Review - Spies (1928 - Germany)
Fritz Lang's 1928 silent classic has been restored and is a real treat for any film lover. One of the first takes on the Evil Mastermind genre, it foreshadows the Bond/spy genre and is a good story taken on its own merits.
- Movie Review - Asphalt (1929 - Germany)
Asphalt is a little known German silent film from 1929 that features stellar performances from the stars and outstanding cinematography, set design and costumes. It's a visual feast and deserves to be watched much more often!
- Movie Review - M (1931 - Germany)
Fritz Lang's classic psychological thriller,M, features Peter Lorre in one of his signature roles as the tormented, damaged Becker,the subject of a man hunt in panic stricken Berlin.
- Movie Review - Metropolis (1927 Germany)
This beautifully restored and remastered edition of 1927 classic Metropolis let's us see Fritz Lang's vision of the future as he intended us to do, and a scary future it is!
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.
Here's more about Shadow of the Vampire:
- Movie Review - Shadow of the Vampire (2000 - United States)
In 1921 F.W. Murnau began filming his version of the Dracula story, Nosferatu. Rumors swirled that cast and crew members were mysteriously disappearing from the set in Czechoslovakia, and that lead actor Max Schreck was not who he claimed to be. Shad
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 RobertaLeeArt.com.)
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
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