Darke Reviews | Nosferatu (1922)

The full title of course is Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens. I thought I should conclude my every other day vampire review with the first (available) of the films to feature Dracula. As always I watch the film prior to the review and while I have two copies of this in my collection it never ceases to amaze even now 90 years later at what they were trying to do with film back then.

It’s worth mentioning this film was unauthorized. The studio that produced it could not and/or did not obtain the rights to the film. According to stories Stokers wife was sent a copy of a playbill advertising the film and demanded it be stopped and destroyed. The courts agreed with her and all the work prints were destroyed. Or at least thats what was thought, obviously as I am reviewing this tonight a print survived to allow us to enjoy now. Curiously the original film had changed the names of all the principal characters prior to its release to try to make them “original”. Makes me wonder why Vanilla Ice thought he could get away with it musically 70 years later.

The copy of the film I watched tonight had the title & scene cards changed back to their intended (and more accurate) formatting rather than the release versions. The infamous Count Orlock was once again Count Dracula. It is Jonathan and Nina (not Mina) Harker rather than Hutter and Ellen Hutter. Jonathan’s good friend Westenra and his wife Lucy vs the ‘original’ Harding and Annie. In researching this review I looked for IMDB, Wiki, etc, that had these more current credits and they are not in any of the main resources. The script however is available, which had them. I think I might have to make a point to get my hands on a non americanized copy.

The movie was directed by F.W. Murnau (Faust – 1926) who filmed on location in various places within his native Germany and eastern Europe. In the fashion of many modern directors Murnau actually rewrote several pages of the script for the ending of the movie. Unlike modern directors it was because the pages by scripter Henrik Galeen were reportedly lost. The film is without a single line of recorded dialogue and instead has orchestral music playing over the hour and twenty minute running time.

The acting is that of the stage; which is to say its completely over the top and meant to emote at a distant audience. The make up on the principals is designed for the same, where every color and line is made thicker and richer. Looking at it now it is admittedly ridiculous but when you consider how many people had worked in film by that point it makes sense. Max Schreck deserves special mention as the infamous Count. He enters and vanishes into the part in a way that some actors today could try to learn from.

Story wise there are significant variations from the Dracula you know and love, but the core is still there. Orlock/Dracula’s death is still an amazing piece of effects work for a film to attain in 1922.

For the TL;DR – go back and read. This is history.

Nosferatu is a cinematic classic. It is not scary in any way shape or form now. It is however worth watching for its aesthetic and historical content. I honestly wouldn’t expect most folks who aren’t vampire aficionados or film students to get through it, but I would say try.

This really is one of the ones that started it all.
There will be no review tomorrow, but Halloweens review wants you to Put..the Candle…Back.